Portale pays tribute to local farmers in book
By Richard Leong
NEW YORK (Reuters) - In his fourth book, "Greenmarket to Gotham," Alfred Portale pays homage to local farmers who he believes helped drive the long-running success of his Manhattan restaurant, Gotham Bar & Grill.
In what he dubbed a "recipe journal," the award-winning chef who is considered a pioneer of new American cuisine chose dishes from Gotham's summer greenmarket menu of the past three years.
Buffalo-born Portale spoke to Reuters about relationships with local farmers and tips on becoming a great chef:
Q: Where did the idea of this "recipe journal" come from?
A: Several years ago, we had a long and close relationship with many of the farms in the Union Square market two blocks away. The restaurant got involved with the initiative Grow NYC. They support community gardens; it's a nice organization. We decided to ally with the farmers in Union Square by offering a program which we called Greenmarket to Gotham. Essentially we chose 12 farms and we created 12 vegetarian menus highlighting produce, fruits and et cetera that are specific to that grower.
It was such an enormous success, we are in our fourth season now. There's been so much traction since we began. People were asking for recipes, so we decided to chronicle the last couple of years in this dining journal we are calling it and picked the highlights of the last several years.
Q: In what ways has this program changed you as a chef and how you create dishes for Gotham?
A: It had a profound effect on the way we build our dishes - not so much the appetizers, because they are generally a soup or some sort of salad so that's not such a reach. But to build an all-vegetarian entrée, there are all the perils to build an entrée to begin with anyway. That's why a lot of chefs are moving toward small plates; it's much easier to use one or two ingredients as the star ... We began utilizing skills and techniques in our proteins and applying them to some of our vegetarian dishes. Like you confit the vegetables, sous-vide, slow cooking, roasting, grilling. So we use a lot of our existing techniques and apply them to vegetables and grains for that matter. It's an interesting process, it's really forced us to think creatively in a different way. Continued...