World Chefs: George Mendes bares 'soulful' Portuguese cuisine

Tue Dec 2, 2014 11:08am EST
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - George Mendes shares the fare served at his Michelin-star New York restaurant Aldea in his first cookbook, "My Portugal," which contains 125 recipes - from salt cod and potato croquettes to cuttlefish curry.

In the book, co-written with Genevieve Ko, he recounts his childhood in Connecticut, training in Europe's top restaurants, and the opening of Aldea, which means village in Portuguese.

Mendes spoke to Reuters about his Portuguese-American upbringing, cooking for Portugal's president and what sets the country's food apart from other cuisines.

Q: You use the word “soulful” to describe the dishes in the book. Why?

A: The recipes in the book are very robust and use a lot of hearty products like charcuterie and chorizos. It goes back to my childhood with what was happening in the kitchen and the aromas coming off the stove. It was very warming, very soulful what was coming from the kitchen.

Q: What sets Portuguese fare apart from its Mediterranean cousins?

A: The primary difference is our consumption and use of the salt cod. That’s what we use more in comparison than the Spanish, Italian and the French. We marinade a lot ahead of time - whether it’s meat or fish - in wine, olive oil, herbs and aromatics. Thirdly, I think we use a lot more pork.

Q: What are Portuguese influences you taste when you eat food from Brazil or Mozambique, which were Portuguese colonies?   Continued...

Chef George Mendes (left) strikes up a conversation with two men in Ferreiros do Dao, the home village of Mendes' parents in the central Viseu region, Portugal, July 13, 2013. REUTERS/Genevieve Ko/Handout