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Chef Chat: George Mendes and Jose Avillez Talk Portugal, Pressure, and NYCWFF

Between the two Iberian cuisines – Portuguese and Spanish – the latter has received the most attention, with countless cookbooks and news stories written about everything from Basque to Andalucian fare and everything in between.

Chefs José Avillez and George Mendes are about to change all of that. The pair, who will be uniting for an exclusive collaboration dinner this Saturday as part of the 2016 New York City Wine and Food Festival, is together and apart contributing to a Portuguese food movement that has been slowly but steadily on the rise.

Mendes, whose Aldea and Lupulo are two of New York’s most popular dining destinations, burst on the culinary scene in the mid-nineties following his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park and several notable stages in Europe. His beautifully photographed cookbook, My Portugal, highlights 125 classic Portuguese recipes from across the country.

Well known within Portugal for his beloved restaurant Belcanto and his recently opened Bairro de Avillez, Avillez staged with Alain Ducasse, Ferran Adria, and Eric Freshon before embarking on the creation of his seven restaurant – and growing – empire.

We spoke with the chefs about their NY Wine and Food Festival collaboration, the pressure to keep their restaurants relevant, and why Portuguese food is on the cusp of breaking big. Here’s what they had to say.

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