GeorgeMendesPortraitArticle.jpgPhoto: William Hereford

George Mendes spent seventeen years honing his culinary knowledge, technique and style under the guidance of some of the world's greatest culinary masters before opening his first restaurant, Aldea, in May 2009. At the restaurant, located in Manhattan's Union Square neighborhood, Mendes' rustic yet refined cuisine has earned the restaurant a one-star rating from the 2011 and 2012 Michelin Guides, along with glowing two-star reviews from both New York magazine and The New York Times and three-star reviews from the Daily News and Bloomberg. In 2011, Mendes received one of the industry's most coveted honors when he was named one of Food & Wine magazine's ten "Best New Chefs."

A first-generation American born to Portuguese parents, Mendes grew up in Danbury, Connecticut, enjoying elaborate, festive meals. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1992, Mendes worked for David Bouley, his mentor, at the original Bouley in Tribeca. To further hone his talent, he participated in two month-long stages at Alain Passard's Arpege in Paris, France, where he learned the importance of exceptional ingredients and simple preparation. Stints in some of the top kitchens both in the US and abroad followed.

The menu at Aldea, which means "village" in Portuguese, is the culmination of Mendes' Iberian experiences and Portuguese heritage. The influences of his varied career are apparent in the rustic yet refined dishes. He prepares a variety of seasonal shellfish, rice dishes and Iberian-cured hams that have been adored by diners and critics alike.

Watch Mendes discuss Aldea's cultural influences and his plans for the future in the wake of his recent win: