TRAVELS IN TASTE recently made our way to Manhattan’s Flatiron district, which is home to one of New York’s hottest new restaurants, Aldea. We decided we simply had to try its Iberian specialties and we were lucky enough to do so in the company of Chef and Owner George Mendes, who is a disciple of David Bouley and Alain Ducasse, among many other notable chefs. When we arrived we were taken to a table overlooking the open kitchen. Shortly thereafter Chef Mendes was able to join us, although not for the entire meal, as he was short one person and was working as line cook in addition to that of executive chef and general manager!

Pate de Campagne

Because his time was short, we cut right to the chase and asked Chef Mendes if there were any surprises in his kitchen. ”We have a really beautiful stove,” he told us. “It’s a classical Rational oven, which is a steamer, convection oven that is really, really precise in temperature. We’re not doing anything crazy new. I take advantage of a lot of different cooking techniques and we use a lot of gums for thickening, such as sodium alginate. I hate the term molecular gastronomy — it’s not what I’m doing — but I take advantage of it. I embrace the avant-garde movement. I trained in some of those kitchens. My philosophy is to improve as a chef and to encompass and create new dishes with new textures and decent flavors that are exciting and entertaining.”