The relationship between form and content is one that artists working in every medium must come to terms with, and cooking is no exception. Alfred Portale, once a jewelry designer, now an American uber-chef, completely revolutionized modern food presentation when he built a lettuce salad that literally towered above the rest.
With each verdant leaf carefully resting atop the next, a diner is presented with more than an appetizer; she is receiving a rustling edible sculpture that is as much about its creator’s artistic vision as it is about greens.
When Portale left jewelry design to pursue cooking, it wasn’t so much a change in what he did, but in how and where.
After graduating (first in his class) from the Culinary Institute of America, Portale worked with some of France’s most renown chefs: Guerard, Troisgros, and Maximin. Returning to America, he combined his repertoire of classical techniques with a love for all things American, a combination that culminated in the opening of Gotham Bar and Grill.
Forever an artist, Portale now applies his innate sense of style and craftsmanship to food, with his personal interpretation of New American cuisine.
The menu at the Gotham includes a host of innovative, seasonal dishes, such as in winter, roast pheasant ‘choucroute’ with sauerkraut, juniper, potato purée and poached crab apple, and venison with baby pumpkin, rosemary- poached pears, wild huckleberries, and root vegetables, and in summer, a perfectly ripe, multi-colored tomato salad.
After ten years as chef of the Gotham Bar and Grill, Portale has garnered many honors, including being named Best Chef In New York in 1993. And, in 1994 the Gotham was nominated as restaurant of the year by the James Beard Foundation.
Portale has never regretted his career switch, and neither have his patrons. Anyone who experiences his menu knows that Portale, creator of the vertical dinner, is at his best sculpting dishes that reach for the stars in every way.