PERSONAL: Male. Education: Originally trained as a jewelry designer; graduated from Culinary Institute of America; trained with various French chefs, including Michel Guerard, the Troisgros brothers, and Jacques Maximin.
CAREER: Gotham Bar and Grill, New York, NY, chef and co-owner, 1984–; Striped Bass, Philadelphia, PA, consulting chef. Member of Singapore Airlines international culinary panel.
Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Andrew Friedman) Alfred Portale's Twelve Seasons Cookbook, photographs by Gozen Koshida, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Andrew Friedman) Alfred Portale's Simple Pleasures: Home Cooking from the Gotham Bar and Grill's Acclaimed Chef, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: A chef at the famed Gotham Bar and Grill, which has maintained its place as one of New York City's finest and trendiest restaurants far longer than most, Alfred Portale is best known for his towering food creations. After graduating first in his class from the famed Culinary Institute of America, Portale worked in a number of respected restaurants in France before becoming chef and co-owner of the Gotham Bar and Grill. There, his complicated "tall food" dishes created a sensation, and after twenty years, the restaurant remains a staple source of New York haute cuisine.
Portale has written a number of cookbooks that draw on his lifetime of experience and give advice and tips to both aspiring chefs and homebody cooks alike. Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook provides recipes for some of his best-loved "architectural food," including Roasted Chanterelle Salad and Crisp Flattened Chicken with Wilted Parsley. While finding some of the commentary "patronizing," a People reviewer commented that "none of the creations seem daunting." Booklist reviewer Mark Knoblauch felt that amateur cooks might not be up to developing all the skills or finding all the ingredients necessary for some of the recipes, "but fans of Portale's restaurant may enjoy the challenge of cooking from the master's instructions."
Alfred Portale's Twelve Seasons Cookbook, written with Andrew Friedman, provides a whole program for cooking over the course of a year. Starting in May, which Portale calls "the Big Bang of the Culinary Year," Portale provides advice on selecting the best ingredients and recipes for meals that reflect the mood and typical occasions of each month. While July, for instance, is for barbecues and big birthdays, September is for simpler meals for busy parents and kids getting back into the school year. As Bob Krummert noted in Restaurant Hospitality, "Portale has practiced what he preaches for years, seriously reworking Gotham Bar and Grill's menu on the first day of each and every month." In addition to recipes, Portale provides advance-preparation tips and suggestions for taking dishes a step further, as well as "gorgeous color photographs throughout," according to Library Journal reviewer Judith C. Sutton. A Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that "Portale's upscale inspiration is alluring throughout."
In an interesting turn for the master of complicated cuisine, Portale has also written, again with Friedman, Alfred Portale's Simple Pleasures: Home Cooking from the Gotham Bar and Grill's Acclaimed Chef. Here, Portale provides suggestions for livening up ordinary staples, such as roasting cod with bacon or making chicken with olives and preserved-lemon sauce. Marian Burros reported in the New York Times, "I became so enthralled with it that I immediately tried five recipes, and each one of them is on point and simple." Praising the "mouthwatering" photographs and "easy-to-follow" recipes, Newsweek contributor Julie Scelfo concluded, "Most importantly, the book distills Portale's greatest passion: creating and sharing good food. It's a simple idea, but it took a lifetime of cooking to fully express it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 1997, Marc Knoblauch, review of Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook, p. 373; October 1, 2004, Mark Knoblauch, review of Alfred Portale's Simple Pleasures: Home Cooking from the Gotham Bar and Grill's Acclaimed Chef, p. 29.
Library Journal, November 15, 1997, Judith C. Sutton, review of Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook, p. 72; September 15, 2000, Judith C. Sutton, review of Alfred Portale's Twelve Seasons Cookbook, p. 107.
Maclean's, December 11, 2000, "Pages of Pleasure," p. 54.
Nation's Restaurant News, January 4, 1993, Pamela Parseghian, "In the Kitchen with Alfred Portale," p. 27; January 15, 1996, Louise Kramer, "Tall Food: A Tall Order," p. 29; May 17, 2004, Paul Frumkin, "Budding with Ideas, Chefs Serve Dishes Incorporating Spring's Crop of Fresh Vegetables," p. 27.
Newsweek, October 18, 2004, Julie Scelfo, "Keep It Simple, Stupid," p. 58.
New York Times, December 8, 2004, Marian Burros, "From the Professionals: Three a Home Cook Can Love," p. F14.
New York Times Magazine, February 1, 2004, Julia Reed, "A Fan's Notes," pp. 45, 54.
People, November 24, 1997, review of Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook, p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, October 6, 1997, review of Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook, p. 79; August 21, 2000, review of Alfred Portale's Twelve Seasons Cookbook, p. 67, and Natalie Danford, interview with Alfred Portale, p. 68; September 27, 2004, review of Alfred Portale's Simple Pleasures, p. 51.
Restaurant Hospitality, April, 2001, Bob Krummert, "In Sync with the Seasons," p. 38.
CuisineNet.com, http://www.cuisinenet.com/ (February 10, 2005), "Alfred Portale."