Alfred Portale was born in Buffalo, New York in 1954 and raised in a family where his mother and grandmother took Italian cooking and adapted it to American ingredients. He graduated at the top of his class at the Culinary Institute in 1981. From 1981 to 1984, he apprenticed in France with the Great Chefs Guerard, Troisgros and Maximin, where he refined and mastered classical French techniques.
In 1984 he became the executive chef at Gotham Bar and Grill, and took the restaurant to new heights with his beautiful plating and insistence on high quality ingredients. In 1986, Gotham was first awarded three stars by the New York Times, a feat it has repeated often. He was considered one of the founders of “New American Cuisine” along with Great Chef Larry Forgione. In 1992, Chef Portale opened One Fifth Avenue which became New York’s seafood restaurant of choice, supplied daily by a salmon farm and a fisherman in Maine. Chef Alfred Portale mentored many chefs who went on to become Great Chefs like Tom Colicchio, Bill Telepan and Wylie Dufresne.
Great Chefs visited Chef Alfred Portale in 1992 to tape an appetizer, Squab Salad and Couscous (episode #11) for their Great Chefs of the East series, and again in 1996 to tape an entrée, Sautéed Quail with Pea Shoots and Herbed Morel Risotto (episode #41) for the Great Chefs – Great Cities television series. They came back again in 2000 to tape another entrée, Roasted Red Snapper with Fingerlings, Leeks, Garlic and Rosemary Tagliarini (episode #111) which appeared on the Great Chefs of America television series over the Discovery Channel.
Chef Portale has been awarded many accolades including the Ivy Awards, written three books between 1996 and 2004, and is actively involved in charities dedicated to providing food for the needy like Share our Strength, Citymeals-on-Wheels, American Chefs & Winemakers, James Beard tributes and Wolfgang Puck’s Annual American Food & Wine Festival.
Celebrating their 30th Anniversary (June 2014), Chef Portale and his partner, Jerry Kretchmer, are now considering opening a second restaurant. Congratulations, gentlemen!