Sylvain Portay was born in 1961 in Evan-Les Bains, France, and began his career in 1976 at the age of 15 as an apprentice with Great Chef Jean-Louis Palladin at La Table des Cordeliers in Condom, France. Two years later, he moved to Chef Palladin’s Jean-Louis Restaurant at the Watergate in Washington, DC.
Between 1980 and 1990, he worked alternately between Great Chefs Alain Ducasse at La Terrasse and Jacques Maximin at La Chantecler, and was at La Terrasse when it received three Michelin stars in 1990. Two years later in 1992 at age 31, he became the executive chef at the famed Le Cirque in New York City, replacing Great Chef Daniel Boulud.
In 1993, Great Chefs Television was finishing up production of their Great Chefs of the East series, and taped Chef Sylvain Portay preparing a Roasted Squab with Bacon & Sage entrée (episode #119), and a side of Herb Boiled Potatoes. In early 1994, Great Chefs returned to Le Cirque to tape Chef Portay again, preparing a Chartreuse of Shrimp and Vegetables appetizer for their new series Great Chefs-Great Cities (episode #60).
He left Sirio Maccioni’s Le Cirque in 1996 to become the executive chef of the Ritz-Carlton’s Dining Room Restaurant in San Francisco, replacing Great Chef Gary Danko, where he stayed until 2004.
In 2004 he joined Alain Ducasse Enterprises as Corporate Chef, opening restaurants like Mix in Las Vegas; two Adour’s in New York City and DC, and Benoit Bistro in New York City. Today in 2014, he is still operating 20 restaurants worldwide for ADE, and runs his own consulting company, Sylvain Portay Restaurant Management Company. He also teaches at the Culinary Institute’s Greystone campus in California’s wine country.