A first-generation American born to Portuguese parents, George Mendes has fond memories of the elaborate, festive meals his family would prepare while he was growing up in Danbury, Connecticut. From a young age, he knew he wanted a creative career, and food was his first love. After finishing high school, Mendes enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in New York and following his 1992 graduation, he sharpened his cooking skills as garde manger, entremetier and poissonier at the original Bouley in Tribeca. To further hone his talent, he participated in two month-long stages at Alain Passard’s Arpege in Paris, France. When Bouley closed in 1996, Mendes became the executive chef of Le Zoo in Greenwich Village, where he began to develop his own cooking style. Two years later, Mendes became the executive sous chef at the three-star Lespinasse in Washington, D.C. During his year and a half there, Mendes traveled to France and staged at Le Moulin de Mougin and at La Bastide de Moustiers. He then returned to New York to help his friend Kurt Gutenbrunner, open his Austrian restaurant, Wallsé. In 2003, Mendes staged with three-star Michelin restaurants Martin Berasategui and El Bulli in San Sebastian, Spain, and upon returning, he joined New York City's Tocqueville as chef de cuisine where he created a menu inspired by the nearby greenmarket and his recent travels in Europe. After more than three years running the kitchen, Mendes left to pursue his own restaurant and in 2009, he opened ALDEA in Manhattan's Union Square neighborhood where he serves rustic yet refined Mediterranean cuisine with influences from Spain, France and Portugal. ALDEA, which received glowing two-star reviews from both New York Magazine and The New York Times, was named one of the country's ten best new restaurants by Alan Richman of GQ magazine and was awarded a Michelin star from the 2011 Guide. In 2010, Mendes made the short-list for a nomination in the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef New York" award category.