AM: Do you think you would do another cookbook?
CHEF GM: Yeah.
AM: Are you currently working on a cookbook?
CHEF GM: I’m not currently working on a cookbook as I have a number of restaurant ideas and concepts on my mind to focus on right now. But, books are a great way to put a lot of ideas together to help with your name and to expose it to the public more. It allows you to tell you story more and people can hold it in their hands and say, “I want to eat in this restaurant and I want to know more about this particular cuisine.” I really like that part of it.
AM: Tell us about Aldea and what one can expect when they are coming in to dine?
CHEF GM: They should expect what I like to say, “a roller coaster ride” in a way that they are able to eat in an open kitchen area with a chefs counter or chefs table or to eat in a romantic/intimate booth to the side or to go upstairs and to be able to eat in the Mezzanine or private dining where it can be more quiet. So, they’re given a lot of different dining environments. As far as the menu goes, that mark of classic Portuguese flavor but what I also like to call a free spirit that Martine and I believe in – we cook with the seasons, we cook with the farmer’s market – we cook with what’s inspiring us. There is a lot of inspiration from Japan and other former Portuguese colonies like Goa, India and Brazil and Macao, China. So there’s a lot of adventurous flavors going on there. You know I really want people to come to Aldea with an open mind. At the same time, I don’t want to over complicate it. They are coming to enjoy an anniversary or a birthday, but they are also coming in to be fed and nourished. So that's our number one responsibility.
We want to offer something that is creative and sometimes entertaining, but also making sure that you leave content, happy and satiated!
AM: You have received a number of accolades for Aldea including a Michelin star. Can you tell us what it means to receive that?
CHEF GM: You know, receiving a Michelin star is a great stamp being that I trained in Michelin star restaurants. Having a star of our own means a lot as it’s great recognition but it pushes us harder to maintain it or sometimes you get another one. It’s nice to be recognized being that the Michelin guide is French history and now that they are globalized, it’s great to have Portugal on the map. There's two Michelin star restaurants in Portugal in Lisbon and in Rocali and there’s a little Portuguese inspired restaurant here in NYC – Aldea. It means a lot to be in that book and it’s really satisfying, inspiring and it motivates us.
AM: Some people don’t know how you get one and what that process is.
CHEF GM: Yes the Michelin Guide historically and notoriously works anonymously with inspectors that come to your restaurant unannounced. They could be dining by themselves, a party of 2, 4, 6 or 8. We never know.
AM: So you have to be on your game all the day.
CHEF GM: Yeah – being on your game all of the time. It is like that!
AM: You have a pop up this summer going on with Chefs Club Counter called AMAR. Can you tell us how this came about to as well as the collaboration with international model, Sanne Vloet?
CHEF GM: You know, with Chefs Club, I have always had a relationship over the years with Stefane the founder and he has always given me opportunities to contribute to Chefs Club the brand and I have always enjoyed those opportunities. I have always had this concept of trying out or feeding a mass market with the lunch rush for what people want for lunch while also providing them something healthy and quick but also with the same stamp of flavors that we do at Aldea and in my DNA with my Portuguese focus. Stefan and I spoke for awhile and it grew into something small next door to an opportunity of the whole corner of Chefs Club Counter and here we are 2 weeks in and it’s going great. It’s great to have that opportunity in a place like Soho with foot traffic and lunch rush which is a whole different ball game for me and to feed people in an hour and a half which serves 150-200 people which is a total different direction from what we are used to doing over at Aldea. It’s taken some time to adjust and to tinker. Like food has to be plate within 10 seconds versus a minute. Things are a lot more immediate and we’re discovering new cooking techniques and combining ingredients that travel well – using online ordering platforms. So it’s been fun and it’s been a learning curve that’s challenging and a lot of work.
AM: How do you juggle running Aldea as well as AMAR – what does a typical day look like between these two restaurants?
CHEF GM: Well I’m lucky that Aldea doesn’t do lunch. So I’m lucky that I can do lunch at AMAR at Chefs Club Counter and be able to dinner at Aldea although AMAR does stay open a little later. But I am trying to split my time between the two. The month of June has been heavy focusing on AMAR right now, but it’s been going really well and Aldea is only open 5 days a week Tues – Sat and AMAR is lunch everyday haha.
I like to push myself and I like challenges and problems. Things that give me opportunities to grow because it’s very easy to become stagnant and to regress and rest on our laurels. You end up not moving so opening AMAR at Chefs Counter Club during the summer as a pop up has given me a new challenge that that’s what I really love.