Breaking Bread with ...

Chef and owner of Gothan Bar and Grill Alfred Portale talks culinary success.

Oct 3, 20070

Is this something that you like?

Yes. I think when I first came here, I thought of the restaurant as being ... I spent two months in Paris and I fell in love with these big brasseries, and I thought this is kind of like a big American brasserie without the shellfish, but it really never was that casual. The food always had complexity, lots of technique, highly technique-driven and very labor-intensive presentations. It's always been that way. It's now more elegant than it ever has been. Plus we just brought in a new General Manager who is very involved with the service--- six years with Daniel [Boulud].We have another dining room manager who has come in and has been a GM at Tocqueville and other three-star restaurants. We have another wine director who just came from Cafe Boulud, and we have our veteran wine director. So we are ramping this front of the house and everything about the restaurant. And that's how you can ask "How have you been around for so many years?"

Yes, and remain so relevant.

That's what I do.

How do you make sure you're consistently learning?

It's easy for me because I still love what I'm doing. Chefs that don't love what they're doing stop learning because they don't want to think about food -- they're not thinking about food; it's a job. I love food, travel, the culture -- everything about it, the mechanics of food and the kitchen...all that stuff. I'm a craftsman -- that's what I love. So, it's easy for me to keep learning. That's what I love. And I'm in one of the best cities in the world, and I travel extensively, and I do events with other chefs and I do Madrid Fusion, and I'm all over the place, so it's easy -- as long as you're passionate and you still love what you're doing.