Many celebrity chefs will relate that they developed a passion for cooking as a small child at the heels of their mother or grandmother’s apron strings. While Alfred Portale certainly doesn’t discount the value of his Italian mother feeding the family homemade pasta and sauces in his childhood home of Buffalo, New York, he found his passion for cooking through the beauty of presentation.
“I have always had a strong interest in art,” the renowned chef, author, and restaurateur explain. “As a child, our neighbor across the street would come to the house and give us painting lessons. Later I was dating this young woman whose family was well traveled. They had been to Europe, and I had never been out of Buffalo. They had a large cookbook collection in the house. I picked up this book probably written in the 1940s, and it had page after page of these elaborate cold and hot buffets. Back then they would present things on mirrors with aspic, and there would be a lobster with medallions and ice sculptures and carved birds out of tallow… so I was looking at this going, ‘Oh my God, its edible art.’ I knew that was what I wanted to do.”