TAP Air Portugal Adds George Mendes to “Taste the Stars” Program

Chefs, top row, left to right: Rui Paula, José Avillez, Rui Silvestre, and Vitor Sobral; bottom row, left to right: George Mendes, Henrique Sá Pessoa, and Miguel Laffan(Courtesy of Gareth Edmondson-Jones)

TAP Air Portugal’s “Taste the Stars” program, which includes five Michelin-star-winning Portuguese chefs and the airline’s cuisine consultant Chef Vítor Sobral, is adding Portuguese-American Chef George Mendes to the roster. Until now, the team of chefs comprised José Avillez, Miguel Laffan, Rui Paula, Henrique Sá Pessoa, Rui Silvestre and Vítor Sobral.

A first-generation American born to Portuguese parents, the chef and cookbook author George Mendes brought his Portuguese cooking to New York City when he opened his first restaurant, Aldea, in 2009. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1992, Mendes spent 17 years honing his knowledge, technique and style under the guidance of culinary masters including Alain Passard, Martín Berasategui, Roger Vergé, Alain Ducasse and, his most influential mentor, David Bouley. 

At Aldea, Mendes serves a menu of Portuguese-inspired dishes reflective of his classic training, Iberian experiences, and the flavors of his heritage—earning the restaurant a one-star rating from the Michelin Guide every year since 2010.

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Mendes has been named a “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine magazine, and his first cookbook, My Portugal, was published in October 2014 to positive reviews. He has made numerous television appearances, including on NBC's "Today Show," CBS's "This Morning" and Bravo's "Top Chef Masters." 

TAP introduced “Taste the Stars” for Business Class passengers one year ago, offering a selection from one of the award-winning chefs as a choice from their inflight meal selections to promote the best of Portuguese cuisine around the world. Passengers from New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport will enjoy a selection from George Mendes on their way to Lisbon including his signature dishes such as potato and collard green soup; cod with potatoes, onion, tomato and black olives; and pastel de nata.

“I picked the three dishes because they epitomize the traditional flavors and aromas of Portuguese cuisine, as well as my Portuguese heritage. Growing up, for example, I polished off bowls of the potato and collard greens soup at my aunt Natalia’s place every Christmas. It defines the culture and the people of Portugal: warm, soulful and easy to love.”

As part of the “Taste the Stars” project, TAP offers a platform to promote young talents trained by the Chefs, who will also be given the opportunity to present their creations as part of the new inflight service.

TAP flies more than 14 million passengers a year. In 2017, TAP served more than 14 million in-flight meals, almost 528,000 gallons of water, 500,000 gallons of fruit juice and soft drinks, 81,000 pounds of coffee, 46,000 gallons of beer, and more than 132,000 gallons of wine, all of which was produced in Portugal.

The Michelin chefs’ restaurants in Portugal are also part of TAP’s “Portugal Stopover” program, offering free bottles of wine for Stopover travelers visiting Lisbon or Porto, while en route to destinations throughout Europe and Africa.

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