If Mendes has any complaints about the food industry, it's the way culinary fashions can eclipse beloved basics.
"I hate the word 'trends,'" he said. "I mean, I think good cooking, you know, is like classical music. You know, Carnegie Hall exists today because of the classics and people will always buy their ticket and go to Carnegie Hall. And I think going to a restaurant and having a perfect Duck a l'Orange, or going to a restaurant and have Tournedos Rossini or a simple Beef Foie Gras -- I mean, these people that created these dishes are geniuses. At the same time, I embrace a lot of the technology and modern cooking techniques that are out today.
"I think, you know, if we don't evolve we'll just regress, but I think the new things that pop up, I don't like to label them with the word 'trend.' I think I like to label it as a new road. To me, [that] is what it's about."
Mendes' devotion to the old ways bespeaks conservatism surprising in someone who, in many ways, cuts the figure of a hot young chef.
"I always had that Portuguese love and Portuguese passion in my heart, in my bones, in my blood, because I can still remember the scents coming from my mother's stove and my aunt's stove in holidays, you know, smelling that shrimp and garlic, smelling the various roasts in the oven, smelling the various rice dishes, working with olive oil, garlic, and paprika," Mendes said. "Those aromas have always been with me, so I think that's what never dies and always just stays inside me.
"When I am exploring old Portuguese recipes, I feel attached to it," he added. "I feel deeply attached to it because I grew up with it when I was born. It was already, this was what I was surrounded with. At times, I say that a lot. But sometimes, I think my mother used to have various ingredients in my baby bottle to say this is what good food is."