Chef Diane Forley
Diane Forley was drawn to food from a young age. At 16 she became an apprentice to Michel Fitoussi at the Palace Restaurant in New York City, and he introduced her to classical French cuisine. Diane pursued an academic education at Brown University, incorporating her interest in food with her studies.
Following graduation, Diane rejoined Fitoussi at 24 Fifth to continue her formal training. In 1986, Diane accepted the position of pastry chef at the newly opened Gotham Bar and Grill. A year later she joined the opening team at the Adrienne in the former Maxim's Hotel with Jacques Chibois and Jean Michel Diot. In 1989, Diane took a position with Chef David Burke at the River Café.
Next Diane traveled to France where she completed stages with Michel Guerard of Eugenie-les-Bains, Jose Lampreia at Maison Blanche and Alain Passard at Arpege. She also apprenticed at a Parisian boulangerie and studied bread making at the Lenotre School. Diane returned to New York to join Rick Laakonen as both sous chef and pastry chef at Petrossian restaurant. She then joined Burke to help him open Park Avenue Café. Before opening Verbena she was the chef at Oggi Domani, a contemporary Italian restaurant in the Village, where she receives accolades for her intensely flavored Italian cuisine, and her handmade breads and desserts.
As Chef and Proprietor of Verbena, Diane has received critical acclaim from the media. Just eight weeks after opening she received a two-star review from The New York Times, and New York Magazine has likened her to a "spiritual descendant of Alice Waters." John Mariani named Verbena "one of the top new restaurants in the country" in his 1995 round up for Esquire magazine, and Gourmet Magazine describes Diane's menu as "a highly ambitious seasonal affair made up of dishes that typically unite several intensely flavored elements." She was also named as one of America's Hottest Young Chefs in The Wine Spectator's round up of rising stars in 1998.
Diane is currently working on new projects. Diane has just opened Bar Demi, a 12 seat wine bar with a progressive approach to pairing food with wine. It features a list of 80 wines, including 30 half bottles and 10 wines by the glass. Diane has also begun writing a book, which weaves her recipes and knowledge of the botanical world in an innovative approach to cooking.
As busy as she is, Diane has found time to act as judge and Mentor for Alizé's Second Annual Culinary Mentorship Challenge. This recipe contest is open to aspiring women chefs across the country who wish to enhance their culinary knowledge and careers. As Mentor, Diane will invite the winning chef into her award-winning kitchen at Verbena to learn all the secrets that she has learned in her expansive career as a chef.