The accolades tower high for Charlie Palmer, a culinary legend who was one of the first “celebrity chefs.”
Starting with his first restaurant, Aureole,
on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Palmer
soon after opened Metrazur in the city’s
Grand Central Terminal, followed by another
Aureole, in Las Vegas, and then Charlie
Palmer Steak in Washington, D.C. A two-time
James Beard Award winner—among many
other professional accomplishments—au-
thor of six cookbooks and a frequent guest on
NBC’s Today Show, the celebrated chef’s em-
pire now stands at 14 venues, including three
boutique hotels that cater to small meetings.
But it’s the chef-driven hotel concept that
truly sets him apart.
“I’m somewhat unique,” Palmer said.
“If you look at Europe and other places
it’s certainly not unheard of, such as in
Burgundy [France], where chefs may have
expanded from a restaurant to an inn and
then a hotel. It’s a natural progression. We
look at all aspects, from how comfortable
the pillow is to how good the soup is to how
good the bacon is in the morning.”
Palmer’s culinary style is termed American
Progressive Cuisine, a farm-to-table concept
he describes as “bold, dynamic flavors and
unexpected combinations built on a founda-
tion of classical French technique.”
Palmer’s group-dining philosophy is re-
flected in the individual flavor of his restau-
rants and hotels, where each property
offers a unique style that eschews the cook-
ie-cutter qualities many of his colleagues
have found successful.
“Groups don’t want the same-old, same-
old,” he said. “They want something different
all of the time. It’s not just another meeting—
it’s special. We’ve done everything from in-
teractive cooking classes and teambuilding to
interactive tastings, such as bourbon tastings
and creative cocktail-making.”
Palmer stressed that meeting planners
should be a forceful advocate in order to
ensure their group has a unique experience.
“Be demanding—look for creativity and
expect that,” he said. “If someone’s in the
business of creating great meetings, then
they have to push the envelope—push for
what they want. It’s more than picking up
the phone and saying, ‘I have a meeting for
40 people and I need this and this and this.’
Look to the property for creativity.”
His three boutique hotels in the Greater
San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma County’s
Harvest Inn, with 10 indoor and outdoor
meeting spaces surrounded by redwood
groves and vineyards; St. Helena’s Harvest
Inn, with four spaces; and San Francisco’s
Mystic, offering a speakeasy style and a
smaller amount of meeting space, epito-
mize his chef-driven concept that aims to
offer attendees a savory respite from the
seriousness of meetings.
But as an intrepid hospitality industry
entrepreneur, one may be tempted
to ask Palmer how he would describe
himself. Is he a chef or a hotelier?
“I am a chef,” he answered emphatically, and then quickly added, “I’m a
hotelier with a chef’s vision.”
YELLOW-EYE AND CHORIZO SOUP
CHARLIE PALMER // CHEF, HOTELIER
CHARLIE PALMER GROUP // NEW YORK // WWW.CHARLIEPALMER.COM
SERVES 6 TO 8
1 pound yellow-eye beans, rinsed
6 cloves garlic, peeled
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 onion, chopped
Zest of 1 organic orange
Salt and pepper
¼ cup olive oil
½ pound Spanish chorizo cut
into small pieces
3 tbsp. chopped fresh
1 tsp. hot paprika
1. Place the beans in a large soup pot with cold water to cover and set aside to
soak for at least 6 hours or as long as overnight.
2. Drain well and return beans to pot. Add cold water to cover by at least 2 inches
and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and add the garlic, thyme, onion and
orange zest. Lower the heat and cook at a gentle simmer for about 1 hour.
Season with salt and pepper and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes or
until the beans are very tender. If necessary, add water to keep the broth very liquid.
4. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo and
fry, stirring frequently, for about 12 minutes or until almost crisp. Transfer the
chorizo to a double layer of paper towel to drain. Reserve the oil.
5. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs from the beans. Transfer the cooked
beans to a blender and process to a smooth puree. If the finished puree is too
thick, add either water or chicken stock to thin to a thick soup consistency.
6. Transfer the puree to a large saucepan. Stir in the parsley and paprika along
with the reserved chorizo and bring to a simmer.
7. Ladle soup into large shallow bowls, drizzle reserved chorizo oil over tops, and serve.