[Chef Talk]

The Weekly Chat: Chef and restaurateur Charlie Palmer

Charlie Palmer may be best known for fine dining restaurants like Aureole, but he recently released a book all about outdoor cooking, Remington Camp Cooking by Charlie Palmer.
Photo: Bill Milne

How often do you make it to Las Vegas to check in at Aureole at Mandalay Bay and Charlie Palmer Steak at the Four Seasons?

I’m here a lot, at least once a month and usually twice. I live in Sonoma now, and anytime I’m going to the East Coast or coming back, I stop in Vegas. Also, my older boys have taken a liking to Vegas, even if they aren’t ready for it legally, so I like to bring them. They think they’re ready, which is a little scary.

Mandalay Bay has seen quite a few changes in restaurants, nightlife and entertainment in recent months. How does Aureole fit into the new look there?

Aureole is positioned well, both in terms of its location right off the casino and its standing as the higher-end option at Mandalay Bay, the real gourmet dining experience. The plethora of new restaurants popping up around us is a good thing, and we are working on some things to keep pace with the modernization that’s happening there.

Aureole Las Vegas opened in 1999. Is it challenging to stay relevant when restaurants open and close so frequently on the Strip?

Not any differently than in other cities. The new Aureole in New York is quite a different restaurant than the Aureole of 20 years ago. The new one is in the Bank of America tower and it’s a multi-faceted experience, with a bar room that’s much more casual versus the fine dining component, which is really focused on the tasting experience. Eventually I’d like to have Aureole Las Vegas go in that same trend where there’s a bistro-style portion of the restaurant in front, more casual and no white tablecloths with an a la carte menu. In New York, people come in one night a week to the bar room and they're out in 45 minutes, then another night you’ll see them entertaining a guest or client or celebrating an anniversary and getting the full multi-course experience. Hopefully we’ll see that in the next year or so, be able to take that step in Las Vegas.

There are also a couple new projects we’re working on, including in Las Vegas, where we’re looking at other opportunities. We hope to announce another project here in the next year or so.

A new Vegas project other than the planned Charlie Palmer Hotel in Symphony Park Downtown?

That’s right.

That project is still on hold but still in the works, right?

Yes. The big question there is what’s going to happen around that piece of land. Originally there were nine or 10 projects on the slate, and a lot of them fell out. There’s been talk of a stadium on the land adjacent to our property. It’s hard to build and spend $200 or $300 million on a project not knowing who your neighbors are going to be, but I think it will shake out in the next couple of years. We hope to go forward; when is the question.

You just released a great new cookbook focused on outdoor cooking and camping.

It’s a collaboration with Remington [Outdoor Company] and it’s a really unique project for me, because I haven’t had the opportunity to really look at outdoor cooking. I’m an avid outdoorsman; I’ve done a lot of different types of camping. This book focuses on all types of outdoor cooking, from open-fire Dutch ovens to grilling. There’s a hefty amount of game cookery, and it nods to hunters and fishermen. It’s been a great success and it’s just a great-feeling book. The artwork is amazing, as they had access to all this Remington historical artwork and it’s laced throughout the book. The photography was shot by Jody Horton and it really captures that outdoor feel. Everything was shot outside in real environments and it really turned out well.

You know, anything can be cooked indoor or outdoors, but there’s something special about cooking and eating outside. I really believe things taste better outside, and the book portrays that whole element. There’s also a lot of good information about building fires, great for the novice who wants to get outside and start doing it, but there are important details and safety information we don’t always think about. So I guess I got to use my Eagle Scout knowledge at last and put it to work.

Tags: Dining
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