Welcome back! For those just joining this mini-series: we are counting down some of the greatest, most influential and all-around legendary chefs to grace the classrooms of the Culinary Institute of America. Last time we spoke about Grant Achatz, the creative culinary genius pioneering molecular gastronomy on the mainstream American culinary scene. Today, I introduce to you another legend of CIA: Charlie Palmer.
Charlie Palmer was born circa 1960 in upstate New York. Unlike NYC, upstate New York is an area characterised by rurality and suburbs, as such Charlie Palmer and his family lived and worked on a small farm in the area. Palmer’s experiences on this farm provoked a great interest in food, specifically the ingredients from which it was derived from. This would later be a huge source of inspiration on his cooking methods and the sourcing of his ingredients.
Due to his new found fascination in the culinary field, a young Charlie Palmer would take his first job as a dishwasher at a local establishment the Colgate Inn. During this time he worked hard and ambitiously, when a position opened up in vegetable preparation he swiftly took it and then later joined the brunch prep team. However, despite the fulfilment that he gained from his job, he craved more within the culinary field…
To take his culinary career to the next level, Palmer would quit his job and enroll into the Culinary Institute of America. During his studies, Charlie Palmer would build upon his cultivated base of knowledge and learn many of the techniques that he would later use in his career. During his time of study, Palmer would train at various rural restaurants in France. He would later describe how his passion for locally produced ingredients blossomed in France, as artisanal producers of the area would directly deliver their perfectly made goods directly to the restaurant.
Armed with his newfound knowledge of contemporary cooking techniques and reignited passion for local produce, Charlie Palmer would explode onto the culinary scene. After graduating from CIA in 1979, Palmer would go on to get an executive chef position at the Neo American restaurant the Riverside Cafe in New York City in 1983. While the restaurant was already considered to be one of the best restaurants in the city, it practically flourished under Palmer, gaining 3 stars from the New York Times, an esteemed achievement even now. It was also during this time that Charlie Palmer would train many promising young chefs inspired by his work, one such young chef was fellow CIA graduate Michael Mina who would later go on to find similar success to his mentor…
Charlie Palmer would work at the Riverside Cafe for a further 5 years before deciding that he wished to go in his own direction. To this end,in 1988 Palmer would open the flagship restaurant of his hospitality empire: Aureole. Aureole was founded on the principles that Palmer has based a large portion of his culinary career: Classic American cuisine sourced by local farmers. To this end Charlie Palmer made sure to create lasting relations with the local producers in the New York culinary scene so to this day, his food can stay locally produced as well as luxury quality. Charlie Palmer would also notably infuse a number of classic French techniques into his cooking, this was inspired by his time in France as well as the Haute techniques passed down to him by CIA.
Auerole would go on to achieve massive success along with Charlie Palmer himself, the food was a refreshing breath of fresh air into a wholesome and beloved tradition of American food, which was perfectly complemented by the restaurant’s location in a historic townhouse off of Manhattan’s Maddison Avenue. Palmer’s impressive culinary reputation, his own business acumen as well as his prestigious education led him to then create a restaurant empire…
Between Auerole opening in 1983 and the time of writing in 2020, Charlie Palmer’s legacy would explode across the USA. He currently operates 13 notable restaurants in his name, all of which operating under Palmer’s signature modus operandi of american-french inspired locally sourced cuisine. Charlie Palmer has also branched out into further aspects of hospitality, opening his own hotel, “hotel Healdsburg” in 2006 and is currently in the process of constructing the “Charlie Palmer Hotel” in Las Vegas . Palmers achievements have not fallen on deaf ears, the culinary community have given him numerous accolades including “the best chef in New York City 1997” from the James Beard foundation among others.
To this day, Charlie Palmer is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most influential chefs to come from the USA, but despite his swift rise to fame and fortune, Palmer continues to credit CIA as one of the moulding factors of his success. Now on the board of directors for the school, he says that due to the top -of-the-line tutors, the age-old techniques and the constantly evolving technological prowess of the school, graduates from CIA will always have a “step up” when applying to his restaurants and others in the hospitality industry.
Are you eager to gain the same “step up” that propelled Charlie Palmer and many like him into international prestige? Well we can help you! Simply send an email to [email protected] and we can help you start your journey with CIA.
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