Creative AF

Aleza Freeman

Master Chef Charlie Palmer dishes on fast-paced Las Vegas and the Sonoma Coma

Legendary Chef Charlie Palmer is so passionate about growing and making wine that 12 years ago he up and moved with his family across the country from New York to Napa Valley.

“It was my dream to grow grapes and make wine in California,” says Palmer, whose 32 acres near the Russian River includes three-and-a-half acres of Pinot Noir vineyards with four clones of grapes. “I thank my lucky stars, I’ve been able to do that. I think it’s kind of magical watching something grow and result in this amazing nectar in a bottle.”

During a recent interview for Haute Living, the Master Chef contends that Vegas moves a bit faster than his own town of Healdsburg.  Though he has the land, the partners and the vision for a new hotel-restaurant in wine country, he calls it a long-term project; its development still a few years away.

“Not everybody makes things happen as quickly as in Vegas,” he says, lovingly referring to the slow pace of wine country by its nickname, “The Sonoma Coma.”

Photo by Anthony Mair for MGM Resorts International

Palmer didn’t coin “The Sonoma Coma” but he did coin another notable phrase: “Progressive American Cooking.” The term is a reference to the evolving nature of American food preparation, still relatively young in practice. Too young, Palmer believes, for canonization, just yet.

“I still don’t think what we do as chefs in this country … I really don’t think it can qualify as a cuisine,” says Palmer. “We’re still young in this country, especially from a food standpoint.”

Even so, Palmer is a veteran by Las Vegas standards (a cross between the speed of light and dog years). He opened the second location for his award-winning Manhattan restaurant, Aureole Las Vegas, way back in 1999.

“It wasn’t 20 years ago, there was nothing really interesting happening in Las Vegas,” recalls Palmer. “Now some of the greatest restaurants in the world are in Vegas. And again, It happened so quickly. I just think that’s amazing. It’s astounding. That would not happen anywhere else but Las Vegas.”

Same goes for the wine world. “We have two master sommeliers in one restaurant for Christ’s sake,” laughs the chef.

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