Feb. 15, 2021, 8:00 a.m. EST

20 Minutes With: Fine Dining Chef and Restaurateur Charlie Palmer

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What is the most interesting restaurant you’ve visited that isn’t in your collection?

I was in Copenhagen for the holidays with my whole family, and we visited a restaurant called Amass. That came from a previous relationship with Chef Matt Orlando , who worked with us in New York. It’s located on a pier in an old warehouse—a great location. You can sense the dedication that went into it, and it had everything I look for in a restaurant.

What’s one piece of art—be it a song, painting, photograph, a book—that changed the way you view the world?

There wouldn’t be a single one. I love the way I look at things when I visit an amazing museum, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I was there just recently and spent a few hours. There’s just this way art opens your mind. I’m always relating these things to my experience as a chef and—from a food standpoint—museums can cue inspiration and change how I see the relationship between people and food. I think more people should go to museums, in general. 

What must an amateur cook know to do in the kitchen?

He or she should be able to make an omelet. In the world of chefs, when we want to see how well someone knows his or her way around a kitchen, making an omelet is one way we test.

What do you enjoy eating that would shock your fans?

I don’t go to fast food. I’m not a beer drinker. But, I’ll enjoy some bacon, egg, and cheese. I can’t do too much of that without having to get out there and run extra miles in the morning. I’m more of a wine person than cocktails, but I like a great Negroni once and a while—if it’s made well. 

What do you fear most about the future?

I tend to be a big optimist. Of course, what we’re going through right now with the coronavirus is something that has to be managed in the restaurant business and in society overall. I saw New York go through 9/11, and no one would obviously want to see any city go through something like that. But, those events can make you stronger and make a community stronger.

What’s the status of American restaurants in general these days?

Food and cooking in this country has never been in a better place in terms of ingredients, preparation, and our knowledge of diners. The more informed people become about food and wine, what they’re eating, why they’re eating it, the better it is for people like us in this industry as we think about how to prepare delicious dishes.

What do you think is the key to sustained motivation in a long career?

That’s loving what you do. I’ve been adamant about that with my sons and our team. You have to find something you do that you really enjoy—to love what you do. I feel very fortunate that I discovered something early on because I don’t feel like I’m going to work when I get up in the morning. I get up excited about what I get to do today.

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