by Andrea Doyle | September 19, 2017




 Chef and hospitality entrepreneur Charlie Palmer has dozens of notable restaurants across the country, including Aureole in New York as well as Las Vegas; four outlets of Charlie Palmer Steak, along with a fifth on the way in downtown Napa; Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, CA; and Harvest Table in St. Helena, CA. Palmer also oversees a growing collection of boutique hotels, including Hotel Healdsburg in Sonoma County and Harvest Inn in Napa Valley, and is the author of six cookbooks, including his newest, Charlie Palmer's American Fare.

 What is the most elaborate food and beverage function you ever planned for a group?

 Each year I host our annual Pigs & Pinot event in Sonoma County at Hotel Healdsburg, which is a weekend-long series of dining and seminar-style events. We're so proud that the size of Pigs & Pinot grows each year, and this year we had over 1,000 guests attend the different events and raise money for Share Our Strength and local Sonoma County charities and organizations. Throughout the weekend, we have multiple wine and food events that all celebrate two of my favorite all-time ingredients: pork and pinot noir.

What high-end trends are you seeing now?
 Customization is key. At Upper Story by Charlie Palmer, our team is dedicated to making whatever custom and unique idea our host might have in their head into a reality. No idea is too far-fetched or small. If anything, our culinary team loves the challenge.

What strategies are there for groups without big budgets?
 In our restaurants, we've noticed that our guests are moving towards ordering and eating in a shareable, "family-style" manner. So in response, we have changed the formatting of some of our menus to encourage that type of ordering. We have also introduced more community tables in our restaurants, whereever it makes the most sense.

 This shareable style of eating has also been increasingly requested in the events that we host. We love serving large-format cuts of meats or family-style dishes to groups, accompanied by a large plate of vegetables and various other sides.

 What are some of the most popular ingredients right now?

 Earlier this year, we decided to adjust the menu format of my flagship restaurant, Aureole, to reflect a lighter, more seasonally driven, more shareable, liberating menu. Since moving to Sonoma County 15 years ago, I've had the opportunity to connect with local farmers and purveyors and focus on using whole, real ingredients in my kitchens.