Chef Charlie Palmer is looking back to look forward at Dry Creek Kitchen.
Taking over the reigns of Palmer’s Healdsburg restaurant is 12-year Charlie Palmer Restaurant Group veteran Scott Romano. In addition to working at 5 Palmer restaurants, including Aureole in NYC, his friendship with Chef Palmer spans two decades.
“It’s a nearly 20-year friendship that has survived several restaurant openings, hot kitchens, many a hunting trip, and countless meals and glasses of wine,” said Palmer. It also includes several guest chef appearances at Palmer’s signature event, Pigs & Pinot as well as surviving Romano’s departure from the group several years ago.
“There’s a unique quality to Scottie. He has the soul of a chef. There are a lot of good chefs, but not all of them have the soul of a chef — the love of food and a constant yearning to learn more. ”
– Charlie Palmer
“I’ve been working on getting Scott back into the family for years, knowing his maturity and experience would bring us to new levels,” said Palmer. “His kitchen and cooking style lends itself naturally to DCK and I’m thrilled to have my hunting partner back in this part of the country.”
As both employee and longtime friend to Palmer, Romano has an ease with the multi-Michelin starred chef that’s reassuring to the future of the Healdsburg restaurant after the departure of Dustin Valette (who left in 2014 to open Valette) and a less than one year stay by Chef Andrew Wilson.
That easy rapport shows, with the two working hard to reimagine some of the restaurant’s signature dishes like the Oz Family Farm Rabbit Tortellini, Dry Creek Peach and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Bellwether Ricotta and Sauteed White Sea Bass with Sweet Corn Puree.
“We’re looking back at iconic dishes from all the restaurants,” said Palmer, who currently owns 17 restaurants, with at least one more on the way at the Archer Hotel in Napa (opening 2017). “And we’re adapting them to California,” he said.
The two are also doing monthly “Reflective Menu” dishes that pull from Palmer’s past, including Pepper Seared Bob White Quail with Savory Corn and Sweetbread Pudding that appeared on the 1998 menu of Aureole (served Aug. 8-21, 2016 at DCK)
Though Romano isn’t from the area, he’s already jumped into the fray, with his wife (also in the restaurant biz) planting a culinary garden at their Healdsburg home, and spending many mornings meeting with farmers and purveyors who supply the restaurant.
“There’s a unique quality to Scottie. He has the soul of a chef,” said Palmer. “There are a lot of good chefs, but not all of them have the soul of a chef — the love of food and a constant yearning to learn more,” he said.
Romano’s culinary start was humble, doing dishes at a pizza parlor in New Jersey, and graduating to a line cook at Romano’s Macaroni Grill (no relation). As a culinary student, Romano chose to stage at Aureole, and Palmer saw promise in the young cook.
Now, the promise has landed him at one of Palmer’s flagship restaurants. And both chefs seem happy to be back together, and happy to be cooking in Wine Country.
“People love eating here in Wine Country, and I’m looking forward to being part of that,” said Romano.
(Featured photo: Paige Green)