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What do you think attract customers to your restaurants — food, service, your own star power, marketing?

I think it's all of those things that you've mentioned in addition to location and our ability to evolve with the times. Our restaurant portfolio runs the gamut from high-end dining [Aureole] to casual taverns and cocktail bars [Burritt Room + Tavern in San Francisco]. As I mentioned, fine dining will always have a demand in the marketplace, but that’s only for a certain set of people. We also want to continue to open our doors to new and younger diners who perhaps didn’t know who Charlie Palmer was until they walked into the door, but now they'll dine at Burritt Room + Tavern weekly or monthly and then visit Dry Creek Kitchen [in Healdsburg, Calif.,] for a special occasion or on a trip to wine country.  

Where do you find inspiration for new dishes?

I've been at this for awhile, so I know what tastes good and I think I know what people want to taste, but I definitely find that eating out as much as possible helps me to continue to bring in new ideas.  This means everything from ramen shops to Jean Georges. I never want to do the same thing that I did 20 years ago or copy someone else’s dish, but I use past experiences in my restaurants and combine them with different things I’ve tried along the way to inspire me to create new things.  

And, as always, some inspiration happens by accident when two great flavors collide and you realize you're onto something!

Aureole offers a Sunday dinner special featuring côte de boeuf, seasonal salad, fries, sautéed spinach and Bordeaux wines poured from magnums for $48. How is that doing?

It's our best Sunday promotion ever and people love that it's not only a great deal, but it's an awesome feast and a great way to end your weekend. We have people who come back every Sunday for it.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary