Palm Springs is known for its beautiful landscape, stunning architecture and storied history of Hollywood glamour. However, one place that stands out in this vibrant town is guest and guide favorite, Workshop Kitchen + Bar. We talked to Michael Beckman Executive Chef and Co-Owner about his Palm Springs epicurean oasis, and got the inside line on all the “must-try” dishes of the season.
“My love for the culinary world began when I was a student at the University of San Francisco, working front-of-house positions at Italian restaurants such as Kuleto’s and Il Fornaio. I was lucky enough to spend time in Geneva, Switzerland, where I cooked at a centre ville bistro, a traditional countryside French restaurant near Geneva’s vineyards, before attending culinary school in France at Lyon’s L’Institute Paul Bocuse. I did my apprenticeship at Lameloise a 3 Michelin-star restaurant in Burgundy, which was a very amazing, iconic experience— it was a 17-seat restaurant that had 35 chefs in the kitchen, and 35 servers in the front of the house. After working under chef Thomas Kellermann as Chef de Partie at the Ritz Carlton Berlin, I found my way back to California which led to a series of elite private chef positions. Shopping at the local farmers markets each week and keeping up with restaurant trends, in many ways led me to my vision of Workshop Kitchen + Bar.”
Tell us a little about how Workshop Kitchen + Bar came to be.
Alongside my partner Joseph Mourani, we were able to find a beautiful space in the historic El Paseo Building in Palm Springs, which was a 90-year-old movie theater that we retrofitted into a restaurant that offered different dining elements for guests, such as a contemporary experience in the dining room or a leisurely outdoor meal on a patio. With Palm Springs being such a huge destination for locals and travelers looking for a refined getaway, we wanted to make Workshop Kitchen + Bar a dining destination that offered a true market driven, seasonally changing menu in the desert. In 2011, we opened the doors to Workshop Kitchen + Bar, which later went on to win a 2015 James Beard Award for best restaurant design.
Following the success, we opened our second concept, Truss + Twine, in March 2017, an atmospheric bar that sits adjacent to Workshop.
What is the driving force behind the concept? (local ingredients, farm to table, or something else entirely?)
All our ingredients are sourced within 100 miles of the restaurant, so we are strongly inspired by and believe in locally sourcing and creating farm to table dishes. My time spent at farmer’s markets over the years directly impacted and led to the creation of Workshop. Along with market driven dishes, we specialize on in-house techniques like fermenting, pickling, butchering and smoking that are incorporated into both our menu and bar program.
How does Palm Springs inspire your menu and aesthetic?
Workshop’s design reflects a unique desert-chic aesthetic, taking inspiration from Palm Springs’ beautiful landscapes, eccentric modernism and stunning architecture in every element of the space, from design to plating style.
Our menu is constantly inspired by Palm Springs-sourced ingredients. We’re lucky enough have formed strong relationships with farms from all over Southern California and specifically, the Coachella Valley. This allows us to continue to be inspired and keep our menu seasonally rotating, incorporating ingredients and produce sourced in our surrounding area.
What’s the one “must-try” item on the menu?
It’s hard to pick one as our menu changes seasonally! However, some menu favorites and staples are the Duck Fat Fries served with sea salt and herbs de Provence, Prime Aged 18 oz Rib-Eye grilled over wood fire with roasted cipollini onions, and composed bone marrow butter, and the 10 oz Mesquite-Grilled Pork-Chop with roasted brussels sprouts, pickled car acara orange, and shallot bacon marmalade. Favorite seasonal items include the Fried Cauliflower Steak with Tahini sauce, Fresno Chile and garlic ferment, with cilantro blossoms, and Duck Study #3 with Duck Breast, foie gras mousse, cara-cara orange marmalade, mushroom salad and 123 Farms lavender honey vinaigrette. Most items continually evolve and experience seasonal changes—nothing is untouchable in this regard.
Another must try item, is the Whole Striped Sea Bass which is rubbed with a Chermoula spice blend, grilled over wood and stuff with a rustic cannellini bean and pancetta salad. It’s an off-the-menu item and delicious.
And finally, favorite summer cocktail recipe?
One of my favorite cocktails at Workshop is The Palm Springer with vodka, fresh pineapple juice, house made grenadine, and angostura bitters. It’s perfect for sipping on the patio during the summer and named in dedication to our beloved city.
Experience Workshop Kitchen + Bar in Palm Springs