At Palette, a new community hot spot, chef-artist Peter J. Hemsley creates edible masterpieces
Words by ANUSH J. BENLIYAN
“The dialogue about art and food has existed for as long as man was composing dishes,” says Peter J. Hemsley, the chef-proprietor and artist behind Palette, San Francisco’s new restaurant-meets-gallery concept, which debuted earlier this year.
A dinner table set up in PALETTE’s gallery space.
Conceived to spark conversations around food, art and community, the SoMa destination is anchored by an exhibition room showcasing Bay Area artists, and a locally driven eatery whose creatively plated farm-to-table dishes (think carrot-turmeric gnocchi with English peas, ricotta and preserved lemon) are artworks in their own right. The sprawling space also houses a studio, where Hemsley creates his recipe-inspired sketches, sculptures and paintings of flora and fauna (often incorporating kitchen scraps), and ceramicist Andrew Kontrabecki makes Palette’s bespoke dishware; and a boutique stocked with accessories and home decor by local artisans.
A portrait of chef-owner PETER J. HEMSLEY by Oakland-based painter JANE FISHER.
Now, Hemsley — who honed his gastronomic skills under chefs Michael Tusk at Quince, Daniel Boulud in New York and Alain Passard of Paris’ Arpège — is expanding his culinary concept with a new dinner series, allowing guests to experience “some of the best of what we have to offer in terms of moving art, changing food and custom-made tablewares,” Hemsley says. Reconceptualized monthly and held every Saturday, the fine dining program pairs an eight-course tasting menu with beverages, live music, artworks and discussions curated around the series’ rotating theme.
A checkerboard dish of scallop crudo and black garlic scallop mousse from the Progression series.
“Palette is part of a serious conversation speaking to ‘food as art and art as food’”
Peter J. Hemsley
“Palette is a part of a serious conversation speaking to ‘food as art and art as food,’” he says. Highlights from the dinner’s first edition, Inception (through Oct. 12) — inspired by new beginnings — include “Writer’s Rice,” a squid ink risotto served in a Kontrabecki-crafted vessel that resembles crumpled paper. For the second iteration, Progression (Oct. 19 through Nov. 30), the premise is growth and change, and Hemsley plans to exhibit urban street art in the gallery, “challenging guests’ senses to that age-old question of ‘what is art?’” he explains.
Ceramicist ANDREW KONTRABECKI at work in the studio at PALETTE.
Next year, he hopes to explore the relationship between food and fashion. “The space was designed with tables that can be set up as a runway,” Hemsley says, hinting at upcoming dinners with designers and artists. Even with the rapid evolution of Palette, evidently, he is still hungry for more.
The bespoke dishware is made on-site by ANDREW KONTRABECKI.
The “Writer’s Rice” squid ink risotto from the Inception dinner series.
Dinner series priced at $185/person. 816 Folsom St., S.F., 415-865-0529.
Feature image: San Francisco’s creative dining destination PALETTE.
This story originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of C Magazine.
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