As Think Tasty has been conducting polls seeking the best restaurants in regions across the USA, we have discovered many exciting and interesting restaurants and chefs. In July we explored the Rocky Mountain region, and along with it, The Palace Restaurant in Durango, Colorado. The combination of a fabulous location, historical building, great food, and talented chef was all we needed to learn more about this restaurant and its chef, Paul Gelose.
Paul has always been interested in cooking. He started cooking at the age of 16 at Henry’s Hamburgers in upstate New York but had been cooking at home before then. Paul continued to pursue his love of cooking, earning his culinary degree from SUNY in 1979 and graduating from RIT in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in hotel/restaurant management. With his education complete, he headed to Steamboat Springs to work at Sheraton Hotels as a breakfast chef. As a skier, he tied his career to mountains and worked in Colorado and Europe, which offered him the best of career and recreational worlds.
Chef Paul has worked in a wide array of roles and locations throughout his career. In addition to working in Colorado, he has worked in Switzerland and the south of France. He has a deep understanding of the many jobs in a commercial kitchen, as he has worked as a sous chef, banquet chef, executive chef, and more. He also spent a year as Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef. Whether prepping dishes, cooking for a crowd, or cooking for one, he understands the finer details of being a chef.
In 1997 he was presented with the opportunity to buy The Palace Restaurant. The restaurant had been in business for many years and seemed like the perfect fit for Paul. Since then Paul has transformed this restaurant into a well-loved restaurant that serves timeless and modern cuisine. Chef Paul explained this type of cuisine for me:
Timeless is easy: classics served in an old style Victorian restaurant in the historic district: a great steak or Reuben sandwich or roast duck. Chicken and dumplings have been on the menu for over 40 years. The modern food is more so of trends that are existing. The Palace has the ability to be flexible; you could put a classic and it would fit and you could put a seared ahi and it would fit, too.
Both Chef Paul and The Palace Restaurant received much praise from voters. However, Chef Paul is quite humble and stated that he didn’t know how unique he is. However, what he did note was that he is hard working. What he feels makes his restaurant (or any restaurant) successful is consistency. He has been exposed to very professional kitchens and understands what a professional kitchen needs to be. He maintains that professionalism in his kitchen. He stated, “I don’t think the consumer cares that the menu is always changing. The consumer looks for value, consistency in food, service. They want to know what they’re going to get. “
As with any location there are advantages and disadvantages. According to Paul, the advantages of having a restaurant in Durango are the beef industry and others that support the culinary world locally. There is a good economy there that is tourist based. He has found the resort economy to be an advantage, as it is pretty resilient to recession. A disadvantage is the location and proximity to the ocean and growing regions that allow diversity of fruit and vegetables. Buying local is difficult. There is a bigger hurdle to achieve that in a rural location, such as Durango.
When asked what his favorite dish on the menu is, Paul initially suggested that people should order the rack of lamb, as it is unique and exotic. He then followed this by noting something from his childhood, “My dad always would say, order something on the menu you can’t get at home.” That is sound advice, which applies well to The Palace Restaurant. With a historic building in a resort location and a menu that is both classic and modern, it seems just the place that you would find something that you can’t find at home.