With a true passion for food and dining experiences, he’s ready to roll out a new restaurant at the Hard Rock Hotel

By Judith Salkin

Most hotel owners plan everything down to the most minute detail when they open a new property, especially when it’s one that’s associated with an established brand like the Hard Rock.

Dining options are often planned to make sure that target guests of the property will stay put for most meals, thereby adding to the bottom-line on the bill.


For Andy Carpiac, the Hard Rock’s majority owner, that wasn’t quite the business plan he had in mind when planning for the hotel that is becoming one of the anchors of the city’s downtown business district.

Sessions restaurant, a hip and upscale three-meal a day dining spot with local chef Aaron Kiefer was there for guests and locals dining pleasure on opening day, but “I really started talking to Chef Simon before we opened the doors,” Carpiac said recently from his office in L.A. Those early talks came a little late in the game for the actual opening of the hotel, Carpiac kept the lines of communication open hoping to bring Simon aboard to broaden the appeal of the hotel’s kitchen.

With a goal of integrating the Hard Rock as not just a leader in the city’s hotel/resort scene, Carpiac has always wanted the Hard Rock to be a place that locals felt comfortable, whether it was being part of events like the recent Splash House parties or as a hangout at the nightclub.

For most large hotels, unless it’s for a big event, getting locals into the hotel restaurant is often difficult. And so he used knowledge he’d gained his involvement in other Palm Springs resorts like the Colony Palms Hotel, talking to guests and locals about what they wanted in an eatery and his own desire to bring Simon’s take on farm-to-fork dining to the desert.

There aren’t a lot of changes being made to Sessions space, which is already a pretty nice dining spot that’s exudes a rock vibe with the sensibility of a contemporary dining spot. “It’s pretty much the perfect spot for a three-meal-a-day dining space,” Carpiac said. “But we will be making some changes to fit (Simon’s) specifications.”

“Palm Springs is hot right now,” Simon has said of the new addition to his eateries in Chicago, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. “I’m very excited to be a part of this laid-back, hipster getaway. The menu that I’ve developed for Simon Kitchen + Bar is a little edgy, a little fun, and full of contemporary takes on the comfort foods we all love.”

For Simon’s business partner since 2013 and CEO of Simon Hospitality Group, Cory Harwell is just as excited as Carpiac to break into the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs dining scene. And until the new space opens to the public in mid-September, he’s spending Wednesday through Sunday of each week overseeing the renovation of the space, hiring the executive chef and working on menus for Simon Kitchen + Bar, which is Simon’s third Hard Rock partnership.

“I love the fact that Andy has done his due diligence in finding out what his guests and the locals are looking for in a restaurant,” he said of Carpiac’s year of talking to guest and locals about what they wanted in the hotel’s restaurant and what type of food they would find both comforting and exciting at the same time. “We know that Palm Springs locals are hungry for a restaurant that’s fun and different at the same time.”

Simon and Harwell have planned each of the group’s restaurants to not only fit the area where they’re located, but by also using local vendors, adjusting menus to meet the availability of product and produce from local growers and hiring local talent to staff the kitchen and front of house.
What they’re looking for, he said, is someone with the same passion for food as the Iron Chef who is battling Multiple-system atrophy (MSA), an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease. “I am inspired every day by Kerry,” Harwell said. “His passion for food, for developing new recipes has not diminished and that’s what we want in the chefs we choose to work in our kitchens.”

Simon Kitchen + Bar will follow the same model as Simon’s other restaurants in offering social plates (shared plates, “our favorite way of eating,” Harwell added), entrees, sandwiches and outrageous desserts.

One of the menu highlights will be an Iron Chef burger from the man who killed Chef Cat Cora in a burger challenge on “Iron Chef” in 2005. Other items include Devil’s Eggs, decadent eggs with crispy pancetta and caviar, black rice and oxtail risotto with a parmesan cream and a bourbon fudge brownie served with brown butter bacon ice cream.

Hopefully the menu (which should be released shortly, along with the name of the new executive chef) will also include short rib sliders with root beer glaze; grilled cheese with apple slices and caramelized onion; cocoa-espresso New York strip steak with red wine demi; and duck confit made with black mission figs and gorgonzola cheese, that are on the menu at other Simon eateries.

“We make about 95 percent of everything that’s served in the restaurant in our kitchen,” Harwell said. “It’s the only way to develop the depth of flavor and the bold in-your-face combinations that Kerry is known for.”

Simon Kitchen + Bar
Where: Hard Rock Hotel, 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Opens: Mid-September 2014
Information: www.hrhpalmsprings.com or 760-325-9676