Palm Springs culinary wizardry: Workshop Kitchen + Bar

Launched in 2011 by owner and chef Michael Beckman, Workshop Kitchen + Bar (WKB) has become the daring go-to eatery of Palm Springs’ uptown design district. Beckman, raised in Orange County, originally moved to the Coachella Valley as beverage director and private chef for Rancho Mirage’s Porcupine Creek, a private golf course and estate.

Beckman cut his culinary teeth in Europe’s French kitchens, including Geneva’s Chez Bouby Bistro, located next to an extensive spice shop. The chef also laid the foundation for WKB, a dream come true he says, at New York City’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and the Nomad Hotel.

Beckman has put in considerable time learning from the best, and it shows.

A James Beard winning design

WKB’s look was crafted by Lebanese architect Michel Abboud, a style that won the 2014 James Beard Award for best restaurant design. Abboud has carved WKB’s portion of the historical El Paseo complex into a sleek, monochromatic space.

Ten leather-padded booths, framed in towering concrete, are set along a 25-foot communal table droplit with Edison-era bulbs. The lighting is strung from a soaring 27-foot cathedral ceiling. Set at the far end, the streamlined bar completes the space.

Metal block tables covered in stone veneer float within the booths, also strung with bare, golden bulbs.

Cell-like windows are perched high above the booths. With all that concrete, the space would seem to be in danger of becoming a sterile echo chamber. But instead, Abboud has turned the restaurant into a cozy monastery, the booths appearing like open confessionals.

The only god here is the food.

Courtyard dining is also available. During our visit, the outdoor space was a bit bare, but Beckman assured us that a mature Manzanita olive tree was scheduled to be craned in that week. The tree is exactly what the space requires. Up lit at night, the leafy canopy will give the courtyard some needed soul.

Workshop Kitchen + Bar is located at 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA. (760) 459-3451

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