Chef and Co-Owner Arthur Vasquez Shared His Vision for the Future of Museum Dining
Written By: Dr. Paula Trimble-Familetti
Photographed By: Kenneth Alexander Persimmon Bistro
“Wow!” “Beautiful, just beautiful.” These were the words said and heard by guests who entered Palm Springs Art Museum’s Persimmon Bistro for its grand re-opening and ribbon cutting. Chef and Partner Arthur Vasquez’s dream is to offer cuisine comparable to what he has experienced at other great museums around the world.
Before the crowd grew large enough to drown out the music, the bistro had the feel of stepping into a French café. Displayed behind the polished concrete bar were stacks of brightly colored heirloom tomatoes, gleaming lemons and flakey butter croissants. On a previous visit to the renowned bistro, photographer Michael Childers remarked, “Gotta love a place that has croissants and rosé in your eye view.”
Don’t expect a small snack bar when you walk into the Persimmon Bistro. Although the inside space is cozy, the bistro opens onto the Dorothy and Harold Meyerman Sculpture Garden featuring a sky blue, bubbling fountain, old-growth desert landscaping and magnificent sculptures.
The staff at Persimmon Bistro was expecting 75-100 guests. It quickly became apparent that far more arrived. The line stretched out the door as guests waited to sample from platters of Italian salami, Spanish chorizo, prosciutto, aged cheddar cheese, imported Italian cheese, crumbly, pungent blue cheese, mission figs drizzled with Temecula Valley artisan honey, apricots and giant bowls of raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes and almonds. Paired with this delicious fare were Terrasse Du Moulinas (a dry French rosé), Astoria Prosecco (an Italian sparkling wine) and craft beers from Strand Brewing Company.
The eclectic, artistic, diverse group of guests, friends and well-wishers hugged, laughed, made new friends and took photos mainly of the magnificently displayed food. Cameras and cell phones flashed as the ribbon, officially opening the bistro, was cut. The mayor of Palm Springs, Robert Moon, endorsed the bistro by presenting Chef Vasquez with a Proclamation. A bystander was overheard saying, of the group being photographed, “Those folks are going to be blind for a while.”
After the ribbon cutting, guests settled themselves around tables or onto couches. The children, of course, tried to play in the fountain. Chef Vasquez was spotted putting half of the ceremonial ribbon around the neck of a crying child whose parents had just stopped him from jumping into the fountain. A couple from New Zealand, traveling through the desert, “stumbled” onto the museum and the bistro grand opening. They described the event as “a lovely treasure.” DJ Minus filled the air with the sounds of jazz, R&B and ‘60s soul music.
In furthering the efforts started by his Persimmon Partner Tristan Gittens, Chef Vasquez has a vision for Persimmon Bistro: “I have a level of pride for the food service at this museum. I want donors and board members to be proud to bring their friends and family here to eat. I want them to be able to conduct their meetings here and not feel they have to go somewhere else to eat first. I want them to be proud of what we do here. The food we serve is basically how I eat at home. It is what I love to cook. The food is easy to prepare and represents some of my all-time favorites.”
Native Knowledge: Chef Vasquez has 30 years of experience as a food, wine and beer connoisseur. He was the dynamic energy behind Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse’s success from 2003-2018.
Native Knowledge: The Palm Springs Art Museum began its life as the Palm Springs Desert Museum in 1938. Its original home was in the heart of Palm Springs at La Plaza, now the sight of the restaurant Grand Central Palm Springs.
Native Knowledge: Check out the uniforms that the crew at Persimmon Bistro are wearing. The black t-shirt is an homage to midcentury modern architect Albert Frey, who designed the Palm Springs City Hall and the lower tramway station with John Porter Clark. Frey House II was bequeathed to the Palm Springs Art Museum upon his death in 1998.