Palm Springs’ Couples – Executive Chef Andrew Copley and Juliana Copley   - Visit Palm Springs tag-img

Palm Springs’ Couples – Executive Chef Andrew Copley and Juliana Copley  

Meet the Couple behind Copley’s on Palm Canyon. A Match Made in Restaurant Heaven.

By Barbara Beckley

A Chef Walks into a Bar…

It’s corny.  But true. The chef is young and talented. A Brit from Yorkshire, who chefed on the QE II to Australia, loved down under and immigrated. Now he’s taking time out from serious pursuits, cooking on a yacht. It’s anchored in Port Douglas, and he and his mates hit town for a drink.

Behind the bar is an American. She’s young and talented, too. A meeting planner from Hawaii, taking time out to travel the South Pacific. Bartending for a bit to earn some money.

This was 26 years ago. The chef was Andrew Copley. The bartender was Juliana Manion. It was love at first sight. And – lucky for us – the genesis of one of Palm Springs’ finest restaurants: Copley’s on Palm Canyon.

Chef Andrew and Juliana Copley

A year later they married and moved to Hawaii, where Andrew added the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, and Executive Chef at the Lodge at Koele on Lanai to his 5-star accolades, which already included the Savoy and Park Lane hotels in London, and a degree in classical French training from London’s Westminster Culinary College (at 16, mind you). Andrew’s fame began on Lanai with his first TV appearances.

As luck would have it, Juliana’s parents had a home in Palm Desert. Andrew and Juliana came for a visit, loved it, and moved here shortly after. “I wanted my own restaurant, but it was too expensive in Hawaii,” Andrew recalls. “We loved living in a resort community and loved the desert’s resort vibe.”

Being a savvy chef, Andrew knew “you can’t just come into a place and open a restaurant overnight.” He spent nearly a year consulting and getting a feel for the desert. To get his name known, he entered “as many local cooking competitions as I could – even pastry, chocolate on Valentine’s Day, date (the palm fruit) cook-offs.” How’d he do?  “I won them all!”

Coplye's interior

Location, Location, Location

When time came to choose a restaurant, Andrew instantly loved the Mediterranean-style adobe on North Palm Canyon Drive. “The garden courtyard and mountain views provide an upscale dining feel. The building will never go out of style.” (They didn’t know it had a celeb pedigree – the Cary Grant estate’s guest house – until later.) Never mind that North Palm Canyon at that time was “nowhere land. People told us it was a terrible location, two blocks out of town. Nobody goes there.”

Copleys_outdoor patio

Except everybody did! Copley’s was an instant success. Opened in December 2004, with Andrew as owner & executive chef, and Juliana owner & business manager. “Now we’re one of the oldest restaurants in the desert. But I don’t feel like I’m old enough to be an established restauranteur,” he laughs. Juliana agrees. “It seems like yesterday, we opened. And now I’ve spent most of my 30s and 40s at this place. And have a 12-year-old son, Maddox!”

Copley's exterior

Recipe for Success

“We’re a good team” Juliana says. “I don’t cook. And I never go in the kitchen. The minute we’re at the restaurant, we’re business partners with completely different jobs.”

As a former DMC (destination management company) owner and hotel sales and marketing pro, Juliana is expert at managing budgets and events. She’s made Copley’s a sought-after venue for parties, weddings, birthdays, corporate and restaurant buy-outs up to 200 guests.

Which lets Chef Andrew Copley do what he loves. “My greatest satisfaction is the freedom to do what I want with the food.” While Andrew says he opened as “new California cuisine,” the menu is actually a reflection of his world travels – “American with traces of tropical on a foundation of Classical European,” he describes. “After Australia, the heavy cream went away in favor of more soy.

Their goal is “for diners to have a really good, high-end quality of food and service – but in a feel-good, relaxed atmosphere.”

Copleys_patio

Classics with a Twist  

“I take traditional dishes and ‘modernize them’,” Andrew explains. Grits is one of his newest adaptations. “I researched American grits, then gave it my own twist. No one else has grits with asparagus tips, jumbo shrimp and lobster sauce!” And not just any grits. His Shrimp + 3 Cheese Grits feature in-house grits made from scratch using a stock of ham hocks, veggies and fresh herbs, boiled for four hours! It’s a best seller, he says.

Copley’s Beef Wellington isn’t wrapped either – it’s layered, with mushrooms and chicken livers. Rhubarb replaces traditional cranberries in his Venison Schnitzel.

copley's food

Two twists that never die: Copley’s Caesar Salad with pineapple croutons, and Hawaiian Ahi Tacos in a miso/sesame seed shell. “Walk into Copley’s and you know you’ll find the Caesar salad and ahi taco. Everything else changes,” he says.

With three patios and an outside oven, Andrew introduced in-house cooking classes in 2007. Now it’s a family affair on Zoom. Julia films, Maddox tastes, new puppy Jax steals the show, and Andrew shares his secrets on “Your Dirty Apron – Cooking with Chef Andrew Copley and His Family”, Thursdays at 5 p.m. Sometimes the dishes are off the menu. “People love to come in, order a dish, and brag, ‘I know how to cook this’.”

Andrew Copley

Asked what his favorite ingredient is, Andrew responds, “Fish. It’s delicate and comes in so many colors, shapes and sizes.” “No!” Juliana interjects, with a smile. “You’re favorite ingredient is ginger. You put ginger on everything!” Andrew laughs. And admits it’s true.

Andrew and Juliana celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in May 2021; and Copley’s 17th anniversary in December 2021.

Just the beginning we bet, for such a talented twosome.

 

Images Source: Copley’s on Palm Canyon

 

 

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