Celebrity chef and luxury hotelier team up to form culinary hotel brand

It’s a convincing recipe. Bring together a celebrity chef, a veteran luxury hotel executive and a place famous for its food and wine.

The results of this combination will be ready to be enjoyed in 2026 with the opening of the Petaluma Appellation, a 93-room luxury boutique hotel in the heart of a town often referred to as Sonoma’s gateway to wine country. from California.


In their first hotel business interview, Charlie Palmer, co-founder and CEO of Appellation, a new hotel brand; and Christopher Hunsberger, co-founder and chief operating officer, told TravelPulse that they both live near Healdsburg (home to another Appellation hotel slated to open next year) and that they intended to bring a unique product to the region which they call “experiential luxury”. ”

Palmer is a James Beard Award-winning chef and Hunsberger served as President of the Americas at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.

Appellation Hotels co-founders Christopher Hunsberger (left) and Charlie Palmer (right) photo via Appellation)

The Petaluma property is the fourth announced by Appellation. The others are in Sun Valley, Idaho; Pacific Grove, California; and Healdsburg. The brand name means “giving a name to a place” and the mission, according to the founders, is to create the first hotel brand born from the fusion of gastronomy and hospitality. The company’s hotel in Healdsburg will mean that the operator will be able to “reserve” the destination for those coming to Sonoma for multiple days.

With a location closer to San Francisco than other wine country towns (an hour’s drive), Palmer said, Petaluma is a natural for what the hotel aims to offer. This will include the opportunity for guests to rub shoulders with the people who make wine, grow food and are otherwise involved in the culinary scene. He said the property will be in the center of town with “a rooftop restaurant like no other.”

According to Hunsberger, despite its fame, Petaluma is underserved when it comes to the kind of “accessible luxury” the Petaluma Appellation will provide. He said the hotel will “elevate the sense of place” through design and programming and celebrate the destination’s rich culture.

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Over the next two years, as the hotel goes through regulatory processes and construction, Hunsberger said, his team will build anticipation in commerce and among consumers about the opening. Part of that buildup, he said, will be hosting Crafted at Appellation programming at other locations in Petaluma to engage the local community and activate the venue.

Made in Appellation is the brand’s experiential learning program, “Connecting with the local community is just as important to us as it is to the traveling public,” Hunsberger said.

When it opens, the Petaluma Appellation will host a full calendar of activities for patrons and locals via Crafted at Appellation events in partnership with community makers and artisans.

Palmer said he has spent many years developing relationships with local growers, farmers and manufacturers in a place that values ​​generational farming, innovation and creativity – and is home to renowned producers of high quality food and wine, in addition to being an artistic and cultural center.

Ebbie Nakhjavani, CEO of EKN Development Group, which is developing the hotel and chose Appellation as the hotel operator, said that immediately after meeting Palmer and Hunsberger, “we knew it was meant to be that we would do the project together.”

Unlike many hotels when a management company is hired and then loses the vision as it focuses on financial performance, Nakhjavani said, Appellation will maintain its vision for the next few years. Additionally, he said, the project is a joint venture with the two co-founders, so all parties have a stake in its quality and success. He said the destination market is already strong and success is just a matter of capturing market share.

When guests enter the lobby, Nakhjavani said, they will enter a culinary scene. There will be a window in the kitchen of the ground floor restaurant. With a feeling that is part city and part country, he said, “the guest will immediately relax as they are immersed in the environment and enjoy where they are.”

As with all Appellation properties, the dining experience at Petaluma will go far beyond the hotel’s food and beverage venues. Food-focused amenities and programming will be integrated into all aspects of the hotel, many of which will embrace the destination’s burgeoning culinary scene. For example, hotels will have a pantry on each floor, an alternative to the mini-bar, with a larger offer. It can be the cocktail of the day or a “nice cup of coffee” and tea. It will be a much higher experience offered by sophisticated equipment

And, says Nakhjavani. “Honoring Petaluma’s rich art scene, we will be investing over $500,000 in art, including specially commissioned signature pieces from local artists that will be accessible to all members of the community.”

The goal of all of these efforts, Palmer said, is to provide guests with the chance to experience what it’s like to live in Petaluma during their stay, even if it’s only for a few days. He said so many visitors say they would love to live in the city and for 99 per cent that won’t happen “but they can experience it for the duration of their hotel stay. “.