TYLER FLORENCE is an acclaimed chef, the author of 16 Cookbooks and chef of many successful restaurants. But you probably know him best from his 26 years on Food Network with shows by How to boil water to food 911 to The great food truck race.
Florence “knows how to throw a party, too.” In fact, he calls it his “super ability.” And he says that carries over into his restaurants. “We’re really good at hospitality at this point,” says the food personality. “Knowing that we’re going to the restaurant tonight we’re going to show 270 people a really good time. It gets me out of bed every day.”
When I spoke to Florence, the restaurant he was visiting that night was Miller & Lux, his modern American steakhouse at the Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors, in San Francisco, California.
“I really like Americana. And then bring it up to Michelin level,” says Florence. “And really playing with the familiar, that’s the space I think I get the most pull from when we’re communicating with people. So it feels nostalgic.”
After working out at home and before leaving for Miller & Lux, Florence spent some time in his backyard with MensHealth.com answering questions about food, nutrition and everything in between.
Which breakfast gets you out of bed in the morning?
Well, I’m really into intermittent fasting right now. I don’t really eat much breakfast anymore, to be honest. I have found something that works for me and that is giving my body 16 to 18 hours a day to really digest and metabolize.
I eat one meal a day around five o’clock in the afternoon. And maybe I’ll have a second meal around eight. This is my zone. I’m not weird about it. For example, if I have a business dinner or something, then of course I eat. You need to figure out what works, and breakfast doesn’t work right now.
What is your diet and fitness like these days?
I just turned 51 in March. And you know, working with my doctor/nutritionist, I probably get a full blood work three times a year just to see where we’re at.
It’s really interesting how stress affects your blood sugar and metabolism, and also how you sleep.
So we’ve gotten really good at maintaining good blood sugar and good nutrition. I definitely try to personally watch a lot of my sugars. So low alcohol consumption, low carbohydrates, low sugar, high protein, high beef.
I try to exercise every day, but it’s a chore — like my assistant has to carve an hour out of my day to exercise. I don’t have time to go to training unless it’s five in the morning. I hate that. I have a gym at my house. I try to keep a good peloton schedule.
What’s your favorite recipe you’ve ever created and why?
Well, I’ve written over 20,000 recipes for foodnetwork.com. Ina Garten has the most downloaded recipes, but I have the top rated recipes on foodnetwork.com, which I’m very proud of.
We’ve put a lot of work into developing recipes over the years, and then there are the superstar recipes that we call our benchmark recipes that are as good as it gets.
I feel like our fried chicken is something that has just been catapulted into the fame and fan base of a lot of people who come to San Francisco to the Wayfare Tavern. It’s definitely one of our master recipes.
What is your favorite weeknight meal and why?
It’s usually what we call “family dinners” in the restaurant. We kind of have a constant seven-recipe rotation — tacos every Tuesday night — and I really get into that.
Honestly coming home my wife Tolan is a fabulous cook. Tonight she’s making a really delicious broccoli soup with some stuff we pulled out of our CSA box and topped with beautiful melted cheese toast. She’s doing it right now because she likes to get this started before she picks the kids up from school. So I’m looking forward to that tonight, but my main course is generally what my wife makes.
What should you consider when trying to prepare a healthy meal at home?
I think portion control is really important. I think I try to use things that feel like down to earth in a way. I always think that’s a really great way to not have to think about it too much. I eat a lot of vegetables. Let me show you my garden.
wow That would be great.
We just flipped it for the year. This is my pepper bed – I have 20 different types of chillies. And there will be great pumpkins for the year. It’ll be zucchini and squash squash. We just transplanted all of our strawberries for the season. And then right behind it there will be many of our climbing trellises. Lots of fresh peas and stuff like that. And the back patch will be tomatoes, which is sort of the hotspot of the year. These are our spring favas, which are really great.
And in the end, all those greens are really super tasty too. So we either take these and put them in salads or stir-fry them a bit with teriyaki sauce and chicken, which is really awesome. Or just juice them. We juice a lot.
What is that food you used to never like that you finally got around to? And which court changed your mind?
Growing up, when I was very young, I had severe food allergies. And honestly, it’s something I’ve never really talked about. When I was about 14 months old, not even nearly two, my mother took me to Emory University in Atlanta. And out of 75 things a kid my age might be allergic to, I was allergic to 42 of them.
So I had severe food allergies growing up. I was allergic to protein fats. I couldn’t eat chicken fat and I couldn’t eat beef fat and cheese. My throat would close up. I would get hives. I only ate beets and lentils and goat cheese because I couldn’t eat cow cheese. I ate a lot of salmon as a kid because that was the only thing I could really eat.
So when I really started to grow out of all of this – when I was about 13 – it all tasted delicious. So everything was kind of like that hyper flavor. As if I had never had it before. So I don’t know if there’s anything on my list I don’t like.
What spice do you put on everything?
I brushed everything with chili oil. I love chilli oil and I make a lot of our chilies towards the end of the season. I make a chilli sauce called “Sicilian Slap” which I hand make and bottle. It’s like a little hobby of mine.
And then I make white Carolina reapers and habaneros. How dumb dumb hot but with flavor right? It’s got garlic and fresh herbs and citrus notes and stuff like that. It’s like this really big splashy pop thing to me. You know, it’s like that extra salt and pepper you throw on eggs and pizza and pasta and all kinds of good stuff. Actually, I prefer chili oil more than fermented chili sauces. Tabasco sauce, for example, is okay. But I think this is something like fermented vinegar, sour note, I don’t like it. But chili oil, it’s like a bang.
Which dish tastes like home for you?
It smells like collards and smoked ham simmering, that smells just like the south, which I just absolutely love. I haven’t made cabbage since New Year’s Eve. It’s kind of a tradition around here, you know, like a good Southern boy. Collards and black-eyed peas. That just smells fantastic to me.
What’s your favorite food to smell while cooking?
I love beef smoke mixed with charcoal. And like beef fat, hot fat drips onto charcoal that burns. This is probably my favorite smell.
Is there an ingredient and recipe that doesn’t belong there, but surprises you and always works?
I think everything works, right? Like you would literally give me a mixed bag of crazy stuff and I could make it work with balance. It’s spicy, sour, salty, sweet. For example, think of Thai food. When you get good Thai food it’s like the perfect balance. It’s sweet made from coconut milk. It’s sour from the lime juice and fish sauce. It also has the saltiness from the fish sauce. It has this really nice balance. You can really, really make anything work.
You mentioned drinking less alcohol, but do you have a favorite combination of alcohol and food?
i mean i love wine I especially love burgundies and the best white wine in the world, French pinots are always amazing.
We even produce our own wine with Miller & Lux which is really fun. And we try to think through with complex steaks, which are quite expensive, and what goes with it? And we actually found out through trial and error that jam wines, which have a slightly higher residual sugar, taste great with fat and salt, right? It tastes amazing. So wines with good fruit notes with a good full body, that’s a lot of alcohol, but relatively little acidity, and jammy, really jammy. California is the best. I think it tastes great with a delicious steak.
What is your favorite time of year to eat?
This transitional season between the end of the peaches and the first pear. It’s like late summer/early fall is my absolute favorite time of year to cook. You become like a blast of everything. Because there’s a tomato month and a tomato week, right? When everything is so incredibly delicious and you taste things in this seasonal perfection. This is my absolute favorite time of year to cook.
When you first came out, did you have any inspiration from celebrity chefs?
I had the pleasure of meeting Julia Child before she died. One of my most treasured possessions in the world is a photo of the two of us together. Wolfgang Puck has become a really good friend of mine and a mentor, which is amazing. Dean Faring, the King of Dallas, is another really good friend and really good mentor. Charlie Palmer was my first New York restaurant to work at when I graduated from New York. He’s right around the corner in Sonoma. So I’m thinking of a lot of these people who are at the cruising heights of their careers. Which is really nice to mimic and have that tribal knowledge that you only get by just doing it.
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