Food Network chef Tyler Florence, who was on hand to assist in the Nov. 7 ribbon cutting ceremony at the Green Giant Eagle's Market District, took time to answer questions provided to writer Carolynn Mostyn by local fans.
When it comes to the key ingredients in his cooking, Food Network star, author and chef Tyler Florence keeps it fresh and healthy.
"'Fresh' is not a 'sell by' date, but a way to live," Florence said, adding that healthy, wholesome, organic food makes the tongue and body happy. "I call it delicious common sense."
Though he is best known for his Food Network TV shows "Food 911," "How to Boil Water," "Tyler's Ultimate" and "The Great Food Truck Race," Florence also has a number of best selling cook books. Among them are a children's book "Tyler Makes Pancakes and his newest release "Tyler Florence Fresh."
Florence began working in the restaurant business at age 15 as a busboy. He is the co-founder of the organic baby food line Sprout and owns three restaurants.
He lives in California with his wife and children.
Q: What is the one thing you love to make?
A: Espresso. I have a really good machine and really good beans. I love coffee. I love espresso and I love to make it.
Q: If you were not a chef, what is the one thing you would enjoy doing as a profession?
A: I would be an architect. Architecture is the true barometer of time. When you go into the city like Cleveland or New York – or anywhere, really – the architecture and shows how long the city's been around. Throughout the different centuries people have been dwelling in these particular places. I think architecture is fascinating. I'd build buildings.
Q: Do you have a passion for food trucks or did you ever want own one? Is that why you do the show "The Great Food Truck Race?"
A: A couple of years ago, network executives and I sat down and said "what do we want to do next?" We spent a bunch of years on the road shooting "Food 911" and we spent a bunch of years in the studio and we wanted to think through what the next phase programming would be. I wanted to work on stuff that gave people a leg-up … . I wanted to actually create programming that there is a real, solid realistic outcome, that someone's going to benefit from, hopefully for the rest of their lives.
… So with the "Great Food Truck Race" we have spawned an entire sub genre of the restaurant business that never existed before. And we put a lot of people in business and have given them hope and determination that they can do it themselves. Instead of investing $4 million in a restaurant space with four walls they put 10 to 15,000 bucks into four wheels and they take their food to the people. We have created, what I think, arguably, is the answer to American fast food. I know we're doing the right thing.
If you have $7 who would you rather give it to? The guy who's making something that you know just got back from the farmers market? You know it's fresh, you know it's delicious and you're looking at the president and the CEO of that company making your food. Would you rather give him your money or would you rather give the clown your money? Food truck operators bring fresh creativity, diversity and delicious food that is nutritious and wholesome to American people in a way that they've never seen before. That is why I like the show, it is disruptive.
Q: After filming a show, do you go home and cook dinner?
A: I'm cook in everyday. I'm cooking physically, cooking in my head, I always dream of food, always dream of dishes. We're usually filming on the road. So when I wrap up the season I usually go home and the first thing, when I get there, is eat something hot and delicious my wife has cooked. She has about 10 meals under her belt that are just awesome. She is a great cook, but she has 10 awesome dishes. So, I never know what there's is going to be, but there's something waiting. My wife takes very good care of me. Then, immediately, the next morning I make my kids pancakes; That is our connection. I do cook a lot when I am home, usually wrapping ideas I have had.
Q: What do you do with the food you cook while filming?
A: With the "Great Food Truck Race" it gets eaten. When we shoot studio stuff, the Food Network participates in a program sponsored by the New York City Food Bank and they pick up a lot of the edible food and convert it into meals and distribute it.
Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure food?
A: I am really, really picky about what I put in my body. I don't casually put calories in my body. So when I do eat, it is going to be a good burger, good salad, good steak, a good glass of wine. It is going to be a good cookie, one that is amazing.
Q: Do you ever eat a Ho Ho?
A: No. Not that I don't like chocolate cake, but it is going to be really great chocolate, really great cake. It's not going to have preservatives and will be low in sugar. I don't have those decisions in my life, my children don't have those decisions in their lives. Parents say they really wish their children made healthy decisions. You guys, you are in the driver's seat and you dictate the nutrition well-being of your children. If you keep snacks around the house, you are not doing them any favors. If children learn to appreciate vegetables at a very early age they wouldn't think french fries were so delicious.
Q: What would you recommend to someone that is just starting out to make quesadillas to use for a filling?
A: Quesadillas can be either fairly authentic or can be like a grilled cheese sandwich. It is a real good opportunity to kind of clean the fridge out. Like sliced ham, sliced roast beef, sausage or bacon that you want to turn into something else. I love caramelized onions and roasted vegetables in quesadillas. We played around with different kinds of cheese looking for which cheese was the "stretchiest." After trying a lot of cheeses you would not think, it turned out to be Muenster. It is like a hyper stretch. It is one of the things I like a lot. Fresh herbs like basil adds great flavor, barbecue chicken and play around with salt sweet like sweet roasted onion and salty roast chicken and salty bacon.
Q: When you plan a meal, do you think about the nutritional value of the foods or more what dishes complement each other?
After a while it becomes kind of fluid. We shop at the farmer's market, we also have convenience foods in our freezer like organic sweet potato fries, my kids like them baked. We try to cook as close to the source as possible – all whole grains, no bleached rice all brown rice, leafy green vegetables. There are not a vegetables our children will not eat if it's roasted. If you take corn, husk, skins everything and you put it in the oven and roast it at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. The vegetable steams and roasts inside its own jacket. It is the most incredible flavorful corn you've ever tasted in your entire life. And you're not pouring the nutritional value from boiling it down the drain. When you roast you take the natural starches and convert them to sugar so things are sweeter naturally. Broccoli, zucchini, carrots, cauliflower – put it on a sheet pan with some virgin olive oil in the oven for 350 degrees for 20 25 minutes until it is roasted. Our kids lick the plate clean and eat their vegetables.
Q: What do you kids like for you cook?
Q: When cooking a standing rib roast, do you cover the bones with foil? If so, when?
A: It depends on how long the bones are. Generally you don't have to. If the bones were extended then you might, but I have been cooking prime rib my entire life and I have never had to cover the bones. You want a deep-seasoned crust and cook it low and slow. A standard roast that feeds six to eight people needs to cook for about four and a half hours at about 225 degrees, 275, maybe 300. Then the texture of the beef just melts and it is so incredible. Meat temperature of 125 to 130 degrees is medium-rare, 155 to 160 degrees is going to be well done, somewhere in the middle gives you something for everyone.
Q: What do you think of the Market District?
A: This is exactly what we need more of, more real experiences, more real opportunity to have a real conversation with people and to try something new. Food is the one level playing field that keeps us all together. It does not matter what economic class you live in, we all like good food. We all like sharing good food and when you get a store like this … you can play around with olive oils, get a good cake for your daughter's birthday (and) check out the wine section, you really feel good. You can see how this is turning into a social spot in the community. On top of that they are adding 100 jobs that's what I like about it.