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Tyler Florence

The Food Network star and People magazine’s onetime sexiest chef talks about his new show, his mysterious New York restaurant project, and how not to treat a Cocoa Puff.

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Your new show is called Tyler’s Ultimate. Your old show was called Tyler’s Ultimate. We’re confused.
I just said, “Okay, we’ve already taken a lot of people on this journey called Tyler’s Ultimate, let’s just continue the franchise, continue the brand.” So the new version, it’s like I’ve unpacked. I’m home. In my travels around the world, this is what I’ve learned. I’m going to make some fantastic, straightforward meals that you can make tomorrow night for dinner. It’s the subtle nuances of the recipe that make them. Nothing wrong with an incredible piece of fried chicken.

There have been rumors for years now that you’re going to open a restaurant. What’s the latest?
I’ve had a thousand opportunities to open restaurants with a million sleazeball opportunists, and it’s never been the right thing at the right time. And I don’t want to jinx it, but we just looked at a place yesterday—can’t tell you what it is, I think it’s bad mojo—but the space is just smokin’. We’re going to put a lot of great energy into this to make sure it happens. It’s going to be very Tuscan, like a grotto, and almost kind of passed through a California filter. Superfresh, as organic as humanly possible, and really ultradelicious. Almost like Chez Panisse. As Italian as Chez Panisse is.

What’s your favorite New York City restaurant?
Peasant. Frankie DeCarlo’s food just gets better and better every time I go in. He’s one of the true dedicated chefs in the city, and every time you go, he’s always cooking. And I like Il Buco a lot. I like transporting restaurants—places you go in and they take you outside the city.

What trend do you hate?
I think Ferran Adrià sparked a lot of interest in people. In the right hands, that kind of food is mind-blowing; it makes you think about things. But the ripple effect of that, of the guys who are trying to knock him off, some of the scientific dehydrated things in an eyedropper, it’s just gross. It’s terrible, it’s disgusting, it’s horrible cooking.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?
It was “baccalà for breakfast”—that was the name of the dish. It was a piece of salt cod that had been reconstituted in milk on top of some friggin’ Cocoa Puffs at this one-Michelin-star restaurant in Venice. I like rustic, hearty, delicious, simple, tasty fucking food.

If you were an Iron Chef for a day, who would you want as your first lieutenant? Rachael Ray or Giada De Laurentiis?
I think Giada just for eye-candy value alone; I just think she’s so beautiful. And she’s funny, she’s cool. She’s got this California vibe, which I appreciate.

How do you feel about the fact that the large majority of your fans are women?
It couldn’t happen to nicer guy.

Ever mistaken for Bobby Flay?
Funny. You know Jacques Pépin’s daughter, Claudine? Lovely person, I’ve known her for years. But when we first met, she was a little protective of her dad, and I was really green, and I was doing this book signing with Jacques Pépin, and I signed a book “Happy cooking” because I didn’t even have a thang, you know, and Claudine walks up to me and she’s really kind of snotty about it and she goes, “Um, by the way, I just want to tell you, ‘Happy cooking,’ that’s my dad’s thing. And by the way, you do look like Bobby Flay,” and then she walked off. What a bitch!

How do you sign your books now?
I kind of personalize it as much as I possibly can in two minutes. It’s one thing that Bill Clinton was always good at—taking two minutes and getting to know somebody. So if they say “Hey, I really love your show, I love your recipes, I love that crème brûlée thing you made,” then it’s “To my no. 1 crème brûlée fan, keep on cooking—Tyler Florence.”


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