Tyler Florence Dishes on Food and Wine: Chef Talks Trends and Technology While Visiting SWFL
Chef Tyler Florence demonstrates how to make the main course during his visit to the Cooper's Hawk Wine Club dinner in Naples
Tyler Florence is one of the first chefs to grace the screen of the Food Network. Of his 22 years on the air, Florence says, “I’ve never shot more content than this year—six shows—including a newly debuted series called Bite Club, like a fight club for chefs.”
Florence was in Southwest Florida recently to launch a new wine he crafted in conjunction with Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants. His only national appearance to promote the zippy sauvignon blanc was smartly paired with a cooking demonstration and exclusive wine dinner for Cooper’s Hawk Wine Club members.
Every year, Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants teams up with a celebrity or sommelier to create a “Wine of the Month.” Cooper’s Hawk founder Tim McEnery says, “Tyler is the only guy who has come back twice. He is so passionate about food and wine.”
In addition to dishing on wine while in Southwest Florida, Florence got into cooking trends. A disappointing pronouncement for some foodies, your collection of cookbooks is becoming just that—a collector’s item.
Florence, the author of 16 such books, thinks the publications are becoming passé—thanks to the Internet. “Statistics may say sales are up, but there aren’t as many [cookbooks] in the marketplace as there used to be,” the chef explains.
Not only is it harder for people to get cookbook deals, according to Florence, “People really don’t use them anymore. I mean they are a beautiful artistic expression but it’s a different world because books are not how people search for and store recipes anymore.”
Everything is moving online and to mobile apps, including Florence. He has invested in tech companies such as Innit, which is branded as “Your Culinary GPS.” As chief content officer for the site, Florence describes it as a “micro-cooking concept” in which modules of recipes are created and then customized for you.
He has videotaped more than a thousand small cooking blocks, some a mere 6 to 8 seconds long. Those blocks are assembled according to your tastes and desires. The chef notes, “You pick a protein, a sauce, a carb and vegetable—and the app finishes it as if you just ordered off of a menu.”
Continuing, he says, “It’s the way people cook. People rarely cook straight from a recipe. A recipe is a roadmap or inspiration platform. ‘I don’t have halibut but I have chicken, so …’ ”
Florence has 20,000 recipes on foodnetwork.com and the highest ratings. In streamlining his food empire to stay ahead of the curve, he often uses his wife, Tolan Clark, as a “litmus test.”
“When I come up with a concept, I say, ‘Baby, tell me when you are out.’ First you do this, then that, and she says, ‘I’m out. I have half an hour to feed your kids.’ ”
The chef is also targeting millennials in the kitchen, saying, “They hit a button and something magical happens. That’s the world they live in. They hit a button and a car shows up—that’s all they know.”
Millennials are some of the biggest users of meal kit services such as Sun Basket, another one of the entrepreneur’s projects. The company does more than make cooking fun, easy and delicious—it’s also responsible.
Florence explains, “If you take a look at how much inertia goes into feeding people and how much waste we create around that, it doesn’t fit. Eventually we’re gonna run out of raw materials.”
One-fourth of all items in an average grocery store end up in the trash, according to the chef. He adds, “One-third of what you buy ends up in the trash because we don’t really know what to do with it. We shop when we’re hungry and don’t come preloaded with a plan for a dish.”
Most people think they’ll figure it out when they get home, but rarely do. Now Florence can take one butternut squash, for example, and sell it four times because only one cup is needed for a particular recipe.
He says enthusiastically, “You get this meal kit, take it all out, and all of a sudden it’s like you are on the Food Network. You have all of these minions in the kitchen who do all this stuff for you so you can get to the good stuff quickly. You’re not shopping and chopping—you’re searing and flipping. I love this.”
Besides having a passion for food, the celebrity chef also “gets geeky” about wine. He has been making it in collaboration with various people for more than a decade. His sauvignon blanc became Cooper’s Hawk “Wine of the Month” for July. It is available to Cooper’s Hawk Wine Club members by the bottle, and to non-members by the glass.
Always looking ahead, Florence, with his eyes shining brightly, says, “The wine world, to me, is the next wave—something people can make themselves and custom blend. It’s what I’m looking for.”
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Gina Birch is a regular contributor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known media personality in Southwest Florida.