Tyler Florence returns to Greenville - here's what he said and cooked
“The Peddler,” Tyler Florence said with a grin. “I loved it.”
The iconic Greenville steakhouse nestled in the woods is the first place Florence, now a celebrity chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, tasted bacon-wrapped filet mignon.
Food memories like that stick with you.
And yet, perhaps it is a sign of the times and of Greenville’s culinary evolution that when Florence shared his love of The Peddler with a group of Greenville County Schools culinary students, he got some major pushback.
Memory is a powerful flavor, and Florence’s brief return to Greenville, his hometown, was full of both.
In an hour-long Q&A with local media, the celebrity chef and Food Network personality shared his thoughts on meat and threes, Greenville’s signature dish and how to make mac and cheese that, in his words, “will make you cry.”
At a dinner organized in part by VisitGreenvilleSC and euphoria and in large part by Taryn Scher, owner of TKPR who has worked hard to take Greenville to the national stage, Florence joined Soby’s New South Cuisine executive chef Shaun Garcia for a masterful meal of seasonal southern fare and modern steakhouse dishes.
What does that mean exactly?
A deviled egg (made with Duke’s Mayo of course) that is punched up with mustard seed, a Caesar salad with boquerones and thin slices of dehydrated meyer lemon, a creamy blue crab chowder flecked with Benton’s bacon, Garcia’s famous juicy fried chicken with cornbread polenta and Florence’s famous steak with lobster, delicate bernaise and shaved truffle.
The meal was memorable not just for the food but for those in attendance, specifically Florence’s mom, who sat at a table in the front and with whom Florence frequently checked in.
Florence grew up in Greenville and the chef cut his teeth in restaurants here. The trip home brought forth a walk down that memory lane with Florence reminiscing about washing dishes, cooking and serving at local haunts current and past – The Fish Market, Ristorante Bergamo, Addy’s Dutch Cafe.
This city is where the chef fell in love with hospitality and food.
“It was the first impression of what hospitality is all about, the endless curiosity of constantly tasting things for the first time and going where has this been my whole life,” he said.
At one point, Florence wanted to open a restaurant in Greenville, he said. The vision then was for a sort of meat and three-meets-country club, Florence said. Comfortable dishes and flavors with a touch of elegance.
Then, he said, he couldn’t find any investors, and could never raise the capital needed for the project.
“I had to say I guess this just wasn’t meant to be,” Florence said. “We tried.”
So, is the door closed on Greenville?
“We’d always take the meeting,” Florence said.
Instead, Florence has opened restaurants elsewhere. He has Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco and the more recently opened Miller & Lux, a high-end steak house at the Warrior’s Chase Center in San Francisco.
While in Greenville, Florence also shared news about more to come as well, including plans to expand Miller & Lux, a new 5-year television contract and a new cookbook in the works.
It had been seven years since Florence had been back to his native city, and he was impressed.
“Don’t miss it, don’t drive by it because Greenville is a very significant city,” he said.