Local celeb chef Tyler Florence -- he of Wayfare Tavern, SFO T2, and Food Network fame -- has a new cookbook out, and will be signing copies of it in the city and at his Mill Valley shop next week. Tyler Florence Fresh is the chef's most ambitious book to date, a gorgeous volume showcasing the seasonal, ingredients-first philosophy that he's taken in his San Francisco restaurants. We caught up with the chef and restauranteur to find out what inspired him to take this new approach.
We're big fans of the way the book is organized, which is by ingredient (apples, butternut squash and pumpkin, crab, fennel, shrimp, etc.) instead of the usual appetizers/pasta and rice/meat and poultry/desserts layout that forces you to search for ingredients by the index. He says his desire to organize his book this way was a "healthy debate" with publisher Clarkson Potter. "My argument was that the chapters [in regular cookbooks] don't make sense ... [they] don't help you find a recipe." Florence says. "I go to the index in back, so we just moved the index to the front of the book. It's more user-friendly, I think. People will reference it more, open it up and have a clearer line to the recipe they want to find."
The recipes revolve around local, seasonal food; the kind of cuisine Florence is serving in his restaurants more than the quick-and-easy meals he's been doing on the Food Network for the past 16 years. "This book has taken me more time to piece together, I wrote every single word, cooked and plated the food itself ... [it's] a very personal product," he says. There's a lengthy introduction explaining his mission, and one-page tutorials on restaurant tricks like balsamic pearls and root vegetable confit. But don't be put off by the fancy techniques, he warns. "Even though the recipes seem kind of whimsical and beautiful, once you get into the methodology, it's all very doable."
When asked which recipes from the seasonally driven cookbook we should make right now, Florence recommended broccoli with anchovy bagua cauda; butternut squash tortellini with lentils and sumac ("I think this flavor profile is really special," he says); California clam chowder (that's been on the menu at Wayfare Tavern in the past); kale salad with walnuts and roasted grape vinaigrette; frozen chocolate raspberry bombs ("they could not be more simple"); and endive, watercress, and pear puree ("if you've got friends coming over for dinner and want to serve something that's smarter than a dessert").
TyFlo will be signing books in his Mill Valley shop on Tuesday, December 11 (6-8 p.m.) and then in Williams-Sonoma in Union Square on the 12th at 6 p.m.