10 Questions: Tyler Florence

After 14 years on the Food Network and a small shelf full of cookbooks bearing his name, Florence is a true celebrity chef.

But now he makes baby food. Yes, the man People called the "sexiest chef alive," host of Food 911, How to Boil Water and now Tyler's Ultimate recently started a line of organic purees for infants He will be at the Plano location of Central Market tomorrow (March 17) from 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m. to meet fans and introduce the stuff.

Well, why not? He has a line of cookware, after all--and nothing else to prove. Florence learned his trade under the likes of Charlie Palmer. He studied at the Culinary Institute of America and ran a highly regarded New York kitchen before entering the glamorous world of the Food Network.

But he might like to see more violence on television...

1. Being famous sounds fun. Is it? It has its ups and its downs. I'm on a plane a lot. But the great thing about it is that I can get a reservation at any restaurant in the world in five minutes. So there are minuses, but the pluses are better.

2. How do you go from expediting in a kitchen to television chef? It's something you gotta want to do. Television has challenges that are greater than expediting, because when you start a restaurant, you work on the recipes until you get everything right. Then you are repeating the recipe. Professional kitchens are a craft you dial in. Television is different, every day.

3. What has been the most fun? Food 911 was a blast. But I really like Tyler's Ultimate. It's on at 8 a.m. and I initially thought 'that's too early'--until I had children. They're up at 6, anyway, so by 8 you've got some coffee in you and you're ready to settle in and watch. And it's a fun show.

4. Do you watch other shows? I don't get a chance to watch much television, really. And I try not to watch other cooking shows. If I see something on another show, it will subliminally influence what I do. I want to know, when I create a dish, that it is mine.

5. Ever think Iron Chef would be better if fights broke out? You know, it's funny--we were talking to a video game producer about doing Tyler Florence's Chef Fight. You could pick your chef and try to undermine the others--cooking and sabotage. But it's still in production.

6. OK--TV shows, cookbooks, cookware...haven't you done enough? It's one of those things where anything in the kitchen is fair game. Our wine label just launched. We have two restaurants under construction. There's the baby food. We never planned for this, but it happened. We try not to bite off more than we can chew.

7. How do you go about taste-testing baby food? It's pretty easy. People immediately get it or they sorta frown--'baby food?' They think it's like dog food. But if you wouldn't eat it yourself, why give it to your baby? So let's make baby food with good ingredients. It's very simple, organic and all natural.

8. Is it difficult to cook for discerning infants? We've been shocked. They become discerning. You know, you feed infants tasteless mush and they rush to French fries or anything with taste the first time they try it. But if you educate the palate from the very beginning, you don't battle toddlers who won't eat carrots, teenagers who want junk.

9. Anyone ever look at you and say 'hey, it's Bobby Flay'? We've done book signing together. I get 'hey, you ready for a throwdown?' He gets 'I love your Ultimate show.'

10. So, if you weren't a cook and TV star, you'd be...? I don't know. I think I'd be a business man. I always want to feel like I've brought something to the table.


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