In my adolescence I was a committed crusher. My crushes would last for months even years without me doing anything about them. My shortest crush was on my husband. Within hours of it developing I called him, told him he was perfect for me and we have now been together for 15 years.
So what is my obsession now that I am in my 30s with three kids? Chefs. You know, they are often easy on the eyes, good with knives, enjoy making people happy, and are artists. Who doesn’t love a good meal?
For many years my chef crush has been Tyler Florence. He has a simple approach to food that is just fancy enough to make it interesting and he is fun to watch.
This past holiday season we were going to go to Tyler’s restaurant, Wayfare Tavern with some friends. I didn’t know Tyler was the chef there at the time. I couldn’t find a sitter (three kids last minute during party season… what was I thinking?) so instead we made Tyler’s Paella. We drank wine, cooked, hung out. It was a great night and the paella was amazing.
I finally made it to Wayfare Tavern on a Sunday night when my parents were visiting. I posted a picture on Instagram. At the end of the great meal I noticed my friend had tagged @mattmasera on my post.
I asked my waiter who the chef was. “Tyler Florence”, he said. WHAT?? TYLER FLORENCE?? MY CHEF CRUSH?? HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS?? I stayed somewhat calm and asked “But who is the chef tonight? This Matt guy?”
Shortly afterwards Matt came out and explained to us how the brussels sprouts were made, ensured we were happy with our meal and somehow Steve and I found out where he lived… so I could stalk him later.
I didn’t really stalk Matt, but I did follow him on Instagram and thought it would be great to see if he would sit down with me for an interview. I was over the moon when he agreed.
I stopped by the restaurant after the lunch rush was done. The first thing I did was congratulate him on his new engagement. (I followed him on Instagram remember?) Then we got down to business.
“Where did you go to culinary school?”
“What?! Tell me everything”
Matt started working at 14 at a pizza place in Folsom California. Then he went on to tell me all his adventures of shadowing chefs at French restaurants as a teen, putting in extra hours practicing, cramming, learning and experimenting. Learning from people he spoke of fondly who took him under their wing and taught him the ropes of pastries and baking and the business of working hard and the art of menu planning. He told me of the places he traveled to and the adventures he had until he finally found a home in San Francisco 3 years ago as Tyler Florence’s Pastry Chef at the Wayfare Tavern where he also covers the savory side of things Sunday nights.
Matt took me behind the scenes into the small pastry kitchen where I got to see the beginnings of all the evening’s yummy desserts and fast paced motion of a kitchen.
As we were closing our interview I asked him “So you work for Tyler who is a celebrity, do you have any aspirations along that line?”. Matt told me that he and Tyler are working with the San Francisco chocolate company TCHO in developing their own bakers chocolate and bars. TCHO is doing amazing things to clean up the dirty business of chocolate. And when I say dirty, I mean really dirty. Most of the world’s cacao beans are actually farmed by SLAVES. TCHO refuses to do that and are working closely with their farmers in developing single origin chocolate bars and perfecting their beans. It’s actually pretty incredible. I cannot wait to tour the TCHO factory.
Matt and Tyler will be flying down south and filming their visit to the cacao farms and their journey in creating the perfect bars.
So my new chef crush is a humanitarian, has rad tattoos, pulled himself up by his bootstraps and has a genuine desire to work hard, create and have fun with food. He also has a dream to one day have his own farm up north where he can create artisan cheeses, jams and meats with a little store and meetinghouse. I can’t wait to see what rolls out for this man.
And Tyler, don’t worry, you will always have a special place in my heart.