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California Questionnaire: Tyler Florence

Chef, TV host, oenophile, motorcycle enthusiast—Tyler Florence truly is living the dream

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Food Network fans know Tyler Florence as the debonair celebrity chef who is passionate about great cuisine and living well. San Francisco residents—and foodies who flock to the city—think of Florence as the creative force behind Wayfare Tavern, the cozy Financial District eatery that marries the atmosphere of a British pub with some irresistibly inventive cuisine.

The cuisine at Wayfare Tavern can best be described as classic American fare with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients that highlight the best of California’s culinary resources. The fried chicken is a real showstopper and is designed to be shared, enjoyed, and discussed long after the meal is over. 

Where do you live? Corte Madera, California.

Why there? My wife and I found a one-of-a kind Bernard Maybeck home finished in 1904 and we fell in love with it. It’s tucked back in the hills of Corte Madera. It’s a beautiful example of early California architecture. We love it.

Who or what is your greatest California love? That’s a tough one. There’s so much to love. As a chef, the local produce we get in our restaurants is second to none in the country. I love that. I feel lucky to get to cook with it every day. As a winemaker, I love the rolling hills of Sonoma. The microclimates produce so many different variations of fruit: the best Pinot grapes, the best Chardonnay, the best Syrah, the best Zinfandel. I fall in love with the process every year. But if I had to pick one thing that I love the most about California, it would be her coastline. Riding my motorcycle up old Highway 1 in western Marin County melts my heart.

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? There’s a fine line between misperception and the truth. What would that be? That we all think we can change the world with a new app? Or we all go to the beach all day, or we’re wine snobs, or that our politics are liberal, or we’re too idealistic? Dreamers even? It all depends if you’re looking at the state from the outside because it all seems too good to be true. We’re the sixth largest economy in the world. We entertain the world. We get the world tipsy on our grape juice. Our tech community is creatively introducing new ideas and solutions that do make the world a better place. We love to dream big, and great things come from that. For someone to assume that we’re soft, or flaky, or shallow, I would say that we have mastered the art of having better things to do. Like taking off from work to go surfing. It’s all part of the creative process.

What is the stereotype that most holds true? The conversations about which highway did you take to get somewhere. Like “The Californians” on Saturday Night Live. That’s very true.

What’s your favorite Golden State splurge? I love going direct to wineries to buy wine. It’s really special to get the story of the wine direct from the winemaker. You get a whole new appreciation for the craft and get details about the wine you would never get from a wine shop. Some of my favorites are Three Sticks in Sonoma, Kistler in Sebastopol, Kosta Browne also in Sebastopol, and Matthiasson Winery in Napa.

Time for a road trip—where do you go? My favorite California road trip is the PCH from San Francisco to Big Sur on motorcycle. It’s the most beautiful coastline in the world.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would that be? It would be a three-way tie between Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, In-N-Out Burger (order a 3x3), and The French Laundry.

Best California Song? "California Stars,” by Billy Bragg and Wilco.

How would your California dream day unfold? A cookout with friends, chasing sun-kissed kids around the pool, and a cold glass of Rosé.

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