“It’s so good to be home.”
Chef Tyler Florence — Food Network host, restauranteur + cookbook author — grew up right here in Greenville, SC. During a Q+A at Soby’s to help kick off euphoria, he shared stories of growing up in the Upstate — including washing dishes at The Fishmarket and walking in the Christmas Parade dressed as the Little Caesars mascot. (Yeah — that happened.)
What’s Greenville’s signature dish?
I think what the Upstate really kind of tastes like is barbecue. Right? It’s one of the four pillars — Carolinas, Memphis, Kansas City, Texas — barbecue. I think that’s what Upstate, SC tastes like. It’s hickory-smoked, it’s pork shoulder, it’s ribs. And then you kind of get into the down and dirty stuff with all the side dishes. It’s collard greens kind of cooked down all day with a ham hock. It’s fried okra. It’s really good macaroni and cheese. It’s macaroni salad. All the good things that come along with that good barbecue plate — of course that’s chopped shoulder with white bread and really good mustard-based barbecue sauce.
What foundations and techniques did Greenville give you for your culinary career?
I started washing dishes at The Fishmarket, if you guys remember that. It was off of East North Street in Lowman’s Plaza... It was like the nicest restaurant in town, arguably. Right? Wasn’t it like Stax PepperMill, The Peddler, The Fishmarket was pretty nice... It was really about Oysters Rockefeller and Lobster Thermidor and flounder and everything had a big creamy sauce on top of it and it was a blast and I really loved it. I think of, in a lot of ways, those early emotional memories I have about working in restaurants is why I wanted to be in the restaurant business in the first place.
One of the things I really loved about my early restaurant experience is that the curtains open for showtime at five o’clock every night and I just love that... That first sort of impression in my life of what hospitality was all about and that endless curiosity of constantly having these light-bulb moments in my life, of constantly tasting something for the first time, and going, “Where has this been my whole life?” I really kind of fell in love with it... It had a huge impression on me and fine dining was where I wanted to go.
What is it like being home in Greenville?
It’s a moment where you close your eyes and you realize how short and how fast life is. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve been here, but the air still smells the same. I think that Southern charm and hospitality kind of comes through. I went for a walk this morning. I had a cup of coffee and went for a mile walk and every person I passed this morning looked at me and said, “Good morning.” You don’t get in New York. You don’t get that in San Francisco. The people are too busy. I think to me that’s the most powerful moment when you come back and you realize that Southern charm, it’s here and that’s in me, for sure.
Bonus: What’s your mayonnaise? Answer carefully.
Duke’s. All day long. It’s gotta have that twang. I’m in the twang gang, baby.