Chef Tyler Florence Carves Out His Niche

He's a famous restaurateur and baby-food mogul. And he's happiest in the woods surrounding his home.

By Avital Andrews

June 3, 2015

He's a famous restaurateur and baby-food mogul. And he's happiest in the woods surrounding his home.

Celebrity chef and baby-food mogul Tyler Florence. | Photo by John Lee/Courtesy of Tyler Florence

Tyler Florence, 44, has been on TV for 15 years, hosting shows on the Food Network and appearing on Oprah, Iron Chef, and Good Morning America. He's also a best-selling cookbook author and the cofounder of Sprout, a popular line of organic baby food. When Sierra caught up with him at a natural-products convention, the father of three held forth on how childhood has changed and how he's using a machete to re-create the wilds of his youth.

In his words: 

"I grew up on a cul-de-sac in a subdivision in upstate South Carolina. Behind it was an undeveloped area of the Blue Ridge Mountains that we used to run and play in. In summer, we'd leave in the morning and not come home until the sun went down. My parents didn't know where I was. There was this sense of responsibility where you just got lost outside, and your day was your own. But you knew how to get home—you had this homing pigeon sort of thing that a lot of kids don't possess today. 

"I don't believe in restricting children from technology, but I do believe in balancing it out. So we hike a lot. I spent 14 years in New York City, but now we live on six acres in Corte Madera, California—my wife and I moved west in 2006, when she was pregnant with our son. 

"I'm carving a semi-Tough Mudder trail on our property, which is wooded and hasn't been touched in 100 years. I have a machete I got on Amazon. I don't know what kind it is, but it's a bushwhacker. I'm cutting the briar patches so that we can turn them into something else. I'm also bending young eucalyptus trees into tunnels. I have a long-term vision, but it'll probably change. I've kind of turned mountain goat.

"A long time ago, we were at my New York apartment when the idea for Sprout popped up. A friend brought her toddler over, and she had a little jar of something that was absolutely terrible. Every spoonful that went in, her son would spit out. She started crying. So I grabbed a couple of carrots, steamed them, pureed them, and fed it to him. His eyes lit up, and he started grabbing for the bowl. 

"Before Sprout, baby food was classified as a pharmaceutical. As a parent, there was nothing out there that I felt good about buying. It was just gruel. People think that children have no palate. If you give them something that actually tastes good, they'll appreciate you for it. And they'll start developing a palate for a plant-based diet instead of fried salt and carbohydrates. 

"There's a big battle for ownership of the world's food supply. If it's not organic, you can't trust it. If it doesn't have a good, honest story about where it came from, if you can't trace it, then I can't trust it. For us, this is such a baseline conversation that it's not even our most important message. We are that. If you're not, what do you stand for?"