Many of you may be familiar with Tyler as part of the two-man team behind our BBQ grill this past summer. Some of you may also know him as an instructor in our classroom where he teaches classes such as “Cheese 101″ or “Brave the Caves.” Not many though, will be familiar with his behind-the-scenes role as Cave Manager. On a weekly basis, Tyler maintains the cheeses in our caves – flipping them, rubbing them down to get rid of excess mold or cheese mites and patching cracks as needed (among many other tasks). This is no mean feat when you are handling 80-100lb. wheels of Comté, Gouda, Gruyère, cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano!
Tyler grew up in the small town of Westport, Massachusetts and tells us that, as a child, he could be seen trolling around his family’s boatyard, chomping at the bit, awaiting the opportunity to take a boat out by himself, in search of the perfect swimming hole. He began working at the age of 13 at the local ice cream stand and has never looked back. A series of summer jobs ultimately led him to the kitchen of prominent Boston chef, Chris Schlesinger, who had just opened up a new restaurant in Westport called The Back Eddy. It was there that Tyler gained valuable cooking knowledge and restaurant experience – a strong foundation for his work at Formaggio Kitchen.
After college, with a brand new degree from the School of Business at Johnson and Wales University, Tyler helped to open Bud’s by the Beach, working as Executive Chef and General Manager. It was while working there that he got to know Ihsan, owner of Formaggio Kitchen.
Two years after launching Bud’s, Tyler decided to make the move to Boston. There, he reconnected with Ihsan and began working at Formaggio Kitchen. Tyler has been with us for almost two years now and, in that time, has upped the ante in terms of cheesemonger work attire, revamped our cheese maintenance and cave operations, and kept us both laughing and dancing with his great sense of humor and excellent tunes. Tyler brings passion, enthusiasm and know-how to his work. If you stop by the shop and would like to say “hi,” keep your eyes peeled for the sharpest dressed cheesemonger on the counter!
In the third installment of our staff profile series, we sat down to chat with Tyler about his favorite holiday traditions and how food plays a role in his family celebrations. Here is what he told us:
Tyler, do you have any special family traditions for the holidays?
For each and every Christmas, my family gets together at my grandmother’s house in Attleboro, MA. For starters, my grandfather always greets you at the door with a glass of his eggnog, spiked with a blend of scotch and rum. My grandmother will always have a spread of sweet meatballs and shrimp cocktail set up on the table. Each family member is known for certain dishes they bring. For instance, my family will bring a nice salad and an apple pie. My aunt always brings the largest pile of cookies you have ever seen. I always look forward to my grandmother’s home cooking, though. Included in her line-up are her famous “mother in law’s pot roast,” classic scalloped potatoes with a Corn Flake crust, and seafood Newburg with crostini cups. My job is to make my famous balsamic vinaigrette, which is sweet and savory, with an emphasis on the grain mustard. Dress is generally casual, but a nice shirt with a quality tie is common attire for some members of the family. Conversation often revolves around the fantasy football league that we maintain together. Whoever has the worst record usually gets the most flack throughout the night. If I didn’t have this to round out my year, it wouldn’t feel complete.
What cheese did you take home as your “gift cheese” last Christmas Eve? Why? (editor’s note: every Christmas Eve, Formaggio Kitchen staff members are given a cheese for their holiday celebrations.)
Last year, I took home a robiola wrapped in fig leaves, Robiola di Capra in Fico, and paired it with Dario Pozzolo’s Melata di Bosco del Roero honey. I chose this robiola because it was essentially a brand new cheese for us last holiday season; it has a good depth of character and slight funkiness but still maintains its smooth, bright body. The richness and minerality of the Pozzolo honey played off the tangy, ripe robiola perfectly.
Any plans to give food-related gifts to family members?
For my mother – a package of The Scottish Shortbread House with stem ginger, a delicious Alpine cheese (such as Marcel Petite’s Comté Grand Cru or a hunk of Gruyère Vieux) and one of our baker, Alice’s, delicious crisps, preferably peach/raspberry. For my father – a container of wild fennel pollen, as well as a container of both Urfa and Maras peppers. He also needs a good size container of olive oil. For this, I will most likely be bringing him a 1-liter bottle of Jean-Marie Cornille oil.
Recently, my brother has been into cellaring (really “shelving”) bottles at his new NYC apartment. We are both partial to Italian wines like Barbera d’Alba. I will most likely take Gemma’s recommendation on a beautiful bottle that will age well. For my three little cousins, I plan to get a bunch of Alice’s famous French macarons. I got some for them on their first visit to the store and now, I feel obligated to get some for everyone else too. And, I will likely give balsamic vinegar to someone – everyone should have some of our balsamic or balsamic derivative products in their kitchen. From San Giacomo, to La Vecchia Dispensa, the packaging is beautiful and the product is even better. After all, who doesn’t like balsamic vinegar?
What have been successful food gifts you have given in the past?
There are three things that stick out in my mind. One is the cheese, Mothais sur Feuille, which I gave each member of my extended family on my mother’s side – probably about 9 pieces in all. Of course, I had to pair all of the cheeses with something. For that, I chose Raphaël’s Figue jam. It’s a classic goat cheese pairing that I can be confident everyone will enjoy. The cheese is simple but has an interesting rind, and looks beautiful sitting on its chestnut leaf. They were a huge hit! Lastly, I find myself bringing home EH Chocolatier chocolates almost every single week – from their Earl Grey bon bons, to their caramelized white chocolate with cocoa nibs, to their peanut butter crunch bar. The packaging is always lovely and neat, and the product quality is unmatched.
Any other special holiday traditions?
Apart from spending time with family at holiday time, I try to ski as much as possible. I love heading up North and taking in the beautiful scenery. I will surely be looking out for small dairy farms and unique products as I drive around the back roads.
Tyler’s “Secret” Mustard-y Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup Capezzana Olio Nuovo extra virgin olive oil
1/4 Agro di Mosto San Giacomo balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Fallot Grain Mustard
1 tbsp Fallot Dijon
1 tbsp Lo Brusc Acacia honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Simple! Whisk together rapidly until vinaigrette thickens.
This is the third blog post in a four-part series of profiles, featuring long-time Formaggio Kitchen staff members. For part one – an interview with Julia – click here. For part two – an interview with Tripp – click here. And, stay tuned for part four!