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Tyler Florence: No more taking success for granted

  • n this photo taken Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, chef Tyler Florence puts a finishing touch to his fried chicken dish in the kitchen at his Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco. Baby food and fried chicken may well be the legacy for which Tyler Florence ultimately is best known. Which seems a bit crazy given his near ubiquity on the Food Network since its earliest days on air, his years of running the celebrity chef gauntlet, his many cookbooks, product lines and appearances. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

NEW YORK CITY — Tyler Florence is trying to block out the noise.

A packed dining room is watching him through a wall of windows as he orchestrates a nine-course dinner with a team of mostly borrowed chefs in an unfamiliar kitchen. And the watercress he's arranging on plates of "beet soil" — impossibly sweet beets slowly baked, then ground with pistachios to resemble a gorgeously moist dirt — isn't cooperating. Frustrated, he tosses the greens in the trash.

"People don't come here to see flaws," he says.

Throwing it all away to start fresh is a gamble Florence is familiar with. And it nearly cost him everything.

If you've flipped on the Food Network even once during the past 16 years, chances are good you've encountered Florence, one of the original and most enduring icons of the now sprawling network. His easy manner in the kitchen and baby faced good looks wooed viewers early and kept him afloat even as his field got crowded.

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