Wes Tyler – Executive Sous Chef at The Club at Carlton Woods, Houston, Texas
Wes Tyler comes from a farming family – that’s one of the reasons he knows how to make the culinary world colorful. Today Chef Wes is very experienced in various cuisines and works as Executive Sous Chef at The Club at Carlton Woods, Houston, Texas.
Find out how Chef Wes once ended up at the culinary school’s doorstep and from then on knew that cooking was going to be his life.
Wes Tyler – A Chef’s Portrait
Today you work as Executive Sous Chef at The Club at Carlton Woods, Houston Texas. You have already gained many different experiences as a cook before that. When did everything start for you? Why did you become a cook?
That’s a great question! I think it really all began before I even realized it. As a young boy, I was fiddling around in the kitchen banging on pots and pans, hiding in the cupboards, and watching my mother cook. She is an excellent cook.
We would also go and visit my grandparents on both sides of the family. I remember shucking corn, snapping beans, and canning foods for the winter at a very early age. I was knee high to a grasshopper and they had already put me to work. Anything that was extra was given away, nothing went to waste.
This instilled the importance of food for our family in me. I carry and cherish those memories with me to this day. I laugh when I hear someone complaining about snapping green beans – they have no idea!
Which culinary school did you visit first?
My first culinary school was Sullivan University. This is where I ended up learning my basic skillset and foundation of what I do today. I went to the University of Kentucky for a couple of years and didn’t know what I wanted to do or be, all while cooking at restaurants here and there trying to make some money.
After I flunked out of the university for the second time, I ended up at the culinary school’s doorstep. Once I started there, I had great grades, attendance, and genuinely enjoyed what I was doing. That was when I knew that cooking was going to be my life!
Your passion for cooking is owed to your mother and her warm Southern meal. “Warm Southern meals” are well known. What is the secret behind it? What makes them so special?
That’s something you would have to experience to understand. It goes deeper than the fresh ingredients, and scratch made food. It’s the love that goes into something and the connection you have when you cook it. It is and has become some of the most coveted food on the planet. Everyone tries to copy it, they all want to make grandma’s biscuits, or get auntie so and so’s recipe for this or that.
The problem is, the reason it is cherished so much is not because it is good food, but it’s the connection you have with the food, flavors, and people that make it, and it’s very hard to mimic or duplicate – that’s what makes it so special.
Your father, who taught you a strict work ethic and lived the true meaning of Farm to Table, also influenced you. How does that still affect your current work in the kitchen?
I have a garden at work. I didn’t learn it from a book, and I didn’t hire someone to build it for me either. I got out there, stayed late, and worked on my days off to till, and sow, and pull weeds. I water and grow the plants, harvest, and cook with the produce, can/jar the excess. Everything I learned from my father and grandfathers is being carried on, and I hope to pass it on to my son one day.
You are always looking for new culinary ideas and innovations. What are the latest ones that you have found or even used in your work?
Qimick – a dairy based marinade/brine. If you haven’t heard about it, look it up.
A never-ending work in progress. – Chef Wes’ description of his culinary line
You are not only keen on new recipes, but also in new cooking techniques. What are some of your special cooking techniques?
Sous vide is a popular one, we use it often in my kitchen. The best technique you can have in whatever you do is consistency and uniformity. I stress this with my staff on a daily basis.
You were originally from Kentucky and moved to Houston Texas. What is the main difference in both regional cuisines?
In Kentucky, although there is a diverse range of cuisines, the freshness of ingredients and importance of hyper-local produce is very important.
In Texas there is a huge Hispanic influence in the kitchen and culinary scene. The majority of culinarians have a Hispanic background and carry that with them in there cooking. I try to learn and experience that with my staff. I try to embrace authentic flavors, techniques, and methods from my staff on a daily basis. Some of the best family meals we have are simple tacos, rice, and beans – done the right way.
Can you combine some of the local specialties of Kentucky and Texas in new creations? And if so, can you share an example with us?
Sure, you can create any type of fusion, making it taste good is the hard part. Kentucky is about as far north as you can get in the us and still be considered the south, depending on who you talk to. There are a lot of similarities in our cooking styles and flavors so it’s not difficult for me to bring my roots to Texas and make people happy. Fried chicken is a good example. Everyone does it, but I do it the way I learned growing up and people seem to enjoy it down here a lot.
Regional & seasonal have established in the food scene. What other current and future developments do you see in the US?
Hyper-local foods. Ingredients grown in the immediate area of an establishment provide the freshest and most recognizable flavor profiles.
What is the culinary setup at The Club at Carlton Woods, Houston, Texas, where you work as Executive Sous Chef?
We have two clubhouses and six operations based out of two kitchens. it’s a lot to balance but we make it work.
I am trying to perfect what the masters before me have laid out. – Chef Wes found himself going back to classic French cuisine
Since you are experienced in various cuisines, including Southern, Asian, Cajun/Creole, French and Italian, do you also create some fusion here? And if so, can you share some examples with us?
As I have grown into my career, I have reverted back to the basics. I try to lean less on fusion and more on simplistic original flavors of ingredients. I try to lend myself to the profiles of the ingredients I am using and not stray far from them. In recent years I have found myself going back to classic French cuisine and trying to perfect what the masters before me have laid out.
You are also known for being creative and constantly pushing culinary boundaries. What was the last culinary border you have crossed?
Starting the garden and canning program and my current establishment. It was a long shot for me to be able to create a connection between the ingredients I grew and produced and relaying the message and importance of that to the consumers. In theory it sounds simple, but conveying the message beyond the flavors can prove to be a very difficult task.
Can you share some of your current creations with us? (➔ recipes of top chefs)
It has become harder and harder to come up with new creations. Now days, it is just your personal spin on something specific, because it has almost all been done before. I am a big fan of corn crusted walleye, maybe because i spent some time in Canada fishing and we ate what we caught. If we didn’t catch any fish, we went hungry.
What are some of your favourite local street food or local food places in Houston?
The local taco trucks are the best! They are authentic and the barbacoa is out of this world.
Is there any place in the world you would like to work as chef one day?
I’m happy where I am at as long as I can cook. But Spain has always been on my radar though.
Thank you very much, Chef Wes!
Chef Wes made his point of view on the culinary world clear.
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