When my editor suggested a Father’s Day story written by a dad about his son, I was sold immediately. I’ll be glad to brag, but my son Tyler’s accomplishments as a chef speak for themselves. Of course, I’m a bit biased and overly impressed with my son’s young resumé of work, but so are some of the top culinary names in the industry.
Chef Tyler Upton’s hands are heavily tattooed – something that has become a bit of an industry standard – and grip his knife with precision, function and form. Typeface spread across his fingers reads “until the very end,” his homage to Harry Potter. I don’t have any tattoos myself, but I’m OK with his – there’s a fox on the top of his left hand, and I still don’t know what that is all about. His right hand balances his blade while he skillfully slices through a root vegetable as we prep a meal in my kitchen.
“You hold it like that,” Tyler says, noticing my rigid grip on the handle of my knife, “and you’re gonna wind up with carpal tunnel.”
The apprentice has become the master.
“Tyler has the drive to get after it, rather than letting it come to him,” says Chef Michael Lee Rafidi, Executive Chef at Arroz at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. “He will prove himself and earn it, [because he] shows respect for the craft. I hired Tyler based on his attitude, offered him a cook position with intention to be a sous chef. I knew he was ready for a sous chef position, but we didn’t have it available.”
It took only a few months for him to reach the sous chef position at Arroz, one of the newest bright spots in the capitol area’s burgeoning food scene. Washington D.C. is the most recent U.S. city to achieve Michelin Star rating, following Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Arroz was nominated for a New Restaurant of the Year RAMMY Award (Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington), often called the “Oscars of food,” and Chef Rafidi was nominated for the RAMMY Rising Star Chef of the Year. The restaurant focuses on contemporary flavors of southern Spain and Morocco.
The gig is kind of a big deal – but one just taken in stride – for Tyler, a 2009 Garden Spot High School graduate who grew up loving cooking shows, Pokemon and movies.
“I think Food Network inspired me to take an interest in food,” says Tyler, who watched Iron Chef America and Molto Mario religiously. “My interest in food began as I became introduced to what food could be. I grew up in a time of convenience foods. It was heat, add, eat. As I grew older and met more of my family, I was introduced to what food could be. From that moment, I knew I wanted to cook.”
Setting his sights on that goal, Tyler enlisted in the U.S. Navy (following in his father’s footsteps) as a Gunner’s Mate to earn money for college. After four years of active, honorable service, he headed to Hyde Park, New York, where he was accepted into the prestigious The Culinary Institute of America. After graduating in 2016, Tyler moved to the Big Apple, where he could gather experience with notable chefs and at legendary eateries.
“I worked with Mario Batali a little bit in New York City. I helped open up La Sirena before I decided to move on to other projects,” says Tyler. Located in the Chelsea Maritime Hotel, La Sirena is a joint venture between celebrity chef Batali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich (MasterChef). Tyler, like many budding chefs, has rendered his services to several different restaurants in a short period of time. He went on to work at the hip Maison Premiere in Brooklyn, and while in New York staged – a sort of culinary apprenticeship/display of skills – at Le Bernardin, The Dining Room at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Atera.
Closer to home, Tyler staged at Fork in Philadelphia before moving back to Lancaster County. During his short return, Tyler could be found experimenting with the menu at St. Boniface Craft Brewing Company in Ephrata and creating plates at The Inn at Leola Village, which is home to TE, the only Forbes 5 Star restaurant in the county. Before accepting his current position at Arroz, Tyler staged at two D.C. restaurants owned by José Andrés, Pineapple and Pearls and Oyamel.
“In the hospitality industry, D.C. is one of the fastest growing areas. It seemed like a great place to further my career. D.C. is going through a gastronomic renaissance,” says Tyler, something Lancaster City can relate to.
“The consumer is becoming more conscious of where their food comes from, as well as how it’s treated,” says Tyler, who is not a vegetarian but sees veggie-centric food as an upcoming and welcome trend. “We should expect our proteins to become a backdrop to a more vegetable-centered meal. We need to focus more on vegetables as a country, as a world.”
The kid – I call him a kid … he’s 27 – loves beets. In his words, they are “versatile, earthy and the perfect representation of something delicious that can come from out of the ground.” He loves beets so much that his newest tattoo is a life-like portrait of the taproot and leaves running the length of his arm. I’m definitely OK with this.
“I like to find projects that can be any cuisine or ethnicity and attack it and perfect it. I don’t have a specific cuisine I am focused on currently. If a dish seems interesting to me, I investigate it.” – Tyler Upton, Sous Chef, Arroz, Washington D.C.
Arroz is located at 901 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit arrozbymic.com.
Scott Shaub says
Congratulations Tyler! All the very best to you as you follow your dream.
Tom Meredith says
A friend from my Mt Gretna days forwarded your story about it, which led me to visit LCM and read your other stories abut the printing industry and the warm and savvy item about your chef-son. And now there are several things I want to say.
Having lived there and written about it myself, as the chair of the committee that put the Campmeeting on the National Register of Historic Places, and writer-in-chief for the successful Chautauqua application for the same honor, I can safely say that your story is the most accurate and sensitive one I’ve ever seen in “the press.” Thank you very much — and thank your photographer, too for such faithful renderings of the scene.
But that’s not all. The story about the printing industry in Lancaster just blew me away. y career was in elementary school textbook publishing, and I never expected to find comments about Baskerville and Bodoni and serifs in a popular magazine. I spent a lot of time working with book designers and printers and your opening took me back fifty years to the Silver Burdett offices in Morristown, NJ.
And then! Your tribute to your son! Again, a very sensitive piece (with super photos
that I could relate to, having a son who cooked for a local restaurant, managed for several chains, and then went into headhunting for the hospitality industry.
A quick question and I’ll end. Are you as fascinated by printing types as the opening to that story suggests? If you are, I would be very happy to send you my copy of “Books and Printing” a 1951 anthology of pieces about the golden age of private
presses, typography, and printing edited by Paul Bennett. It will be thrown away in a few years when my family cleans out my apartment at Tel Hai, but as a book person, I’d be happier if it could go to someone who would appreciate it.