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Tyler Florence and Applebees?

Ok, I just noticed this yesterday but Tyler Florence is doing ads for Applebees.

I actually liked his shows on the Food Network (just before the whole network jumped the shark and became so schlocky).

How can he possibly have anything to do with Applebees? Oh, the humanity!

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  1. Yes, I'm not sure what to make of it myself! Dh & I had been known to refer to Applebees as Crapplebees. The when I was doing weight watchers (proud size 8 for several years now!) I tried some of the things of their weight watchers menu at it was really good - MUCH better than anything I'd ever had from their standard menu. Is it possible they are not so crappy anymore? Granted I would never choose Applebees over any "real" restaurant, but when I'm running errands w/the kids maybe it isn't the worst option! If anyone tries any of Tylers things there (are there specific menu items that are his or is he just a spokesperson?) let us know what you think!

    1. I saw the ads over the weekend and wondered how long it would take people to jump on this.

      To me, it devalues him as a chef/cook/whatever he is. I've seen some of the things from his Tyler's Ultimate and they look fantastic.

      I seldom eat at Applebee's but I will however keep an open mind. Perhaps they realize that chain food is all the same basically and want to stand above the rest.

      Next time I'm in the states I may even try one of his.


      1. I have eaten at Applebee's a couple of times with friends. I think they have the worst chain foods. I also have a friend who works there who won't eat the food. I am interested in whether this food by Tyler Florence is any good. His recipes are great, maybe his additions to the Applebee's menu will make a difference.

        1. I thought the same thing when I saw the commercials. Then on second thought I figured Applebee's nmust realize how stinky they are and are trying to drag themselves up.

          1. Applebee's is in business for one thing, to make money. Tyler Florence is not a stupid man, he knows he will be well paid for his stint with Applebee's no matter the outcome. Though I do wonder if he talked to Rick Bayless before signing on. Rick had some pretty substantial damage control to do after his fiasco with Burger King. But then why are we putting chefs on pedestals and holding them to standards to which they never agreed, nor may not be achievable.

            The bottom line here with this Applebee's thing isn't the food, it's, well, it's the bottom line. Money talks, and I can guarantee you that both Applebee's and Tyler Florence will both reap some financial rewards from this assiciation no matter how shortlived.

            4 Replies
              1. re: DiningDiva

                what was the rick bayless, burger king thing? I'm not aware of it.

                1. re: amkirkland

                  From 2003 - it didn't last long, and there was never any follow-up.


                  1. re: applehome

                    At one point he did have an explanation on his web site


                    about what had promoted and motivated him to do agree to the commercials and why it was not inconsistent with his principles and beliefs. It may still be there he doesn't really update his website all that frequently, though you may have to dig around for it a bit.

                    His instincts are usually pretty good, but not this time I'd say.

              2. Maybe it's just about the money - but there's also a tradition of outstanding chefs being challenged by turning out decent recipe's that can be replicated easily in huge numbers. Tony Bourdain speaks of the challenge of hotel/conference/catering type meals where you break your back to serve 500 services at once - all hot, and trying to make something a few grades above the standard rubber chicken.

                Both Jacques Pepin and Pierre Franey came over from France and took on the challenges of making good chain foods.

                I don't think that any of this stuff is ever going to get 2 stars, never mind 3 or 4 (or 1 Michelin star), but it's nevertheless a challenge that may be worthy of a real chef.

                I completely agree that Tyler did some good stuff on his own show. He's just a complete goofball on the Boiling Water shtick - keeping a straight face is his highest accomplishment there. But I might go by and try his rosemary brick chicken - it would be my first time in AB's in about 10 years. My curiosity is arroused - but my expectations remain pretty low.

                6 Replies
                1. re: applehome

                  Good post. The Pepin/HoJo thing is a great example of precedence for this sort of thing.

                  I hope Tyler doesn't make a fool of himself. He's my favorite FN chef; I've made dozens of his recipes and they are always perfect representations of the various "home cooking" originals. He understands simple food (and the people who love it) as well as anybody.

                  "How to Boil Water" was an embarassment, due entirely to that ditsy "Jack" creature who displayed no charisma whatsoever.

                  1. re: uptown jimmy

                    I always preferred the original HTBW with the uptight French guy and the goth chick with the glasses. They had a weirder chemistry that was a lot more fun to watch.

                  2. re: applehome

                    umm.....yeah. I know all about high volume feeding. I've in the food business for 30 years and have the beat up feet and knees to show for it. I've done many a sit down, served function for hundreds. Not my favorite segment of the business. It's hard, it's grueling and not for the faint of heart. I've worked it from the back of the house doing plating, from the front of the house sending out servers and serving.

                    I've also worked in the casual quick service segment. Based on personal experience I've found it's almost always not about the food but the bottom line. If a unit isn't making a profit the GM goes, to be replaced by one who will. It's a brutal industry, many don't survive. As long as you make your weekly "numbers" you almost certainly will. But what you sometimes have to do to make those numbers isn't always pretty.

                    1. re: applehome

                      The difference is that when he worked at Ho/Jo’s he wasn’t 'Jacques Pépin celebrity chef'. He was simply a young cook in a new country trying to make a living. If he was to go work there now, then you could compare the two examples.

                      For that matter Franey worked behind the scenes and not featured on television commercials. Nor did she have a TV show at the time.

                      1. re: Withnail42


                        Pierre Franey was also hired by HJ Sr. to help create better dishes for his chain. Franey had come over as the chef in France's exhibit in the 1939 world's fair in NYC, and stayed. He was already accomplished as was Pepin, who had cooked for deGaulle. Pepin turned down the personal chef position for Kennedy to work at Hojo.

                        Keep in mind that there were no "celebrity chefs", no Food TV, not even a PBS series on food back then.

                        That they considered HoJo a preferable challenge at a time when they were being asked to be the personal chef for MacArthur and JFK, is something we should try and understand.

                        The one thing I think of as a big difference between then and now is the whole idea of chains using focus groups to create their menu. These "test kitchens" - like Legal's in South Boston, and I'm sure every one from CCF to Olive Garden has one - rely on feedback from the public to decide what to put on their menu. I bet Franey and Pepin relied a lot more on their own understanding of what they should be presenting, not just on what people say they like. Of course, there never was any foie gras on the menu at HJ when I was a kid...

                        I'm sure ABee tested Tyler's recipes on numerous test groups before releasing them to their chain.

                        1. re: applehome

                          Also, think about the state of restaurants in the US at that time. HoJo's was haute cuisine for the masses at the time.

                    2. If he's being paid enough - why not? I'm sure he and his managers/consultants are well aware of the benefits/risks of being associated with Applebee's anyways.

                      I personally would be more interested if Applebee's teamed up with a mixologist instead--their unremarkable drinks menu has gone downhill recently, not even worth going for happy hour.

                      1. I did get a laugh over Applebee's new "CHEF-INSPIRED" menues (ala Tyler), as though they were CHIMP-INSPIRED or worse before.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          Focus-group-and-bottom-line inspired. Which based on my one meal at Applebee's, was worse than any self-respecting chimp could have come up with.

                          I'm not an anti-chain snob (at least not foodwise -- I disapprove of the negative effects on food of corporate America, generally), but Applebee's was definitely the bottom of my person barrel of experience in "fast-casual" dining.

                          Whether the TF menu will be an improvement depends on what role he actually played in the process of developing the dishes from concept to the plate.

                          At one end of the spectrum, you could have a famous chef come in to "design a menu" and supply some chef-quality recipes and hand him a check. Then the test kitchen would take over and adapt the recipes for mass food service, with the end result being nothing like the original.

                          On the other end of the spectrum, you could have the chef actually working with the food service pros to make sure that the recipes keep their integrity and even participate in training cooks at individual locations in how to prepare the special menu. The results would be vastly different.

                        2. Couldn't he have at least picked a better chain restaurant. I, during times of extreme hunger duress, have eaten at all the major chain places and Applebee's had by far the worst food. I would gladly go back to Chili's for a beer and some wings.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: fascfoo

                            well, they chose him, and wrote the check

                          2. I think my fellow Chowhounds are missing the point. Tyler Florence was brought in as a consultant to show Applebee's that you have to actually season the chicken before you cook it. Now that they've learned that, I'm sure everything will be fine. (Until they are attacked by Claimjumper with the new Rachel Ray Klondike Gold Rush SuperSize Value Menu.)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Leper

                              Stephen Pyles consults with American Airlines on their menus. I mean, make money while you can right?


                              1. re: TexasToast

                                And I was recently flying United and they had an ad talking about the "Charlie Trotter in-flight meal."

                            2. Can anyone who's actually eaten the Tyler Florence dishes tell us what they're like? I mean, isn't there even a slim a chance that they're good, and that he's actually improving their menu?

                              2 Replies
                                1. re: Katie Nell

                                  Hilarious post that. Not sure why I didn't think to look for something on "Chains".

                              1. I hope that Tylers food will translate well to microwave technology as this is the preferred cooking process at Applebee's. Also, "Thank you Tyler for selling out to a huge national that only hurts the small independent restaurants that actually have better food!"

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: SxFallsChef

                                  Tyler selling out to them doesn't hurt independent restaurants. People who go to nothing other than chains because they have no sense of food adventure or are just too lazy to look hurt independents.


                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    Yes BUT these are the same people who will undoubtedly be influenced by seeing a celebrity chef connection. Weather they are lazy are not people will be influenced to head there because of Florence. His actions certainly don't help.

                                      1. re: kare_raisu

                                        I will somewhat concede that point. To me it goes back to laziness. They don't bother to think it through. Or bother to check to see someone else's opinion.


                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      On the flip side, what if Tyler spent his time encouraging people to seek out independents and to try new things? He's seemingly a good guy, good cook and his shows, I'm guessing, have many fans, a good percentage of which could fall into the lazy or unadventurous types (not unique to him - that's the biz).

                                      Jamie Oliver in the UK drew much ire for campaigning to change the diet of kids. Many dislike him, but you've got to give him props for raising the debate.

                                      We need more chefs/cooks challenging the masses to try new things, be they top eateries or taco shops.

                                  2. I've never taken Tyler seriously, he always struck me more as a pretty face who liked to impress the women with him in the kitchen rather than somebody I could watch to improve my skills. Perhaps that's unfair, but so be it.

                                    Applebee's is, in my experience, the worst of all the national casual dining chains. Just truly abysmal food.

                                    So it neither surprises nor bothers me that the two are working together now. In fact, when I saw the commerical I said something along the lines of "well, that sounds about right to me."

                                    My reaction to the Bayless/BK commercials was totally different. Bayless was a very credible chef to me, and somebody who advocated ideals that were distinctly at odds with Burger King. For example, he is (or at least was) the chair of the Chef's Collaborative, which had as one of its principles: "Food choices that emphasize delicious, locally grown, seasonally fresh, and whole or minimally processed ingredients are good for us, for local farming communities, and for the planet."


                                    1. Well, he certainly couldn't make their food any worse than it already is. I hope they gave him a lot of money because this certainly does nothing for his credibility. I didn't think he was all that interesting before. Hummmmmm

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: ptrefler

                                        My Husband and I went to AppleBee's out of desperation for being hungry in Delaware.My Husband had a Tyler Florence Signature dish,what a freakin mistake that was.Very small portions,lousy taste.Mr. Florence needs to remove his name from AppleBee's

                                        1. re: babs1959

                                          i've had one of his burgers. really for chain food i thought it was pretty good. had pesto on focaccia. way better than average fair at such places. DO NOT love appleees. but i do disagree that it's the worst chain. i think chili's and tji friday's are worse.

                                          1. re: AMFM

                                            Maybe they have gotten better, the the last time I went the whole place felt tired and dirty. The food was terrible, this was before the magical Tyler Florence touch. At least Chili's and TGIF stays fresh.

                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                              I mean I do only eat there in an "emergency" :) - have only been in airport chili's in the last 5 years and no TGIF so they could have gotten better as well. anyway it improved the emergency - on the highway driving with kids have to stop somewhere and don't want fast food stop at least somewhat. i wouldn't go out of my way to try them but if stuck there i know some other foodies who felt the same way about the burger. :)

                                      2. In this month's 7X7 Magazine (Bay Area stuff) Tyler Florence is interviewed/written about.

                                        On developing recipes for Applebee’s: “I love the artisanal, but sometimes you’ve got to be able to bring food to honest, hardworking people. There’s a lot more of that than there is of this.” (He was in Marin country in the midst of organic farms and such...so that's the "this" he's referring to.)

                                        The whole article is here: http://www.7x7sf.com/eat_drink/food_f...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                          Mmmm. Mmmm. Good! IHOP will try to bail out Applebee's This'll be fun to watch!