Like a driver without a car or a painter without a canvas, I’d be lost without a kitchen. And when I look back at my moves back and forth across the country over the years, I think of many past abodes in terms of how I set up the kitchens. From piecing together a set of utensils at my mom’s place as a teenager to using my New York City apartment as the set for the original Tyler’s Ultimate, every kitchen represents a distinct stage in my progression as a chef.

When we got to California, Tolan and I went about setting up the kitchen in our new cottage in the redwoods like a couple of kids playing house. We had tons of ideas on how it should look, feel, and smell. And I’d like to tell you that it is completely finished but truth be told, I’ll be working on this kitchen for as long as I live here! But what became abundantly clear to Tolan and me through the process of building our first kitchen together was how passionate we both were about what a kitchen should mean to a home—and how much we felt we could help others create their own kitchens. We’re pretty lucky to be able to travel the world and visit kitchens of all shapes and sizes, from the ultramodern to the most rustic and historic, and we’ve found inspiration in them all. When we learned that Mill Valley’s only kitchen shop had recently shut down, we jumped on the opportunity to put that knowledge to work. So Tolan and I set out to open our very own mom-and-pop shop—and our first brick-and-mortar business—Tyler Florence West Coast Kitchen Essentials, aka the Tyler Florence Shop. (I know, I know, I really went deep to find that one.)

When we went looking for the perfect spot for our little shop, we really only had one address on our radar: 59 Throckmorton in Mill Valley was home to the original Banana Republic, the Ziegler family’s very first storefront. Eventually the chain, which was sold to Gap, Inc., changed concept and moved on; eager to capture the good juju that comes with a location like that, I jumped at the chance to take it over. Within four months, all the kitchen wisdom accumulated from my years of traveling, cooking, thriving, and surviving in kitchens of all descriptions found an outlet in one glorious shop. Not surprisingly, this too has become a family affair: Marge and Janet (Tolan’s mother, Marge, and godmother, Janet,) relentlessly and meticulously tending the ever-evolving cookbook library; and Larry and Chuck (their less great-looking halves) diligently supervising the wine fridge. Jim creates masterful seasonal window displays and Daniel gives crunching numbers a reality check. JJ, Tamara, Charlie, and Kathy hold down the sales floor each and every day, and Antonia makes sure it looks beautiful every morning when we walk in.

Every few weeks, the shop family throws a party for our favorite customers and local friends to show our appreciation for their support. An evening at the shop can be anything from a book signing with my friend Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, to a burger cook-off with San Francisco’s own chef Hubert Keller. Whatever the event, we have a lot of fun; we share fantastic food and work together to make sure everybody has a great time. It takes all hands on deck and I like to think that a few laughs and a few delicious bites make it as rewarding for the shop family as it is for Tolan and me.

The Mill Valley shop has been such a hit that we are already busting out of our mom-and-pop mold, with an outpost of the shop at San Francisco Airport and another on the way in downtown Napa’s new Riverfront development. The shop is going to be gorgeous and will be adjacent to my first fast-casual restaurant, Tyler Florence Rotisserie and Wine Bar. I’m really excited about this combo in Napa, as you’ll be able to check out the shop and then pop next door to grab a glass of TF Pinot and some delicious rotisserie chicken, lamb, or porchetta, among other market-fresh offerings. And who knows where that kitchen experience will take me next?
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