Celebrity chef and Food Network star Tyler Florence had already written a number of books for adults before he decided to create what we called “a children’s ode to the know-where-your-food-comes-from movement.” Tyler Makes Pancakes! features young chef Tyler and his dog Tofu, who invite youngsters to learn more about the ingredients of a tasty homemade breakfast.
Find more picture books about food and cooking.
What prompted you to write a children’s book?
We are huge readers in our house. There are shelves of children's books in every room, so I feel like I did a lot of unofficial research. My wife and I noticed that as our kids have grown up, they really have no idea where certain foods come from. Our son Hayden thinks that maple syrup comes from the grocery store and that's all.
When we started explaining the fact that syrup comes from maple trees and that you attach a bucket to the tree to collect the sap, his eyes lit up, and you could see the wheels turning in his head. He thought blueberries came out of a magic back room at the market—so we planted blueberry bushes in our front yard. That is sort of where the idea for these books began.
You’ve cooked since you were fairly young. Are pancakes one of the first things you learned to make?
I was a latchkey kid, so I did most of my cooking after school for all of my friends, but yes, pancakes were part of my young-adult repertoire. I really taught myself to cook in the beginning, and as soon as I was old enough to get in to work at a restaurant I jumped at the chance.
You’re best known as a TV personality more than an author. Yet this is your seventh or eighth book. Tell me about how you see “author” fitting into your multifaceted identity?
I love to write. It's my happy place. As our house has grown with children, it's been harder and harder to find a quiet place to write. Writing a kids' book was a great project because I could run a story by my 3-year-old daughter Dorothy and see if she was interested. Sometimes she'd sit down and ask me to tell her more, and other times she would just walk out of the room. Kids are so honest, they make wonderful test subjects.
I love Craig Frazier’s quirky illustrations in the book. How did he come to illustrate this?
Craig and I live in the same town, and we met at our local coffee shop. We were familiar with his fabulous children's books and [are] big fans. One day we just looked at each other and said let’s write a book and teach kids about ingredients. There are so many great books out there that teach kids to share, or not to bite, or to be kind—all of these books have some sort of wonderful story or theme weaved throughout the book, but I really couldn't find any children's books about where food comes from. I wanted to write a book that I'd love to read to my kids.
Did you have an advance sense of what the illustrations would be like or was it a surprise?
Craig sketched everything out right away, and we spent the first few months really focusing on the main characters—Tyler and his dog Tofu—and then it just evolved from there. We'd get together every few weeks and have new ideas. I'd be on vacation with my family and have an idea of something that Tofu should be dreaming of…it was a really fun collaboration.
Did you involve your kids in the process?
Absolutely. Every single version of the book even from the first Xeroxed black-and-white copy was read to our kids. If I was traveling and a new copy would come, my wife would print one out for me and one for the kids, and I would read it to them over video chat on our computers.
What’s your favorite part of being a children’s author so far?
By far the best part is reading the book to our little kids and seeing that they like it. There are hundreds of books in our house, and we let the kids each pick a book at bedtime every night, and since the book arrived…one of them seems to pick it almost every night. So that makes me happy and feel like at least there's a handful of little fans in my house. Someone asked our daughter the other day if that was her daddy's new book, and she replied "No, that's just some book from a human named Tyler." Kids say the funniest things.
Was the plate of spaghetti at the end of the story a clue to another kid’s book in the making?
Definitely. We've already finished the second book, and it's all about spaghetti and meatballs and the amazing ingredients that are used in those dishes! It comes out next spring.