Signing up for culinary school immediately after earning a B.A. in English isn’t the usual route for aspiring culinarians, but it’s certainly worked well for 37-year-old Scott Tycer. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, he moved to Portland, OR, where he graduated from the Western Culinary Institute. A job at the Ritz-Carlton in Houston came next, followed by a stint as executive sous chef at Spago in Palo Alto, CA. The Houston native then came home to open Aries, an Esquire “Best New Restaurant” in 2001. Chosen a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2003, the entrepreneurial Tycer now runs two restaurants, Gravitas and Pic, plus Kraftsmen Baking, an artisan bakery/retail cafe.
Ah, a full fridge. You must eat here quite often.
Not really. When I do, I’ll pick something out from what we keep on hand for the kids.
Are they good eaters?
Very good. We have two children, ages four and five. My wife mostly buys nutritious organic products for them.
She shops at Whole Foods, with occasional stops at the local Kroger’s for frozen pizza and that sort of thing.
It’s good that a busy chef has a stay-at-home wife who...
Stay at home? Annika, my wife, has a full-time career.
What does she do?
She works at McKinsey & Company here in Houston.
McKinsey? The giant management consulting firm?
Yes. She used to be what they call an engagement manager. Her work now can all be done out of the Houston office, so there’s almost no travel.
Whoa! That’s a big-league gig. As is yours. Who’s busier?
We’re both pretty busy. But the kids keep us grounded.
What’s your day like?
After the kids are off to their schools, I head to the bakery cafe to check on the breads and pastries. Then it’s over to Pic to check in with my sous chef and make sure things are all set.
It’s over to the big restaurant—Gravitas—to cook lunch. Then I hit the gym.
You pump iron and do cardio?
I focus primarily on core strength—the muscles around the spine. If I get a bad back I’m down for two weeks.
And after the workout?
I’ll meet with managers and then it’s time for dinner service.
You must be maxed out.
Not really. I don’t stay late at the businesses anymore, and my wife has set up her schedule to complement mine.
So you’re not overcommitted.
No. At some point, the sacrifice you’ve made for your career has done its work. You can control your time more effectively.
Would this philosophy work for other chefs?
It can. I tell my sous chefs that part of their growth is to learn how to work efficiently. You want to squeeze some of the good things out of life.
So does Dad ever make breakfast for his kids?
Sure. Often. Usually it’s fruit, yogurt, some waffles every now and then, and juice.
Do you eat with them?
No breakfast for me. I eat five or six small meals a day.
Gee, do you ever cook at home?
Yes, on Sundays for my entire extended family. There’s 12 of us here in Houston.
Do you pull out all the stops?
No, I keep it traditional. Last Sunday’s meal was spaghetti Bolognese. My family doesn’t share my passion for cooking.
Judging from your reviews, we say it’s their loss.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM CALLINS / REDUX PLUS