“I think Tucker, more than any of the young chefs, pushes the envelope,” says Tim Burgess of his rising star pick, Tucker Yoder. “All these guys have passion screaming out of their ears, so that’s a constant. But, I like a chef that takes chances.”
And that’s just what the 37-year-old Yoder does while running the kitchen of Clifton Inn, though he wouldn’t say it outright. “I take good stuff and try not to screw it up,” Yoder says.
Humble he may be, but the reality is that, while Yoder is more comfortable behind the line than in the spotlight, he’s fast becoming a recognizable figure in the food scene, always looking for something new and innovative to do with his food and always open to collaboration. It’s hard not to be noticed when you preside over a restaurant as acclaimed as Clifton.
What sets him apart, though, as Burgess points out, is his willingness to experiment. He might smoke tofu and serve it as if it were a silken puree, or prepare a duck liver mousse under a nasturtium leaf that diners are told to eat by pinching and lifting the leaf.
Yoder’s current role as executive chef of Clifton is actually his second stint there. In the mid-2000s, the former New England Culinary Institute graduate served as Clifton’s sous chef before leaving for Lexington to help transform The Red Hen into one of Central Virginia’s most progressive restaurants. He returned to Clifton Inn in October 2010 as head chef, bringing with him a fresh take on regional cuisine.
“I like to use everything,” he says. “And, when I see something new, I like to see what I can do with it.”
What does the future look like for a talented young chef?
“More collaborative events like Hill & Holler and other farm dinners to get the culinary community together,” he says.
Sandwich: No Bull Burger with pepper jack and a side of chipoltle aioli from Beer Run.
Dessert: Dr. Ho’s ice cream sandwiches.
Cocktail: Whatever Mezcal thing Nick [Crutchfield] wants to make me at Commonwealth [Restaurant & Skybar].
Virginia wine: Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay.
Virginia beer/cider: Foggy Ridge Pippin Black.
Breakfast: Mushroom omlettes at home.
Guilty pleasure: Micheladas at El Tepeyac.
Hangover food: Leftover pork BBQ from Blue Ridge Pig.
Pizza: Crozet Pizza with veggies and lots of garlic.
Appetizer: Maya’s fried oysters.
Taco: Lengua or Tripa from El Tepeyac.
Bodo’s order: Pastrami, provolone, sprouts, mustard on garlic bagel
Local ingredient: All of them. Free Union Grass Farm Ducks.