Tory McPhail was born in Ferndale, Washington, where his family’s raspberry farms are located on the edge of the Canadian border. His family also grew corn and dinner was often made from fish caught from the family pond that afternoon. “I knew food didn’t just come from the grocery store and magically appear there. Being able to watch it all grow gave me a passion for natural foods,” says McPhail.
By the time he was 16, McPhail found the means to graduate from his high school and enroll in culinary school. He attended Seattle Community College and received an ACF accredited two-year degree in culinary science. Counselors suggest he pursue work in either the Big Apple or the Big Easy, citing their respective fertile culinary learning grounds as cause.
It was ultimately New Orleans, with its history, soul and ultimate “coolness” that won out and McPhail started his career at Commander’s Palace in 1993 under the supervision of legendary Chef Jamie Shannon. McPhail worked his way through all 12 stations of the kitchen, honing his craft and making a positive impression on Shannon. In search of “as much experience possible, as quickly as possible”, McPhail later completed a series of stints at culinary hot spots including The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., the Michelin two-star Picasso Room , the Michelin one-star sister restaurant L’Escargot in London, the Caribbean/Creole intensive Mongoose Restaurant in The Virgin Islands and Commander’s Palace Las Vegas.
But New Orleans ultimately called to him again and McPhail was named Executive Chef of Commander’s Palace in 2002, where he constantly tinkers with classic Creole food. “I’m always thinking very forward when it comes to Creole food. There are so many restaurants here that use the same exact recipes as 75 years ago,” explains McPhail. “And that’s just not us.” To maximize his culinary enlightenment, McPhail buries himself in antique cookbooks and constantly experiments with new technology and techniques. “You have no business messing with Haute Creole food if you don’t have an appreciation for how it’s gotten to be so good over the last 250 years. Still, I want to make it my own. I’m not going to settle for second best,” explains McPhail.
Since being appointed Executive Chef, McPhail has appeared on the Food Network 8 times and travels the country as a spokes person for the sustainable, regional food from Louisiana.