Tandy Wilson’s culinary philosophy can best be summed up in his own words: “It’s all about delicious food that provides the sustenance to keep the family going. I’m talking about the glue that holds hard working families together, smart, local, nourishing and above all, delicious.” Tandy approaches the culinary arts with the same no-frills mindset found most often in traditional Italian cuisine, so it should come as no surprise that that’s where he learned the finer points of the art of cooking, first at Nate Appleman’s Tra Vigne in Napa Valley, then in Italy.
Tandy’s Nashville restaurant City House combines the rustic Italian approach with a contemporary twist, and its success helped earn him the James Beard Foundation award for “Best Chef: Southeast” this year. Opened in late 2007, City House has consistently been considered one of the best restaurants in Nashville, and it’s easy to see why.
You likely won’t find Tandy on any celebrity chef shows anytime soon, but given his low-key approach to cooking and his focus on simply creating the best meal possible, we’re sure to keep hearing his name for a long time.
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Tandy’s simple approach to his cooking enables him to create traditional dishes with flair, and it’s an ethos that extends all the way to the types of ingredients he orders. Tandy has a long-standing limit of five imported ingredients in his kitchen at one time, which challenges him to make the most of local ingredients and build high-quality dishes using only his innovation and the resources available to him.
To some chefs, this approach would seem like madness- it’s hard to imagine Michael Mina limiting himself to only a handful of imported ingredients. But to Tandy, it helps him achieve the fine balance between simple and savory, and the menu at City House reflects that balance. The menu consists largely of pizza and appetizers. The appetizers include scrapple with cucumber, garlic & chili ferment, mint and lemon; octopus with za’atar, sweet potato and buttermilk cream; arugula with apple & cider dressing and pecorino cheese; and buttermilk cottage cheese with okra, biscuit crumbs, garlic, citrus, chilies and parsley. Meanwhile, the pizza menu includes toppings such as apples, red onion, ricotta, buttermilk cheddar, rosemary and sunflower seeds; belly ham, mozzarella, grana Padano, oregano and chilies; mustards, mayo, parmesan, montasio, garlic, lemon, parsley and black pepper; whole trout, grains, orange, almonds, red onion and parsley; and steak, soy rub, cabbage, Vidalia onion, garlic, fish sauce, lemon and parmesan.