In the Kitchen with Chef Tommy Crayton

By:Gwen Fowler


South Carolina's Chef Tommy Crayton of Victor’s​ Bistro in Flore​nce
Chef Tommy Crayton of Victor’s​ Bistro in Flore​nce

Chef Tommy Crayton arrived at Victor’s​ Bistro in Flore​nce after stints at several popular Lowcountry restaurants, including Frank's in Pa​wleys Island and The R​ice Paddy in Georgetown.

The original Victor’s of Florence opened in 1998 and quickly became one of the most popular fine-dining restaurants in the city. In January 2003, a larger Victor’s Bistro was opened at the present location, 1247 S. Irby St. The restaurant has been recognized as “Best of the Pee Dee” for fine dining by readers of the Florence Morning News for seven years in a row. In early 2009, Tim and Anne Norwood bought the restaurant.

Q: What or who inspired you to become a chef?
My mom and Justin ​Wilson. (Wilson, who died in 2001, was the Cajun cook and funny guy known for saying “I garontee!)

Q: What are you cooking these days that excites you the most?
Lately I've gotten into making my own bacon. Really anything that takes a lot time and effort. I love the process of cooking. Also we've been braising grouper lately and it's incredible!

Q: What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever done in a restaurant kitchen?
Anytime I've lost my temper and let my employees see it. I feel it’s very unprofessional to lose control, even though it’s a very human thing to do.

Q: Is there a food you simply refuse to eat?
For the most part, I avoid fast food. Other than that, I'm wide open with about any cuisine.

Q: What would your dream meal be?
This is tough. Let's see, there will have to be some duck, pork, fish, grits, cheese (lots of cheese) in there. I guess just really good food prepared really well. Oh yeah, and flounder.

Q: What are your guilty (food) pleasures?

Q: How important is presentation?
Very; it's second only to taste.

Q: What’s the best tip you can give a home cook?
Don't over think what you're doing, and remember, a recipe is but a guide. Experiment and have fun.

Q: What’s your prediction for the next big food or restaurant trend?
One could make the argument that using fresh, local ingredients is a trend, but isn't that the way we've done it all along anyway? Just say NO to corporate "food."

Q: What is something you recently learned even after all of your cooking experience?
That it's OK to not know everything and that hopefully I'm learning something new every day. In the restaurant world, that's not hard to do.

Q: If you were not a chef, what would you be doing?
This is the easiest question to answer. A professional surfer, of course.

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