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Published on : Tuesday, August 9, 2016
“TRIO has always been the big leagues for me,” says Flowers. “I can’t think of anywhere else in Austin with the same opportunity to serve such a variety of guests. The scope of our operation is staggering and the efficiency with which our team works is without comparison.”
While others chefs might be overwhelmed by the challenges presented daily in such a fast-paced environment, according to Flowers it’s the frenetic pace that inspires him and keeps him innovating in a city that has acquired a reputation for culinary creativity.
Flowers’ southeast Alabama roots and early family food memories – from watching his dad make crab cakes to learning how to properly prepare a hot grill or season a ribeye – are additional sources of inspiration that continue to influence his cooking today. “I remember riding in the back seat of our car on the way back from a road trip while my dad waxed poetic about the steaks he was going to cook when we got home,” says Flowers. “Even the smell of wood or charcoal igniting gives me the chills sometimes.”
Despite this early fascination with food, Flowers originally pursued an English degree at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he indulged his artistic side by joining a rock band. After college, frequent touring took him all over the southeast but eventually the band broke up and Austin became home. Once settled in the Texas capital, Flowers happened on a small ad in the Daily Texan for an entry-level cook at West Austin restaurant Cipollina. A few interviews later, he slipped on his first chef’s apron and began soaking up knowledge from his fellow cooks.
“I was totally green,” he laughs, thinking back to those first days. “I didn’t realise the amount of work that went into cooking on a professional level.”
Intent on improving his craft, Flowers put his nose to the grindstone and dedicated every working moment to learning and experiencing more. “I was totally hooked by the culture of the kitchen. People are rewarded based on the merit of their work and take pride in things like camaraderie, creativity and team ideology.”
With a desire to keep pushing forward, he took a job as a sous chef at Emmett and Lisa Fox’s Asti Trattoria in 2007. “They had such an inspiring philosophy toward simplicity, seasonality and the use of the best ingredients available,” says Flowers.
A trip to Italy during his stint at Asti was especially formative. “I watched our host family cook a Chianini beef porterhouse on a cast-iron grill in their fireplace while enjoying wine grown fewer than five miles away. It was a climactic moment for me.”
Flowers returned to Austin electrified by the culinary experience and ready for a new challenge. Within weeks, he took on a new job at Wink, one of Austin’s longtime trailblazers of time-and-place creativity and eclectic Texas cuisine. Tasked with writing a new menu every day, the challenges at Wink forged his skills, not just as a cook, but as an aspiring chef.
It was also here that he met his wife and started a family. With a new paradigm in place, Flowers set his sights on a much broader target: Four Seasons Hotel Austin and its busy restaurant, run by the inimitable Chef Elmar Prambs. Flowers joined TRIO as a cook in 2011, moving quickly into roles of greater responsibility from Chef de Partie to Sous Chef and, finally in July 2016, the lead position of Chef de Cuisine.
At home, Flowers likes to hang out with his own “trio:” wife Corey and daughter, Elliott, as well as the family’s blue heeler, Peri. Here they can be found swimming, riding bikes, playing scrabble, listening to old vinyl, and, of course, cooking.
Tags: Four Seasons