MEET: LEX TAYLOR
Age / Location / Passion
39 / Ossining, NY / Hiking, camping, foraging, cooking + learning traditional knowledge
Also stoked about?
Leather crafting, knife making, carpentry, archery.
Favorite place to get outside?
Go to Gear?
A hammock, small tarp + paracord. It all weighs less than a pound and you can have a comfy sleep anywhere even in a hurricane.
What’s your story?
I grew up in New Hampshire + Mexico. I didn’t have a TV, video games. This before the internet. My folks were educated professionals. My friends, the kids of truckers, school teachers + hunters. I drew incessantly, built things + explored. Creativity was a must. I went to NYU where I got into tech. The more that blew up the more I was frustrated and wanted an out. I began to cook, and suddenly, all the quirky skills + ability to connect with a broad spectrum of people made sense. Though today I am still very immersed in the tech world, [finding] the ability to understand and connect with the natural world is very rewarding.
What’s something coming up this year that you’re stoked about?
I’m psyched that there is a growing interest in embracing and rediscovering traditional knowledge. It is being approached in many ways. Through yoga, dance, foraging, bushcraft, music, design, + of course, food. The more tech grows so too does the appreciation for our analog roots.
Who inspires you?
A guy I think about often is this older dude. He’s about 70 and sells refreshments on the top of the Tepozteco, a Tolec ruin in Tepoztlan, Mexico that you can only get to from a very challenging, vertical hike. Even in excellent shape, it’s a grueling climb, but this man does it every day, carrying 60 pounds of soda and water on his freaking head. It makes you pause and think what we are all really capable of.
You recently published your book Grill Fire. Can you talk a bit about this experience + how is it different to cook than to write about cooking?
I never wrote down a recipe before writing this book. I’m a BBQ chef which is a practice not taught in culinary school, because it deals with so many factors that are not easily measurable and communicable. Wood, fire, weather, iron. It’s like teaching someone what is a safe mushroom to harvest. You simply cannot learn it from a book, it’s knowledge transmitted from person to person. It was a great time to really think about stories that shaped my perspective towards food, and a general philosophy rather than empirical recipes.
What does it mean to “Master the flame”?
Haha, that was a subtitle created by my publishers. Even the title of my book, Grill Fire was not my idea. I wanted something that evoked a sense of sustainable wilderness gourmet but they wanted something that was more accessible.
Why do you prefer cooking outdoors?
Well, it greatly reduces my chances of burning down my house. My background in cooking is in BBQ. I suppose I never learned the delicate nature of cooking indoors. Plus I have ADHD and will trash my kitchen within minutes.
What’s a bit of advice you’d share with someone wanting to break into the cooking/food game that you’ve found to be invaluable in helping you get to where you are right now?
Super easy answer: Find a way to trust your instincts and put your money behind that. It’s true in many ways that your friends and parents know you better than you know yourself. But only in certain ways. In the cosmic schema, your gut is your one truth that you can follow and always be satisfied, even in failure. Imagine failing at something that you didn’t believe in wholeheartedly in the first place?
What’s a story you always tell about your work?
I’ve been working in Tech since 1999. I was always pretty good at it. Today, I’ll come across some 15-year-old kid from the Netherlands who is wayyyy better than I ever was. I realize this is not my world. I can work in it, but if I’m ever going to really succeed I have to find or make my own.
What are the lessons you learned from participating and winning Esquire TV’s America’s Great Next Burger?
You have to challenge yourself. I felt so out of my element going in there and then winning. I remember thinking: Wow, take a step towards life and life will take a step towards you.
What was the first thing you ever cooked?
I don’t know. But the first thing I cooked where I knew I had skills was a trout I caught while fishing with my great uncle and his friend “the Judge” in northern Canada. My great aunt cooked a meatloaf and sent us out with that. I smoked the trout perfectly over an open fire and served it to these guys. They said they never ate smoked trout and it had a small awkward taste. But then the judge told my great uncle in a very great Canadian accent “Tell Marge this is some damn fine meatloaf!” I learned that cooking, like all art, is about your audience.
When you’re not cooking outside, what are you up to?
I’m married and have two kids. Sometimes I have 6 kids at my house when my niece and nephews are here. Most of my time seems to be spent being a daddy daycare.
How do you balance work and family?
Working in tech is hard because that type of work is not a traditional practice. Cooking is. It’s social and fun. We all know how to enjoy it and it is a skill we all need. We all cook, taste, and argue.
Thanks for sharing your story with us. Keep exploring + inspiring.
Gabaccia + Stranded on Land