A native of Ferndale, Washington, Tory McPhail grew up on his family's farm, eating fresh, locally sourced foods and building an early appreciation for origins. After attending school in Seattle, McPhail looked to expand upon his own origins in the lush culinary terrain of New Orleans.
At just 19, McPhail was hired at the lowest level of food preparation, quickly moving through all 12 stages of the kitchen. McPhail briefly stepped away from his adopted city, gaining experience in Florida, London, and the Virgin Islands. After a few years, Commander's Palace hired McPhail to cook at its Las Vegas location. In early 2002, that transitioned into an executive chef position at the original Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, where he has remained, helping train the next generation of New Orleans chefs and rebuild the city’s dining scene after Hurricane Katrina.
In 2008, McPhail began hosting his own television show, “Off the Menu.” The original series features McPhail hunting and fishing and transforming the day’s catch into dinner. That respect for product—born in his childhood and promoted on the show—influences the menu at Commander’s, where a “dirt to plate within 100 miles” policy means 90 percent of the restaurant’s product comes from within 100 miles of the Garden District.
Between kitchen, mentorship, and television, McPhail is a champion of New Orleans heritage and terroir. Under his leadership, Southern Living named Commander’s the “Best Splurge Restaurant in the South,” and it has reigned as Zagat’s most popular restaurant for close to two decades. McPhail also won the 2009 Great American Seafood Cookoff and has been instrumental in honors from the James Beard Foundation, the Culinary Institute of America, Wine Spectator, and Gambit.