In the Kitchen with the Tuckahoe Inn
This iconic bayfront eatery has a new chef in the kitchen
TYSON Merryman is attempting this summer to accomplish something he has not done since taking co-ownership of the Tuckahoe Inn more than two and a half decades ago.
Relax a little.
Being an executive chef at a busy restaurant tends to be a grind – long hours, few days off, plenty of stress, and lots of wear and tear on the body. It has been a way of life for Tyson since the 1970s, and after he and his family took over the Tuckahoe Inn, a historic and bustling waterfront establishment in Beesley’s Point across the bay from Ocean City, his hectic schedule has hardly yielded time for a yawn let alone a quick nap.
“I’m at a point where my doctor told me, ‘You’re 72, you’re beat up. It’s time to kick back,’” said Tyson, who in addition to being an owner has also been the Tuckahoe Inn’s executive chef the past 26 years.
To do so, Tyson hired Michelle Myers as the Tuckahoe Inn’s new executive chef in May.
Michelle arrived at the Tuckahoe Inn from Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City; before that, she worked in restaurant kitchens at a pair of casinos in Atlantic City.
While Tyson’s primary objective is to lighten his workload, he’s also welcoming a fresh set of eyes in hopes of taking Tuckahoe Inn’s dining experience to a higher level.
“This place has been here so long. We have such a great reputation, so many locals that come in here,” Tyson said. “We want to keep that going, but we want to build on it.”
Longtime Tuckahoe Inn diners need not worry about losing any of their favorite dishes. There are several signature items highlighted on the menu, and Tyson said those recipes will remain and be prepared exactly as they’ve been the past 26 years.
Tyson estimates he’s sold nearly two million “Chef Tyson Crab Cakes,” a Maryland-style cake that’s grilled and served with a side of homemade jalapeno-lime mayonnaise.
Although there are a number of fresh seafood entrees, such as a broiled-combination dish that includes a petite lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, and an imperial-stuffed flounder, many in the area also flock to the Tuckahoe Inn to gobble up the prime rib.
The Tuckahoe Inn is also famous for its clam chowder, chock full of clams, diced bacon, hearty tomatoes and vegetables. It’s a tried-and-true recipe Merryman concocted nearly 50 years ago. Is it a creamy-white New England-style clam chowder or brothy-red Manhattan?
“It’s both,” Tyson said with a smile. “It’s got some cream in it and it also has tomatoes. It’s a South Jersey clam chowder.”
Michelle is embracing the tradition of the restaurant, a family-owned fixture in the community since 1963.
She said her time spent at Renault has helped her learn how to marry the culinary experience with the Tuckahoe Inn’s new-and-improved beverage program.
“The whole thing (at Renault) is pairing the wines with the cheeses and dried meats and charcuterie,” Myers said. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, but there are a few areas I think we can build on.”
The addition of Drew Love as a lead bartender was another valuable piece to Tyson’s plans. Drew returned to the Tuckahoe Inn staff after spending some time in North Jersey to attend sommelier school, where he became a master of wine knowledge.
“With Drew putting in all these new drinks, it works nicely with what we are trying to do in the kitchen,” Tyson said. “So you get different wines and whiskeys and beers –and appetizers to go with them. We’re working on this kind of stuff to bring it up to a whole new level.”
Tyson also made big changes this year to the Tuckahoe Inn’s outside dining area known as the Back Bay Cafe, an often-packed deck with sweeping water views open during the summer months. Out there, he built a brand-new bar overlooking the bay and also made big improvements to the outside kitchen.
“We’re going to keep it so you can have a nice full dinner while overlooking the water,” Tyson said. “It’s not just going to be hot dogs and hamburgers, although we’ll sell a lot of those this summer, too.”
Find this and more in the July Ocean City Magazine