U.S. Rep. David Jolly delivered a heart-felt eulogy to longtime Tampa Bay area chef Tom Pritchard on the House floor Wednesday.
“Always quick to help others and share recipes with his inventive approach to cooking, Tom became a Florida food legend,” Jolly said.
Pritchard was the executive chef for the Baystar Restaurant Group. He also owned Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores, Island Way Grill and Rumba Island Bar and Grill in Clearwater and Oldsmar, Marlin’ Darlin’ in Belleair Bluffs as well as Salt Rock Tavern in Oldsmar. Pritchard was known for taking new chefs under his wing and inspired countless chefs in the Tampa Bay restaurant industry.
Jolly quoted a food critic who said of Pritchard, “The term mentor is too trite.”
Pritchard landed his first restaurant gig at the young age of 14 shucking oysters at Guy Lombardo’s East Point House on Long Island. He later went to college in Des Moines, Iowa before being drafted into the army where he was stationed in Germany for several years.
Pritchard continued traveling after his service to places like Scotland, Morrocco and London. According to Jolly he owned restaurants in France and Spain.
Jolly mentioned Pritchard’s unique ability to be a lively storyteller.
“He had a way of making anyone he met feel like they had known each other for decades,” Jolly said.
The Tampa Bay Times, in its obituary last week, described some of those stories.
“He once beat the 300-pound hard-boiled-egg-eating champion of Aspen, Colo., by snorting Tabasco sauce up his nose, which stripped the lining in his throat and generated saliva. He served Sonny Liston 7 pounds of carp. He talked Richard Nixon into lifting the tequila trade embargo. He smuggled hash out of the Congo in a size-13 cowboy boot box. He stole three taxis in the same night.”
Those stories, his friends said, all turned out to be true.
But it was Pritchard’s generosity that Jolly most lauded.
“Tom was always quick to lend his time and talent to benefit programs that helped others,” Jolly said. “Tom Pritchard gave more than he took.”
Some of his charities included the Abilities Foundation and Clearwater for Youth. Through Pritchard’s partnership the Abilities Foundation earned $3.7 million over 25 years of food and wine tastings. Jolly said Pritchard’s presence alone drew people to charitable events.
Pritchard passed away last Wednesday at his St. Pete home due to complications from a surgery to ease symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease. He was 74.