A First Coast culinary and broadcast presence, so endearing to local residents that they knew him on a first-name basis, died earlier this month.
“Chef Robert” — or Robert W. Tulko — died on March 5 at the age of 70. Tulko, who had a friendly charm and on-air enthusiasm on First Coast News (WTLV TV-12, WJXX TV-25) when talking about cooking.
“Chef Robert was family to the staff of First Coast News and viewers for many mornings on ‘Good Morning Jacksonville.’ His positive influence was as effortless as his desire to make the simplest of family meals an occasion to celebrate. He was warm and engaging with everyone he met. Chef Robert committed his time and talents to the community beyond spending mornings on TV. He often paired with First Coast News personalities to host community events like Flavors of the First Coast, benefitting Home Again St. Johns,” Rob Mennie, president and general manager of WTLV-TV/WJXX-TV, told the Times-Union in an email.
Chef Robert also served as the corporate chef for the Winn-Dixie super market corporation and was considered a goodwill ambassador for the company.
Chef Robert was born in Jersey City, N.J., and worked his way through New York University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and launched a career in real estate and the restaurant business. It was through work in restaurants that he fell in love with cooking.
He eventually enrolled and graduated from the Southern Culinary Institute in St. Augustine and landed the corporate chef’s position with Winn-Dixie. He held that job for 12 years and was a regular fixture on the local television show “Good Morning Jacksonville” on First Coast News, where he detailed the finer points of culinary matters. He was so beloved by local residents and First Coast television viewers that they referred to him as Chef Robert.
Chef Robert had worked in kitchens throughout Europe, the Orient and Caribbean. He had cooked aboard aircraft carriers, such as the USS John F. Kennedy, and aboard submarines in Kings Bay, Ga. He also worked with the White House pastry chef, supplying edible Christmas ornaments for President Bill and Hillary Clinton’s personal Christmas tree.
In the last few years before his death, he started a cooking ministry at Holy Family Parish in Jacksonville among many other philanthropic endeavors he pursued in the area.
He is survived by his wife Angela Martin, a physician in obstetrics and gynecology at Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville.
A Mass for is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, March 24 at Holy Family Catholic Church, 9800 Baymeadows Road in Jacksonville with a reception to follow in the parish hall.
Hardage-Giddens Greenlawn Funeral Home, 4300 Beach Blvd., is in charge of arrangements.
Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098.