Prepare the ramekins: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush four 8-ounce ramekins with butter. Pour the sugar into 1 ramekin and rotate it to coat the bottom and sides. Pour the excess into another ramekin and repeat to coat all the ramekins; tap out any excess. Refrigerate until ready to fill.
Make the bechamel: Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Just as the foam subsides, whisk in the flour to make a roux; cook, whisking constantly, to remove the starchy taste, 2 to 3 minutes (do not allow the roux to brown). Add the warm milk and continue whisking until smooth and thick, about 5 minutes. (Trace a figure 8 in the bechamel with the whisk; if the sauce holds the shape, it's done.)
Flavor the bechamel: Remove the bechamel from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. Season with salt, white pepper and the nutmeg, then whisk in the cheese until melted and smooth. (Return the pot to very low heat, if necessary.) Transfer to a large bowl and refrigerate until cool.
Add the egg whites: Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with a whisk or mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the cooled bechamel mixture by slowly and gently scooping from the bottom to the top of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining egg whites the same way until no streaks of white remain.
Bake the souffles: Place the prepared ramekins on a baking sheet. Spoon the batter into the ramekins, filling each about three-fourths of the way. Use a towel to wipe the rims clean (this will help the souffles rise evenly). Bake until golden and puffed at least 1 inch over the rims, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately with fig compote and other garnishes (see below).
Tyler dresses up his souffles with honeycomb, chamomile flowers, microgreens and this fig topping:
Fig Compote: Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 2 lemon slices and 2 chamomile tea bags in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags. Add 12 halved dried figs, return to a boil and cook 10 more minutes. Remove the lemon slices. Serve warm.
Photographs by James Baigrie
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence for Food Network Magazine