I’ve been a fan of Bravo’s Top Chef since the beginning. Now in its tenth season, I’ve yet to get tired of watching this hour-long food porn adventure each week. One of the reasons is Tom Colicchio.
You may ask, “What’s so great about Tom Colicchio anyway? My response to that would be, “What isn’t?”
There are the obvious things, like, he was born in New Jersey to Italian-American parents. He lives in Manhattan but cooks out of a New York kitchen and feels you don’t need to have a “Rolls-Royce kitchen to make a great meal.” He’s been married to the same woman years, has three children and once said that his least favorite thing about Top Chef is the travel. He misses his family and wants to be home.
I’m also impressed by where he started and where he is now. There’s his atypical food background — Colicchio is self-taught and didn’t attend culinary school like most of his colleagues. He started cooking at home with this mother and grandmother, and the help of Jacque Pépin’s French cooking manuals La Technique and La Methode. He continued to hone his skills on his own before he began cooking in a local restaurant in Elizabeth, NJ at the age of 17.
He went on to cook in some of the top kitchens in New York City including Gotham Bar & Grill and Mondrian. He partnered with Danny Meyer to open Gramercy Tavern in 1994, and sold his shares in 2006, moving on to open Craft, just one block away in the Flatiron District. Colicchio was awarded the title of Best Chef-New York by the James Beard Foundation in 2000, and Best New Restaurant for Craft in 2002. He is the recipient of five James Beard medals in total. He has authored three cookbooks.
He’s got a great sense of humor, and of course, he’s charming. On Top Chef, he’s known for his honest remarks, which have been cause for dispute at times on the show, but most often, his comments are taken in stride. Although outspoken when critiquing the competitors, Colicchio still has a gentle, nurturing side that’s obvious as he makes his rounds in the kitchen during the beat-the-clock challenges each week.
What’s more, his normal-guy appearance makes him completely approachable –– I’ve always felt that I could easily have a sit-down and chat over a glass of wine or a meal, and time would run out long before our conversation would.
I’ve been to both Craft and Craftbar. Some of the dishes I’ve tried include Spanish Octopus, Chorizo Fritter with Pimento Aïoli, the Roasted Beet Salad with Radicchio, Gorgonzola and Vincotto, the Spaghetti & Veal Ricotta Meatballs with Basil and San Marzano Tomato, and Berkshire Pork Belly with French Green Lentils, Endive, and Pearl Onions. If I’m honest, there was not one morsel left on a plate.
Have you eaten at any of Tom Colicchio’s restaurants? I’d love to hear about your experience.