When you find yourself interviewing someone like Tom Colicchio, it’s only natural to start with trepidation. What could you possibly ask this iconic culinary figure that hasn’t been asked before? What you don’t know, or what you’ve simply forgotten, is just how cool Tom Colicchio is. Yes, cool is the word we use here at The New Potato; because there’s really no other way to describe a chef like this one. His down-to-earth persona makes even the most concentrated interviewer forget their role; after a mere 2 minutes I was tempted to throw away my questions, kick back and chat idly with this awesome chef.
There’s a reason why this restaurateur has such a special presence in cuisine, and that reason has less to do with food, and more to do with a magnetism in every aspect of the industry. Chef Colicchio – notable Top Chef judge by day and guitar aficionado by night -has managed to build a restaurant empire, as well as an iconic media career. Just as we all love every branch of Craft Restaurants (started by Colicchio in 2001), we’ve all watched the judges’ panel on Top Chef, secretly waiting impatiently for Colicchio’s turn to speak. This restaurateur’s opinion on food has become an absolute. Whether evident in the eyes of the reverent competitors on his shows, or simply in the numerous James Beard awards he’s been showered with, it’s clear Tom Colicchio is a force to be reckoned with.
After starting Gramercy Tavern with partner Danny Meyer in 1994, Colicchio moved on to open Craft in 2001, which soon spiraled into Craftbar, CraftSteak and ‘wichcraft. Together the restaurants are nothing less than a renowned culinary household name, but this visionary wanted even more on his plate (pun intended). In 2010, Colicchio opened Riverpark and Colicchio & Sons, and continues to head the judges’ panel on Bravo’s hit show, Top Chef – which will be heading into its 10th season. This chef’s philosophy has always been about simplicity; letting the ingredients on the plate speak for themselves. But just as it’s hard not to overcomplicate when cooking for Tom Colicchio, it’s also hard not to do when writing about him. So without further delay, here’s today’s icon, Tom Colicchio…
What would be your ideal food day?
Fishing in the morning and catching some fish. Then going to the farmer’s market, gathering vegetables and going home and cooking. In essence, that would be my ultimate food day.
In an earlier interview with Rebecca Charles, she mentioned that Craft is a dream for most chefs, because you can basically create your own meal. How does this play into what your original concept was with this restaurant?
Craft was more out of necessity. I owned Gramercy Tavern and felt I needed something different. Every chef has a repertoire of dishes and as you get older you’re more into the essence of the dish. So really, it was a search for the purity in food. Meaning you have, for example, fish with olive oil, salt and pepper, and that’s it – tasting those ingredients. So what Craft is really about is the craft of cooking, not about the artistry.
What would be your ideal meal at Craft?
I think people are confused sometimes when they come to Craft. They come and they over order. On the other hand, when our regulars come they’ll get…let’s say the raw fish and arugula salad, and then a single protein with a few sides. And that’s more than enough food. That protein is bigger than a composed dish. So in actuality, it’s not crazy expensive. It can be affordable. But then you have people that come in and get appetizers, sides, a few proteins, and that’s just way too much food.