In early March 2006, a bald man waltzed onto our TV screens and into our hearts. His culinary journey began long before the beginning of the 21st Century, but we are so thankful that his path led to Top Chef. The Emmy-award winning show just wrapped up their 13th season, never failing to make us drool at the food the cheftestants present. This show would not be successful without head judge Tom Colicchio. His decades of experience and no bullshit mentality help mold the cheftestants into well-rounded, complex and more advanced cooks.
He’s the owner of twelve successful and world-renowned restaurants, author of three books and a James Beard award winner, and he’s someone we should all look up to.
1. “Most cooks try to learn by making dishes. Doesn’t mean you can cook. It means you can make that dish. When you can cook is when you can go to a farmers market, buy a bunch of stuff, then go home and make something without looking at a recipe. Now you’re cooking.”
Being able to adapt is invaluable in life. If you’re just prepared for one situation you’re not going to succeed when shit hits the fan (and it will because that’s life).
2. “I think steak is the ultimate comfort food, and if you’re going out for one, that isn’t the time to skimp on calories or quality.”
Treat. Yo. Self.
3. “My feeling is, if you’re going to be called a celebrity, you might as well use it for some good. It’s better to testify for school lunches in front of Congress, than get drunk in a bar somewhere and misbehave.”
Don’t waste an opportunity to do good by the world.
4. “Recipes tell you nothing. Learning techniques is the key.”
It’s not about what you do, it’s about how you got there.
5. “Every chef should have an understanding of pastries or desserts.”
Know how to do more than one thing.
6. “When I was 26, 27-years-old I was running a kitchen in New York, and I was a raving lunatic. The older you get, you figure out you don’t need to do that. You realize at a certain point, there’s a certain gravity to what you say and what you do. If that’s not enough, all the yelling in the world is not going to matter.”
Yelling doesn’t get your message across better.
7. “I started cooking in kitchens right out of high school, and I was lucky to work with a lot of great people, but I had no idea it would turn into this. Of course, no one should go into this business because they want to be the next Emeril.”
When you don’t expect the world, the unexpected happens. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be taking a candid shot with Emeril Lagasse.
8. “A steak needs fat to taste great.”
Don’t eliminate something because someone else says you should. Also, steak.
9. “You want to be the baddest guy in the kitchen and you want the person next to you to know it.”
Confidence is key.
10. “I think the most effective way to run a kitchen is to teach, not to just yell.”
Lessons learned by teachers are just as valuable as by students.
11. “Buy the best you can find or afford and don’t over manipulate it. If I cook a scallop, the best praise you can give me is that it tastes like a scallop.”
Simplicity is underrated. Scallops are delicious.
12. “I started cooking 30-something years ago. When I was 14, 15, I was a short-order cook in a snack bar. That was at a place called the Gran Centurions. It was an Italian-American swim club my parents belonged to.”
Everyone starts at the bottom. If you have the passion that this little kid has, you will be successful in whatever you do.
13. “It’s my belief that cooking is a craft. I think that you can push it into the realm of art, but it starts with craft. It starts with an understanding of materials. It starts with an understanding of where foods are grown.”
If you understand the origins of your craft, you will be better suited to execute it. Tom has a personal farm in his backyard to really get that “understanding of where foods are grown.”
14. “You have to know the classics if you want to cook modern food.”
An in-depth knowledge of the basics will help you with the hard stuff.
15. “Every season [of Top Chef] we try to do something new. And not for gimmicks. We feel the show has to evolve and keep changing.”
Just because it works doesn’t mean you can’t be better.
16. “I’m not afraid of getting hit, nor am I afraid of throwing a punch. A lot of guys I’ve seen in the gym, they’re afraid to throw a punch. They’re afraid to hit somebody.”
Don’t be afraid to make your mark.
17.”You don’t need to have a Rolls-Royce kitchen to make a great meal.”
If you focus on what you have, you will be successful.