Tom Colicchio: Bravo’s Top Chef Texas – Interview

“I didn’t start out thinking it was going to have any effect at all. I thought maybe four people would watch this show, maybe two would be my family. So I was really surprised by the impact it does have. But I think early on we figured out that the only way that the viewer can experience the food is through our conversation. So we all decide that we have to have a real honest conversation about food.” _Tom Colicchio: Bravo’s Top Chef Texas – Interview

Tom Colicchio: Bravo’s Top Chef Texas – Interview
By: Daedrian McNaughton | Premier Guide Media

29 Chefs Take on Texas Along With Guest Judges And Stars Including Charlize Theron, Pee-wee Herman, Cat Cora, John Besh, Tim Love, Patti LaBelle With New Series Judges Emeril Lagasse And Hugh Acheson. And Tom Colicchio returns as lead judge on Bravo’s Top Chef Texas and host of “Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen” webisode series, a web series giving contestants a second chance back in the kitchen to redeem themselves. We had a chance to talk with Tom about the new season and his time in Texas.

How are the contestants this season?

Tom Colicchio: Each season as far as we look at it it’s really stand alone. It’s really hard to compare season to season because there’s so much that happens within the season. There’s a dynamic that each season has. It’s hard to compare them. On a straight cooking level the talent is as good as any season. I think that it’s going to match up really well with any of our previous seasons.

How would you grade the ribs in Texas?

Tom Colicchio: The best ribs. Texas isn’t really known for their ribs, it’s more brisket country.

Did you get to see Patti LaBelle cook?

Tom Colicchio: Unfortunately we don’t get to see her cook. I’ve heard that Patty LaBelle can throw down pretty good. We just didn’t get to you know obviously get to see that on the show.

Did you have fun in San Antonio?

Tom Colicchio: We had fun. What I didn’t like was the 110 degree temperature every day. It was brutal.

Was there any particular place that you enjoyed more while there?

Tom Colicchio: Esquire was a great bar. I spent a couple nights there. It was a lot of fun. There’s a little place out of town that I went to breakfast for a few times called (La Gueras) – (Las Gueras). Small little neighborhood place, real traditional Mexican food – it was really wonderful.

How was the food in San Antonio?

Tom Colicchio: I’m never surprised when I find good food. There’s great food everywhere. You’ve got to look for it. It’s there. In New York City we’re having a really hard time finding cooks because cooks you know 20 years ago they would work in New York, Las Angeles, Chicago…Now you can go anywhere. You can go anywhere and work. There’s good restaurants everywhere. La Gloria was a fun place. And the hotel, the Cuban hotel, that was a nice little place.

Knowing you have a restaurant in Dallas, did you get a chance to visit?

Tom Colicchio: Yes I have a restaurant there. So I can go and hang out at my restaurant and also do some other work, yes. We were in Fort Worth for a day when we were shooting. So it wasn’t a lot of time to get around and see the town. That’s the unfortunate part of what we do is that we are working a lot – Padma more than I do. So as far as downtime, we’ll have downtime to go grab a bite to eat or something but it’s kind of hard to really get a flavor, pun intended, of a city in such a short time.

Did you get a chance to wear your cowboy boots?

Tom Colicchio: The boots, I did wear boots in one episode and those boots are about 20 years old. I haven’t worn them for that long.

Talk a bit about the webisodes and second chances for contestants who have been kicked off too soon.

Tom Colicchio: The contestants have no idea. The contestants were completely kept in the dark, they didn’t know. So I’m sure if we do it next season they’ll be expecting it but this was the first season so we were able to keep it completely under wraps. I loved it when they told me they were doing it. I thought it was a great idea. Especially what it really does, it addresses the person whom the viewer thinks got a raw deal or maybe they were more talented and they were kicked out too soon. I can think back to (Trey) who was kicked out in the middle of the competition for Restaurant Wars and he made a series of bad dishes but everybody thought that we should have given him a break because he had competed and done well earlier in some of the earlier episodes. And so what this does is gives that person who gets maybe kicked out early because again we judge on that dish and that’s it. It’s not a cumulative event so if you make a bad dish – you could win five in a row, if you make a bad dish – the worst dish, you’re gone. And so what it does though, it gives that person the opportunity to get back in.

What is craft service like on the set of Bravo’s Top Chef?

Tom Colicchio: The same as every other place. The same as every other set I’ve been on.
Do you eat off it often?

Tom Colicchio: I occasionally eat off of craft table services. Other times we’ll order in. It all depends. It’s funny though usually what we do is we start ordering in from places that are local and we’ll usually find some great stuff. When we were in LA we found some great Thai when we were downtown shooting. So it’s a combination of craft services and take-in. But our craft service table is not different than any other craft service table. When we shot the finale in the Bahamas that was really good.

Are you surprised with the total transformation of the show over the years?

Tom Colicchio: I didn’t start out thinking it was going to have any effect at all. I thought maybe four people would watch this show, maybe two would be my family. So I was really surprised by the impact it does have. But I think early on we figured out that the only way that the viewer can experience the food is through our conversation. So we all decide that we have to have a real honest conversation about food. We’re not mugging for the cameras, we’re not saying outrageous things just to sound outrageous. We’re not yelling and screaming at people. We’re having a serious conversation about the food that’s put in front of us, good, bad and different, whatever it is we’re being honest. And I think that’s what really comes through.

How do you feel when these contestants defend their dishes?

Tom Colicchio: They can defend all they want. Someone says you don’t know what you’re talking about – that’s fine, you’re still going home. There’s nothing to take offense at. If one of them stands up and says I was at your restaurant two weeks ago and it was terrible – it’s like just be quiet. What (Elliot) did going back to last season, he personally attacked me afterwards. That is going too far but even then it was just like let her do what she wants. I commented on it and that was it, over. But no if you’re defending yourself, please defend yourself. Please tell us why you did what you did, sort of what you’re looking for, what you were going for – that’s all well and good. I think it actually makes for better TV when they defend themselves. And so it’s okay for me. It’s a personal thing, cooking, so please defend yourself all you want. Just don’t make it personal.

What is your advice or tips on healthy eating habits?

Tom Colicchio: Buy whole foods, eat whole foods, stay away from processed stuff and you’re okay.

Apart from boxing, what other activities are you involved in when not filming?

Tom Colicchio: Well I’ve been boxing for about three or four years. Prior to that I played a lot of basketball but I had to stop doing that due to injuries. And yes that’s really it. I try not to lift weights because I bulk up too much so. I have a hard time just going to a gym. That’s why I need to do something. There needs to be a point to working out that’s why I like boxing or I like playing basketball. I used to be a swimmer. I was a swimmer from the age of 8 to 17. I coached for a few years. I have a hard time getting in a pool now; I don’t know why it’s just this mental thing. A lot of painful memories. But that’s pretty much it. It’s hard to find the time these days.

What is your reaction when people approach you on the street about eliminating their favorite contestants?

Tom Colicchio: I always laugh at people when they say how could you send so and so home – their food was great. I’m like oh I forgot you were at judge’s table, sure, okay. I think when people are passionate about who they care for on the show I think we’re doing our job. If you have a favorite person and you hate to see them go that means the show overall is doing the job because you’re connecting with people. I think that’s what really makes it important.

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