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Tom Colicchio: New Chefs Should Stay Off TV

Tom Colicchio: New Chefs Should Stay Off TV

We asked the 'Top Chef' judge for advice for young chefs at Food & Wine's Best New Chefs 25th anniversary party

Tom Colicchio might be all about Top Chef now, but when we asked the Craft chef for advice for budding chefs at last night's Food & Wine Best New Chefs 25th anniversary party, he surprised us all.

"You have to stay home, you have to stay in your restaurants," Colicchio told The Daily Meal. "A lot of these guys [have to] resist the temptation to go on tour and go to all these festivals and do the TV thing, and you [have to] stay home and take care of business first."

So how long until new chefs (especially those Best New Chefs kids) can afford to leave their restaurant and become television celebrities? "You [have to] grow a team [and] put a team together that will allow you to leave the restaurant at times. Knowing you have a team there to really take care of business, that's the first thing," Colicchio said. "There’s temptation now to get out there and start doing something, [but] you gotta keep that down. You gotta really limit that."

Of course, Colicchio does understand that it's a bit strange for him to be espousing this advice; his IMDB page does credit him on Top Chef, Treme, and Top Chef Masters, not to mention The Smurfs and the food politics documentary A Place at the Table. "But I’ve been doing this for 30 something years, and I didn’t start doing TV until about six years ago," Colicchio said. Fair enough.


Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio on what he's cooking — and his predictions for restaurant industry's future

Stay-at-home orders and indefinite business restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic have devastated the restaurant business as it once was, but it has also turned millions of Americans into home chefs overnight.

Cooking around the clock, especially while working from home or distance-learning with the kids, can definitely seem like a more daunting task these days. According to celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, however, meal time can be simplified with a few smart tips and tricks.

In conversation with Fox News, the “Top Chef” judge and producer discussed how to maximize the ingredients you’ve already got on hand, as well as which ingredients to buy and easy dinner recipes to try as the COVID-19 outbreak continues.

Cooking around the clock can be simplified with a few smart tips and tricks, celebrity chef Tom Colicchio said. (Tom Colicchio)

A restaurateur and passionate food activist, Colicchio also shared his predictions for the foodservice industry’s ultimate road to recovery amid an uncertain future.

FOX NEWS: As the weeks wear on, many Americans are cooking a whole lot more, while making less-frequent trips to the grocery store. What are some tricks to make the most of the ingredients you’ve already got in the fridge and pantry?

Tom Colicchio: I think before we look at what’s in the fridge and the pantry, it starts with shopping with intention, planning your meals ahead of time. And then not only planning the meals, but looking at the possible leftovers and maybe planning for those, too.

The other night I had some ribs that we made, and there was some rice, roasted carrots and fennel salad. The following day for lunch, I had leftover rice, I had a few leftover ribs, so I took all the meat off the bones, chopped it up really fine. I had some scallions, took the roasted carrots and I cut those up, and I made fried rice. Finished it with a cracked egg, put it in at the end — it’s simple. I had, essentially, pork fried rice!

So, again, knowing that when I’m putting the stuff away after dinner, I’m looking at it, going, “How am I using this next?” Obviously, you could just eat leftovers, but I just reimagined those leftovers into another meal. It’s really just stretching those dollars as best you can. But it starts with shopping and at least having a pretty good plan that when you leave [the store] you have a certain meal set up, ready to go.

FOX: As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, what are some smart kitchen staples to stock up on?

Colicchio: I think a lot of people are going to the supermarket and seeing where the “holes” are. Beans, lentils, pasta and things like that, things that you don’t have to refrigerate and aren’t going to go bad.

I had a problem with bread. I started baking recently, and I ran out of bread flour, and I could not find it any. I finally had to go out to a supplier and order a 50-pound bag! Little things like that, you can’t find.

But also, if you don’t want to cook every meal, having something like frozen peas is great. I cook some pasta and peas and that’s a dinner, especially one that my kids like. Frozen vegetables, I think that’s a good thing to have. And then fresh stuff, I think a lot of shoppers early on got nervous and they started shopping and they got too many fresh vegetables. And then all of the sudden, things start to wilt. The strategy for that is, you can always freeze everything yourself. So if you have a lot of leftover carrots, you can cut them, slice them, blanch them real quick in boiling water, chill them down under cold water, and put them in a Ziplock bag and freeze them, and then they’re all ready to go, instead of letting them go bad.

The other thing to do is if you have vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, leeks and maybe some hard squash, like butternut squash. You can always throw a quick soup together, it’s really easy to do. There are a lot of different strategies you can use to stretch the dollar and use the things that are there. And I think also, taking stock of your pantry. I’m sure there is plenty of stuff in your pantry that you haven’t seen in months that, all of a sudden, you get creative around.

FOX: Whether you’re cooking for yourself or a whole family, how can home chefs ensure no food is being wasted?

Colicchio: You can start cooking and prepping for those meals in advance, if you have the time.

The other night, I did a quick dinner. I have a farmer near me who raises pigs but he also has smoked ham hocks. I’m looking to just buy the loins and the racks, everyone’s going to want those. But I’m going to buy the shanks, so I’ve got smoked shanks. I took barley, with some carrots, celery, onions, cut it into small pieces, sweated it in olive oil. You put in the barley, smoked ham hocks, some chicken broth in there, cover it low simmer, and that was a one-pot meal that was really delicious. The following day, just take that same barley that was left over and dress it with some olive oil and vinegar and make a barley salad. I used up the leftover smoked pork that was there. And so I got two meals out of one in that one.

It’s a lot of simple things. You don’t have to go crazy and do too much, just do some simple things really well.

FOX: What recipes have been popular in your house during the pandemic?

Colicchio: I’ve been cooking up a storm! We’re into trying to keep the kids on some sort of school schedule [with] distance-learning, and I find myself busier than I’ve ever been. It was funny, the other day, we just decided to do something really small [for dinner], and my son was like “We’re not sitting down to have dinner?! What do you mean?”

"It’s a lot of simple things, you don’t have to go crazy and do too much, just do some simple things really well."

In terms of the meals, it’s pretty simple stuff — pastas, vegetables, we’ll just do a simple roast chicken and some roast vegetables. I like to do one-pot meals. So for me, getting a small roasting pan and putting like sliced fennel, potatoes, red peppers, some garlic, even a couple slices of ginger and some herbs. I kind of let that start to cook and literally take chicken pieces and put it over the top and put it in a very hot oven and that’s it! You take it out and put it on a table and that’s dinner!

FOX: When service finally resumes, what changes do you foresee for the restaurant industry? What will dining be like post-coronavirus?

Colicchio: That’s a great question… it’s something that so many of us are struggling with. I co-founded an organization called the Independent Restaurant Coalition, to sort of help focus on the needs of the industry right now, especially the needs coming out of government.

We also spend plenty of time trying to figure that out, because we all believe this is going to change a lot of industries and how business is conducted. It’s going to change how we operate restaurants, and I don’t know what that is yet.

Clearly we have to come up with some hybrid model, especially for the next year. Because à la carte dining, with the spacing that [we'll need to implement], and knowing that most likely bartenders, waiters are going to have to wear masks… People aren’t necessarily going to be very comfortable going to a restaurant like that.

If you have sales through private parties or banquet spaces where you have 120 to 300-seat banquet rooms, that business isn’t coming back any time soon. So we have to move to kind of an à la carte model, with also to-go orders. A combination of sort of chefs, and partnerships with chefs, suppliers and farmers, and stuff like that, to create takeaway boxes that can be picked up at the restaurant. So yeah, I don’t know yet.

Definitely when it reopens there will be some sort of a combination of different ways to do business… at least to get through for the next year, or until we find a vaccine.


‘Top Chef’ season 17 has a new after-show: ‘What Would Tom Do?’ [WATCH VIDEO]

Fans of the reality cooking show “Top Chef” know when a new episode is over, they can go to the Bravo site and watch the web-only “Last Chance Kitchen,” where eliminated contestants can try to battle back into the competition by defeating other dismissed players each week.

But now they have added another component of the “Top Chef” experience with an after-show aperitif, if you will, served by head judge Tom Colicchio. A five-time recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award who has been on the show since it began in 2006, he usually delivers the most spot-on criticism as well as sincere compliments while sampling the dishes that are put in front of him. This no-nonsense guy and his taste buds are almost always right. But while we often get to see Tom eating, we rarely if ever see this culinary superstar behind a stove.

But that is about to change with a digital series,”What Would Tom Do?” It reveals how the “Top Chef” top judge would have handled the challenges attempted by contestants. The first episode (watch above) features Tom skipping the windy and sandy conditions that the 15 returning All Stars faced when they cooked on an open wood fire while on the beach on the Season 17 premiere.

He says he is not going to pretend he is under the same duress as the chefs. He also doesn’t sprint about to grab his ingredients from the pantry or fight anyone off for his choice of seafood. Tom’s perky female companion on the series, Season 16 judge Nilou Motamed, states the obvious: “OK, this is a really hard challenge.” Tom, however, simply says, “I love the beach. And I love cooking over wood.” He is going to serve grilled oysters with compound butter, adding, “Let’s keep this simple and delicious.” It is a dish he actually makes in his own fireplace.

As he places gobs of butter in a bowl, a “Tom Fun Fact” flashed on the screen: “Only eat wild oysters in months that include the letter ‘R’! His helper Nilou elicits another “Tom Fun Fact,” (that compound butter = butter with stuff in it) and ends up making lemon zest. Tom, meanwhile, chops up calabrian chilis, chives and scallions along with the lemon.

“For me, this is something that is very easy to control,” he says. “And also, just in terms of being a team player, because this takes very little time, I can help everyone else on my team.” She then says, “Wouldn’t you say to them they copped out by making something way to easy?” He then chops harder with his knife to drown out her question. The fresh ingredients are mixed into the butter. while Tom adds salt and pepper.

Now it’s time to learn how to properly open oysters. Tom says, “Every oyster has a little button you can get into.” He simply slides a knife into an oyster in a towel and moves the knife along the shell to cut it. His would-be sous chef, who is imbibing some rose wine along the way, asks if he would serve the dish as an “appy” aka appetizer. He agrees as he shows how the butter on top is bubbling and cooking the oyster. They are then placed on a wooden plank covered with Morton’s ice cream salt. Sandy, a producer, rushes over over and slurps one of those oysters straight down.

How much time did the dish take? Only 18 minutes and 51 second. For what it’s worth, the oysters looked yummy and Tom has an ease and a sense of confidence about him as a cook that is refreshing, but next time introduce your co-host/helper when she appears on camera with you.

Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they&rsquore faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Thursday on Bravo. You&rsquoll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.


9 Top Chef Insider Tips and Secrets, Straight From Judge Tom Colicchio

Top Chef has filmed a whopping 14 seasons so far, and the challenges keep getting tougher and the chefs keep getting better. On each show, host Padma Lakshmi and regular judges Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio carefully judge the chefs on what food they've created and simultaneously crown a winner and educate the world on the beauty of cooking. I recently sat down with Colicchio at an event for Naked Juice's Drink Good Do Good campaign, and while he remained mum on a lot surrounding the show, he did divulge a few secrets on getting cast and how the show works.

  1. All the storylines are added postproduction. "If someone's making out with someone, I don't really care, I'm here for food only," Colicchio said of all the editing done after the show finishes filming.
  2. Judging can take several hours. While the food is eaten immediately after it's prepared, the judges will spend hours going over who should go home. "We really care and fight for a consensus," Colicchio said. And he said while the judges don't pick favorite chefs, they will try to be honest about who really deserves to be there and who falls flat.
  3. Each dish is judged independently. "You can win five in a row, but if number six isn't good, you're out. It's not cumulative," he said. That's why sometimes you'll see a fan favorite go home midseason if they make a tiny mistake. The judges don't care what you did last week, only what you're doing right now.
  4. Judging is based on a few things: is it cooked correctly what was the intention the balance of acidity, seasoning, and composition and how well do they adhere to the challenge. The judges don't use a numerical or weighted system for judging, but they go with their gut.


Tom Colicchio Won’t Serve MSNBC Viewers Anthony Bourdain’s Recipe for CNN

MSNBC programming has long feasted on political news, but soon its anchors will chew on segments related to food.

After tackling such issues as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie&rsquos &ldquoBridge-gate&rdquo scandal and the Charlie Hebdo murders in France, MSNBC is likely to turn its attention to food labeling and the effects of pollution on food and hunger, said Tom Colicchio, the celebrity chef who has joined the network as its first food correspondent.

&ldquoThere are so many issues that sound like news stories but turn out to be food stories,&rdquo the culinary maven, who may be best known for his turn on Bravo&rsquos &ldquoTop Chef,” said in an interview Wednesday.

Colicchio takes on the new role as Anthony Bourdain has gained renown for his turn as a host on CNN&rsquos travelogue series &ldquoParts Unknown.&rdquo Viewers should not expect MSNBC’s chef to wax poetic over a rare dish he finds during a trip to Tanzania or Iran.

&ldquoThis is a very different show,&rdquo said Colicchio. &ldquoThis is a more in-depth discussion about food and food policy, the effect food has on the environment, the effects of hunger in the U.S. This is a lot more serious than a travel show about food.&rdquo

As part of his MSNBC duties, Colicchio is expected to file regular reports for &ldquoMorning Joe&rdquo and &ldquoThe Rachel Maddow Show&rdquo host &ldquoStirring the Pot,&rdquo a new show on MSNBC&rsquos digital-video hub, Shift and host a series of exclusive lunch interviews with newsmakers and celebrities.

Issues regarding food &ldquoare kitchen-table issues that a lot of people want to know more about,&rdquo Colicchio said. &ldquoThere is an ever-growing fascination with how food is made, how it is produced, understanding there are complex issues with regard to food safety and food labeling.&rdquo

Among the topics Colicchio is likely to tackle early in his tenure are the ramifications of antibiotics in the food system how more transparency in food labeling might be useful and crafting government policy that can help put an end to hunger.


Tom Colicchio of Craft

“Restaurants have done things like turning their restaurant into a grocery store. That’s not going to continue. They’re going to have to go back to being a restaurant. Things like doing takeout, I think that will continue. But I’ll tell you when it’s going to stop. It’ll stop in December, because I suspect December is going to be crazy busy. There’s a lot of pent-up demand and there’s a lot of cash that has been saved. Households have been saving cash like never before. Companies that had to forego holiday parties last holiday season are going to come out and they’re going to spend. Come December, I think restaurants are going to be as busy as they’ve ever been. A lot of that to-go stuff is going to stop when that happens. I know people are saying this will change the business forever. I don’t know if it does. There are some things that will change.”

“The restaurant industry, like a lot of industries, isn’t equitable, and pay rates and things like that will change. Making it more inclusive, I think that’s here to stay. Clearly Black-owned restaurants have been having a moment. I think that will continue, especially when you look at the contributions that culture has made to dining and hasn’t really been given proper credit for. You’re going to start seeing regional African food talked about in just the way regions of Italy or regions of France are talked about. That’s exciting and I think that’s here to stay.”

“In terms of how the restaurants are actually run day to day, I don’t know. Right now people are just trying to find revenue wherever they can. I never did takeout in my restaurant, but all of a sudden I started doing takeout. People didn’t think of my restaurant as a takeout restaurant, so I was wasting my time. We were only doing a couple of orders a night, so we stopped that right away. I think that restaurants are going to go back to being restaurants. They may operate differently, again, in terms of being inclusive. But in terms of these additional revenue streams, I have a feeling once we get back to full operations a lot of those things are going to get pushed aside because it’s going to be too busy to do both.”


Meal Makeover: Top Chef's Tom Colicchio Reveals the Foods You Should Be Stocking Up On

Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

In times like these, eating healthy meals has never been more important.

Like so many Americans, Tom Colicchio understands that going to a grocery store these days isn't exactly an easy task. Between high demand, limited stock and social distancing, many shoppers are forced to get creative when it comes to mastering meals in and out of the kitchen.

But if you ask the Top Chef judge and celebrated chef, consumers do not need to panic.

"It's about learning how to adapt," Tom explained to E! News exclusively. "I wrote a book called Think Like a Chef almost 20 years ago and the whole point of the book was to get people to understand that it's really about techniques. It's not about a recipe and that's really true now."

When asked to share what ordinary Americans should have in their kitchen, Tom admitted that he "cooks a lot with olive oil." In addition, cured meats like bacon are resourceful because they last a long time. At the same time, you have to think of the people inside your home.

"It's hard to say because I think people—I know my house—there's some things we already have," the proud father explained. "They eat what they eat."

"The comfort food that your family eats? Make sure you have them," Tom continued. "Right now, everything is so up in the air…you need the familiar. You need things that comfort you. Chickens soup is one of those things especially in the winter."

And while choices may be more limited than usual, the chef and owner of Crafted Hospitality stressed the importance of eating healthy even through stressful times.

"Eating healthy is really important right now because you want to keep your immune system really strong because God forbid you get sick, if you have a strong immune system, you'll fight it off," he shared. "There are a lot of fruits and vegetables out here. It's just all the dry stuff and canned stuff that's gone. Make sure you're cooking."


Tom Colicchio on His New Bravo Show, Being a Chef on TV & Advice for First-Time Restaurateurs

OpenTable’s Jen Pelka is a recurring guest throughout the first season of the show – you’ll find her rigged up with hidden cameras as a secret diner, checking in on restaurants when they think no one is watching. Jen talked with host Tom Colicchio about how this new show is different from TopChef, what aspiring restaurateurs should think about when opening a new business, and advice for chefs who want to get into TV.

Jen Pelka: I’d love to hear about why you decided to do this show and what you think makes it different from TopChef. Why did we need this as an addition to the conversation?

Tom: It’s different from TopChef in that it’s restaurant against restaurant, so it’s not only about food. It’s about service. It’s about hospitality. It’s about how well the restaurant executes its concept. So it’s much more than just a food competition.

When you were approaching the 16 restaurants you were judging on the show, how did the experience of being in the actual restaurant as opposed to being in a studio affect the way in which you judged these restaurants?

There’s really no comparison between the judging of TopChef and Best New Restaurant. They’re completely different. There’s no judge table, and there’s no debate like on TopChef. One of the things I think a viewer gets out of it is, when you go into a restaurant and bring 30 people all at once and turn the cameras on, you get a real idea of what it’s like to run a restaurant during a busy service. So it’s not forced at all. There’s no particular “competition.” It’s literally based on how well they run service in their restaurant.

The real challenge in judging this show is that the restaurants are all very different. You have some white tablecloth restaurants, some fast casual restaurants, some mom-and-pop places, so that’s why it was essential to really understand what they were going for. Part of the judging was based on how well they delivered that concept.

So how do you compare a fine dining restaurant to a fast casual restaurant?

I think it’s looking at how well they execute their concept. If someone’s doing a fast casual restaurant or a barbecue restaurant and they’re executing at a really, really high level, you have to take that into consideration. If someone is doing a fancy white tablecloth restaurant, you know it’s going to be more expensive… the food may be better, but there’s also that value you’re looking for.

How did you select the 16 restaurants, and why did you pick the four cities that are in the show (Los Angeles, New York, Austin, and Miami)?

The four cities are obviously well-known restaurant cities, some well-known and some up and coming, so we thought it was a good mix. As far as choosing them, we were looking for restaurants that were unique and doing something different. I think once people see the first season, they’ll understand that this show is really supportive of restaurants. And that if the restaurants are here, they’re already really good, very high quality restaurants.

I’m curious about what you’re seeing in the fast casual space. There’s so much innovation, and you mentioned that a handful of the restaurants on the show are on the more casual side. Are you seeing that people are taking fast casual restaurants as seriously as the fine dining sector?

People have been eating at all kinds of restaurants for a long time. Certainly, people who run and operate fast casual restaurants take them very seriously. I think a lot of the newer fast-casual models are trying to disrupt the norm, moving away from just fast-casual burgers to do something more interesting. I think you’re taking people in the restaurant business, applying what they know from fine dining and doing what some are calling “fine casual,” and you’re just changing the model around.

Back to the show, I’m curious to hear about the secret diners, and why you thought they’d be fun or important.

Obviously a cooking competition show is not like a typical, normal review, where a critic comes in anonymously… there are a bunch of cameras and crew. They know you’re in the restaurant. So we wanted to make sure that the experience didn’t change from when the cameras were on. It’s just a way to keep everybody honest.

Did you find that a lot of the restaurateurs took your advice and implemented changes for when the secret diners were in?

We were pointing out things they already knew. If they were having a rough service, they didn’t need me to point that out. If I’m having a particularly rough night, I don’t need someone to tell me. And there are a lot of different ways to do things and a lot of styles of restaurateurs, and everyone doesn’t need to do things my way. I certainly didn’t want to go in and say, “This is how I would do it, and therefore this is how you have to do it if you want to win this competition.” It’s not about that at all. It’s about what they’re doing. The suggestions that are being made are pretty basic things they’ve already figured out. It’s really about whether they’ll make that mistake again.

I’ll put this back on OpenTable… If I go on and read a review, and someone says the fish was salty, I could jump through all sorts of hoops and say, “Oh my God, the fish was salty.” But if I read the same thing four or five different times, all in the same night, then I know I have a problem. It’s not about if someone made a mistake, but if they’re having a problem. I’ll take it a step further, if someone said “the food is salty,” that means absolutely nothing to me because I have 12 people in the kitchen cooking. But if I’m reading reviews and I’m seeing the salmon was overseasoned, the halibut was overseasoned, the scallops were overseasoned, well guess what: they’re all fish dishes. The person who is cooking the fish has a heavy hand. From there I can go and say: we’ve got a problem. I can check and see who was working that night and go, I know Johnny was cooking the fish that night, and now I can work with him on that. So again, it’s not as easy as saying someone made a mistake, you have to start looking for patterns. And once you establish a pattern, then you can identify where there’s a problem that needs fixing.

Makes sense. Smart. I’m curious, for restaurateurs that are just starting out and opening a restaurant for the first time, what are the most common mistakes you see, especially in their early opening days?

It’s funny. I had this conversation last night with Adam Platt. He said that he can just tell walking into a dining room whether or not the restaurant feels confident. If he can feel that the room is really confident, that means they’re well-trained, that means they’ve had enough time to be trained, that it feels professionally done. If he goes in and it feels like opening night jitters, he gets the sense that things are a little out of place. And I agree with that, that you have to have a certain amount of confidence that the staff has been trained so that you can let them do their job, and not micromanage them.

The other problem I see with restaurants just opening up, is they have too much of a game plan going in. And I’ll give you an example: at Craft when we opened up, we had all these categories on the menu, like meats and fish, and everything was a la carte. We also had categories of condiments and sauces, and it was confusing the hell out of people. But we didn’t sit there and go, “Well, this is just how we do it, let’s just let people figure it out.” We said “This is causing too much confusion,” and we got rid of those two categories. So, sometimes you have to look at what you’re doing. You might have a plan… but if it’s not working, you may have to make a change to that plan. You have to remain flexible.

I think that really goes back to what you were saying about listening to people, reading reviews.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Listen, if you get a bad review, it hurts. But you may want to actually look at that review and be honest with yourself, and ask, “Is this really happening?” and if the answer is yes, you can change that. You have to get past the idea that it’s a review, and think of it as feedback. It just happens to get published. That’s why it hurts. But it is good feedback. When it comes to user-generated reviews like OpenTable or some of the other sites, it’s more about searching for patterns, looking from more of a macro-lens over time to see how you’re doing. But they’re all good feedback tools to make necessary changes.

When you are thinking about opening a new restaurant, how much do you think about the business model?

It’s really important. If you have an unsustainable business model, you’re going to go out of business, so what’s the point? Things like leases, rent, size of staff, build out, they’re all important. Nowadays, especially in New York, it’s almost impossible to go into a space with no venting. It’s just too expensive. In some cases, you’re looking at six-million dollar build-outs. It’s really, really hard to get that money back with a typical 10- or 15-year lease.

Yeah, six-million dollars is a lot to chip away at. A few more questions before I let you go. In your own career as a restaurateur, what attracts you to doing television?

When I first did it, I was very reluctant. In fact, when I first signed onto TopChef, I said no three times, and then I got a better sense of what the show was. What was important to me was that the show wasn’t about me, it was about these chefs in the competition. I was just facilitating. It’s the same thing with this show. It’s not about me. It’s about these restaurants.

And part of it was about the challenge, about doing something different. Even though it’s about food, it’s still very different. Producing a TV show presents its own set of challenges. Also, it helped that it wasn’t a long shoot. It wasn’t three months. It was five weeks. So it wasn’t taking up all my time. It was five weeks where I was working every other day, so it was manageable. Other people were doing it and doing it well. I think if I had one restaurant and I were just starting out my career, I probably wouldn’t have done it, but being already established at the time, and having a team of people back home made calling out a lot easier.

What advice would you give to restaurateurs who are interested in getting involved with a cooking competition show?

Be yourself. Don’t feel you have to play a character because you’re on TV. Do your food. Just stay true to yourself. The camera’s going to pick up a lot. Don’t do or say anything, or act a certain way, because someone in the media told you that you have to be a certain way. Just be yourself.

Last question: Right now on Open For Business, we’re running a 31-day series that is a boot camp to get your restaurant in shape for the New Year, and we have tips from great restaurateurs all around the country. I’m curious if you have any rituals with your restaurant group that at the beginning of the year helps you reboot.

This is something you kind of have to remind yourself of everyday: we’re so busy running a restaurant that it’s rare to sit and take the time to talk. To sit and have a dialogue, to have planning meetings to look forward. Restaurants are always reacting to things because it’s such a fluid business and things are always changing all the time. But you need to take time to actually sit down and plan for the future. Look forward and get ahead of some of the problems. Just get your team together and listen.


Ina Garten reminded her followers to not allow the coronavirus outbreak to stop them from celebrating traditions — and shared some freezer tips.

"In the middle of a crisis, celebrating traditions and staying connected give us a sense of much-needed normalcy," she wrote on Instagram. "Have lunch with a friend over FaceTime or bake something! For St. Patrick's Day, I made Irish Scones with jam and cream — with ingredients I had in my fridge and pantry! If you don't have currants, you can substitute the same amount of raisins, dried cranberries, chopped pecans — or anything delicious that you have!"

Garten also shared a message on Instagram about using what's in your pantry.

"I know so many of you are very anxious about what's to come because I am too. The one thing we can do, though, is cook for the people we love who are sheltered in place with us," she wrote. "Over the next days and weeks, I'll post lots of ideas for delicious things to make from your pantry and fridge — along with substitutions if you only have granulated sugar and not brown sugar, or onions and not shallots! Please stay safe and we will take care of each other through this crisis."

A week later, Ina Garten also shared on Instagram her tips for making use of your freezer, from allowing food to cool to room temperature before packing it into containers to defrosting food in the fridge overnight rather than on the counter.


Master Class: Tom Colicchio on thinking outside the vinaigrette box

Chef Colicchio’s advice: Be adventurous in flavor combinations and use it to marinate or braise meat or fish.

In my many years as a professional chef and an occasional dinner party guest, I’ve been on the receiving end of my fair share of spontaneous, frustrated confessions from home cooks feeling insecure about their repertoire of dishes. Some vent that they are short on time, others that their kitchens are tiny, they can’t spend a fortune on ingredients, they have limited access to some of the fancy equipment that we pros take for granted.

These stumbling blocks are perfectly understandable. But to my mind, one of the biggest constraints on culinary creativity doesn’t require time, space or money to overcome. It’s the simple force of convention: the ways in which we’re conditioned to eat certain ingredients in specific combinations and contexts.

Convention is the reason why most home cooks see eggs as primarily a breakfast food, rhubarb as a dessert ingredient and olive oil as a savory one. Breaking down those barriers opens up worlds of possibility. It gives rise to things like farm egg and asparagus salad, rhubarb chutney and olive oil ice cream.

Consider the vinaigrette, which I rate as the most under-appreciated sauce in existence. It is a sauce, after all, and relegating it to cold salads ignores its vast potential with fish and meat, where it can work as a marinade, as a braising medium and as a finishing sauce. Likewise, limiting yourself to the same old combination of red wine vinegar and olive oil misses out on the huge range of flavors achievable in a vinaigrette.

Let’s start with the basics. A vinaigrette is a mixture of acid, liquid fat and seasonings. Most herbs and spices are fat-soluble, which means their flavors really bloom in the presence of oil. Fat also provides the body necessary to help a sauce cling to the surface of foods. The function of the vinegar, in addition to dissolving aromatic compounds found in herbs and spices, is to brighten up a dish, adding a tangy counterpoint to earthy, rich or spicy flavors.

A traditional vinaigrette is a temporary emulsion — a finicky mixture of one liquid dispersed in another (in this case, oil in vinegar). The challenge with an emulsion is to combine two liquids that do not dissolve in each other. One way to do this is mechanically: use the force of a whisk or, better yet, a blender, to physically break the oil into millions of individual droplets.

Emulsifiers, such as the proteins found in milk or egg yolks, help lower the surface tension of the oil and make it easier to break apart. Stabilizers, like mustard, tomato paste, egg white or roasted garlic, help emulsified liquids stay evenly combined. Vinaigrettes tend to be unstable emulsions because of the high proportion of oil to vinegar, so they separate out (“break,” in kitchen parlance) easily. Forgoing emulsifiers and stabilizers, adding in the oil all in one go or getting the vinaigrette very hot or cold will likely result in a broken emulsion.

Luckily, unlike a mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce that needs to stay emulsified to be useable, vinaigrettes are perfectly acceptable either emulsified or broken, regardless of whether they’re being used as a dressing or marinade or braising medium. Often in the case of salad dressings, the oil and vinegar aren’t even emulsified to begin with they’re just drizzled over separately. It’s simply a matter of preference.

When making a vinaigrette, three parts oil to one part vinegar is a good starting point, but this will need to be adjusted based on how pungent your acid is, as well as your personal preferences. Start by whisking together the acid, added flavorings and the emulsifier/stabilizer, if you’re using one. Add the oil in a constant stream, whisking continuously, so that a smooth sauce begins to form. You can follow the same process with a blender. Taste it, and adjust the amount of oil accordingly.

Once you have this technique down, the possible combinations are almost endless:

Acids: Vinegars (red, white, balsamic, sherry, rice, malted barley, Champagne, apple cider), citrus juices, verjus. These differ not only in flavor but also in acidity level. Rice vinegar is one of the mildest acids, and wine vinegars among the strongest, with lemon juice somewhere in the middle. Vinegars will state their acidity level (a percentage, usually between 4% and 7%) on the bottle, but you can also just use your sense of taste as a judge and adjust oil usage accordingly.

Fats: Canola oil, olive oil, nut oils (peanut, walnut, hazelnut), bacon fat, heavy cream, crème fraîche. Peanut oil and canola oil are neutral in flavor and aroma, whereas nut oils and certain olive oils can be overpowering if used in large quantities. Keep in mind that animal fats, like bacon fat, are solid at room temperature.

Emulsifiers/stabilizers: Mustard, egg yolks, roasted garlic, fruit and vegetable purees, stocks. These often impart flavor, but their primary function is to help in mounting the oil into the acid and/or keeping the vinaigrette in suspension.

Flavorings: Shallots, leafy herbs, fresh and dried spices. Their sole function is to add specific flavors and aromas to the vinaigrette. Especially in an oil-heavy vinaigrette, leafy herbs will tend to discolor over time.

Consider using a vinaigrette as a punchy sauce to transform meat or fish, adding a brightness to complement roasted or grilled flavors. Vinaigrette is a refreshing alternative to richer butter- and stock-based sauces. Chimichurri, an herb vinaigrette that’s commonly served with grilled steak in South America, is the most common example of a vinaigrette used as a sauce for meat.

Vinaigrettes also make exceptional marinades, with the oil basting the surface of the meat while the vinegar flavors it and increases its ability to retain moisture. This technique works especially well with small pieces of meat, as marinades don’t penetrate deeply and will only work close to the surface of the protein.

Fish should be marinated in vinaigrette for no more than 30 minutes, and meats can stay in the marinade for up to several hours. The more acidic the marinade and delicate the protein, the shorter the marinating time, because over time strong acids will begin to change the texture of the meat (for the worse).

Vinaigrette can also be used as a braising medium for seafood, infusing the flesh deeply with flavor while keeping it moist. When most people think of braising they think of cooking meat low and slow in the oven, but the technique really just refers to searing an ingredient and then cooking it gently in liquid, either in the oven or on the stovetop. It’s advisable to use vinaigrettes only for quick braises (less than 10 minutes), otherwise the vinegar will begin to flavor the protein too pungently.

The recipe for braised sea bass illustrates the technique behind a quick stovetop braise. Any skin-on fish can be substituted, and any vinaigrette. Just keep in mind that the heat will break the vinaigrette, so avoid using cream, chunky purees or anything else that will look unappetizing when broken.


Watch the video: The Fastest Sendoff In Top Chef History. Top Chef: Texas (December 2021).