Tom Colicchio spent much of his formative years in the kitchen, cooking with his grandmother and mother in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he was born in August 1962. But, it wasn’t until his father encouraged him to become a chef that the self-trained cook, who specializes in American cuisine, decided to pursue cooking as a career.
He landed his first restaurant job at Evelyn’s Seafood Restaurant when he was only 17, fine-tuning his skills before making the move to New York City where he would work at such restaurants as Gotham Bar & Grill, Rakel, The Quilted Giraffe, and Mondrain. During his stint as the executive chef at Mondrain, Colicchio earned a spot on Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chef” top ten list in 1991.
Eventually, Colicchio spread his culinary wings, opening Gramercy Tavern in New York City in 1994 where he remained as co-owner until 2006. During his 12 year tenure with Gramercy Tavern, his restaurant earned the honor being named Zagat Survey’s Most Popular Restaurant in New York City in 2003 and in 2005.
Colicchio opened the first of his Craft restaurants in 2001. Craft currently has locations in New York City, Las Vegas, Dallas, Atlanta, and New Jersey. Each dish is made with a single main ingredient, and diners share plates to enjoy a fresh culinary experience.
On the heels of the success of Craft, Colicchio followed with Craftbar, which is the same concept as Craft only in a casual setting; steakhouse Craftsteak, and sandwich shop Witchcraft.
Colicchio’s latest restaurant, Colicchio and Sons in New York City, prides itself on working with local farmers to serve fresh food and grass-fed animals.
With his dedication to fresh foods, Colicchio has earned celebrity status in the culinary world, garnering The James Beard Foundation award for Outstanding Chef in 2010 and Best Chef in New York in 2000. Bon Apetit named him Chef of the Year in 2002.
Colicchio’s culinary expertise and style has also become popular with television viewers.
Perhaps best known as the head judge of Top Chef, Colicchio has led the show since its inaugural season in 2006. Colicchio has also appeared on numerous television shows, among them The 62 Primetime Emmy Awards, The Today Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Bonnie Hunt Show, and Rachael Ray. He is currently executive producing the documentary Hungry in America, which is tentatively scheduled for release in 2012.
Colicchio recently added pitchman to his resume, plugging Diet Coke, a move that landed him the title of “sell-out” from Top Chef All-Star Elia Aboumrad. Colicchio maintains his position that promoting a product he uses and sells in his restaurants is one that makes smart business sense. He’s also the author of Think Like a Chef and Craft of Cooking.
Award-winning chef, author, and advertising pitchman are all part of Colicchio’s repertoire. And, he recently added the title of lifesaving hero. Colicchio performed the Heimlich maneuver on chef Alice Waters during a Washington DC benefit in 2009, saving her life.