Top Chef star Tom Colicchio acts as the voice of authority on the show, with his unique position as the only restaurateur and professional chef on the panel of regular judges. While host Padma Lakshmi is a cookbook author, Gail Simmons is a food expert from Food and Wine Magazine, and Ted Allen has been the go-to food guy on Queer Eye, only Tom knows what it takes to run a professional kitchen and put out quality food night after night.
Each Top Chef contestant followed a different path to the show, but a love of food unites the group. What was Tom’s own path to his current career? He recently talked about his upbringing and described how it brought him to his life in food and cooking.
Tom says that his early experience fishing with his grandfather gave him an sense at a young age that food was a source of connection and pleasure.
“It was my job to come home — I had to clean the fish,” Tom said. “So, I learned to filet fish when I was about 4 years old. And then we would just cook all afternoon and eat that night, and it would last all night long.
“So, something as simple as going out for day fishing turned into a feast. I didn’t know any other way, that’s just the way I was raised, and I kind of expect that from everybody.”
The idea of turning food into the focal point was continued by his mother. Tom said of his mom, “It was a way of her expressing love and it was clear that it was so important to her to have a meal on the table and have us all sitting together. And I think that really also transfers into what I do today — ultimately, we’re here to make people happy, and that I got from my mom.”
The Top Chef judge got started on his own food career early. At thirteen, he worked his way into a job as a snack bar grill cook. It sounds like an arduous job for a young man, but he loved it.
“It was the best job I ever had,” Tom said. “I found out how much I really enjoyed it. Not only did I enjoy it but I enjoyed the physical aspect of it, sort of working the griddle and sort of timing everything and getting everything down — it was a blast, it was a lot of fun.”
And a couple years later, Tim’s own father made the suggestion that he pursue cooking as a career. “It’s probably one of the few times I listened to him,” he said. He headed to culinary school and then continued onto his career in food, parlaying those early positive experiences into the success he’s had today.
– Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of Bravo)