How Did I Get Here?

Tom Colicchio

Owner, Crafted Hospitality; head judge, Top Chef
  • Education
  • Elizabeth High School, Elizabeth, N.J., class of 1980
  • Work Experience
  • 1980–82
    Busboy, prep cook, Evelyn’s Seafood, Elizabeth
  • 1984
    Night chef, Hilton Secaucus Hotel, New Jersey
  • 1985–86
    Line cook, sous chef, Quilted Giraffe, New York
  • 1987–88
    Line cook, co-chef, 40 Main Street, Milburn, N.J.
  • 1988
    Line cook, Hôtel de France, Auch, France
  • 1990–93
    Executive chef, Mondrian, New York
  • 1994–2006
    Co-owner and executive chef, Gramercy Tavern
  • 2001–Present
    Owner and chef, Craft
  • 2002–Present
    Owner and chef, Crafted Hospitality
  • 2006–Present
    Head judge and executive producer, Top Chef
  • Life Lessons
  • “Change quickly. You typically don’t get a second chance.”
  • “Be your own farm team. If you don’t provide opportunities to grow, people leave.”
  • “Make people happy. What else is there?”
  • “I was hired to scoop ice cream and do the cash register at a swim club, and within a week I was doing all the short-order cooking for $275 a week under the table.”
  • In the kitchen of his apartment in East Orange, N.J., during his early 20s
    “It was a four-star restaurant. I was still planning on culinary school, but once I was promoted from line cook to sous chef, that was it.”
  • “They did a lot of the same things I did, but in France you learn why.”
  • Judging on Top Chef in 2014 with (from left) Jon Favreau, Padma Lakshmi, Emeril Lagasse, and Gail Simmons
  • “In early July, we’re opening a restaurant called Fowler & Wells, our first in New York in six years. It will feature modern American cuisine with nods to the classic technique of turn-of-the-century New York City.”
  • “It’s not so different from my regular job, which is to give young cooks honest feedback about their work.”
  • As a freshman in high school
    “Nowadays I would’ve been diagnosed with ADD. You know, IQ says one thing, grades say something else.”
  • “I worked in restaurants all over the Eastern Seaboard. Who can keep track?”
  • “I usually leave this one off my résumé.”
  • With Meyer, late ’90s
  • “Danny Meyer and I went to Italy for a week, and I said, ‘If we can travel together, we can work together.’ So we opened Gramercy Tavern.”