Tom ColicchioTom Colicchio on “Top Chef.” (Glenn Watson/Bravo)

It’s been a busy year for Tom Colicchio, a chef who was plenty busy already. “Top Chef” entered its third season, and Mr. Colicchio was still along for the ride, telling aspiring chefs where they went wrong and right, lending the show a kind of gravitas that keeps it from feeling too silly and melodramatic.

He expanded his Craft empire into Los Angeles, opening a Craft there. Here in New York, he tended to the original Craft as well as Craftsteak, Craftbar and all those ‘wichcrafts.

He nonetheless squeezed out some time to answer our list of chef questions. Without further ado:

Who in your life has influenced your cooking the most?

I don’t consider anyone a mentor, but if I had to highlight one experience that had a lasting impression on me as a young cook/chef, it would be the two months I spent in Michel Bras’s kitchen in Laguiole, France.

Which book has had the biggest impact?

“La Technique,” by Jacques Pepin.

Which foreign country (or region) do you most enjoy eating in?

It’s very difficult to narrow this down to one specific place, but I would have to say Piedmont, Italy, during white truffle season.

Which restaurant meal from the past lives most vividly in your memory?

About 20 years ago, I was a cook at the Hotel de France in Gascogne, where I met Kerry Heffernan. While on a road trip, we visited the celebrated French chef Michel Guerard’s restaurant, Les Prés d’Eugénie, a Relais & Chateaux property. This was my first (Michelin) three-star dining experience. And although I can’t remember exactly what I had, it left a huge impression on me at the time.

Which three cooking tools or gadgets are your favorites?

Ten-inch chef’s knife, peppermill, kitchen scissors.

What’s your favorite music to play in the kitchen?

It really depends on my mood, but I generally want something upbeat and with a groove, so I would have to say reggae.

Which are the most overrated — and underrated —seasonings?

The most overrated seasonings are truffle oil and micro-greens. I don’t want to see micro-greens in my kitchen. The most underrated has to be salt and pepper. These seasonings are so essential, but something home cooks especially tend to ignore or not appreciate the importance of.

Is there a guilty secret — something canned, something hokey — in your arsenal of ingredients?


Is there a rule of conduct or etiquette in your kitchen that you enforce above all others?

Clean up after yourself!

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done in a restaurant kitchen?

Well, I did do something recently that was quite embarrassing. I had a cook-off in Aspen with Bobby Flay, and I was roasting a whole bacon-wrapped liver in the oven. I completely failed to consider the problems that the altitude was likely to cause, and when I removed the liver from the oven, it was completely raw.

Which item in your home refrigerator would you least like to cop to?

Frozen pizza, I guess.

Is there a food you can’t bring yourself to like?

Okra! It’s just slimy. And sea cucumbers. And grated mountain yam.

What’s the best New York City restaurant that no one talks that much about? (We’ll trust you not to plug a friend.)

Etats-Unis on the Upper East Side.

You did something awful and are sentenced to die. Dead Chef Walking! What’s your final meal — and we’re not talking five or six courses, though you can have dessert — before you go?

My mom’s gravy (and I’m talking about Italian red sauce).