National: Colicchio Returns To His Roots

Tom Colicchio has a lot going for him. A pile of wildly successful Craft-branded restaurants far flung throughout the country, national celebrity as host of Top Chef, an oh-so-shiny bald pate. But one thing his fame and fortune haven’t delivered is the one thing he started with in the first place: A kitchen of his own, where he could man the stoves himself and directly oversee the plating and service of a handful of happy diners.

So now that he’s rich and famous enough to build a small, humble restaurant, he’s building himself a small, humble restaurant: the tentatively-named Tom: Tuesday Dinner, which will be located in the private dining room of his New York Craft flagship, and will run dinner service every other Tuesday, to the tune of a few benjamins a head. The first seating is October 14.

While we can see this raising eyebrows in some circles, and we certainly see the ironic circularity of the situation, we are ultimately of the opinion that this kind of return-to-the-kitchen situation is precisely what’s needed to counteract the current national scourge of celeb chef empires. For every Mario Batali, who can effortlessly pull off helming Babbo in New York and Osteria Mozza in LA with equal aplomb, there are a dozen wannabe-national chefs like Marcus Samuelsson, whose C-House flounders helplessly in Chicago while in New York, his Merkato 55 circles the drain. Not to mention Wolfgang Puck, who has become little more than a glorified Chef Boyardee: a well-known name and a smiling face, readily available on soup cans and in your grocer’s freezer.

What Colicchio’s doing is a smart antidote to Puck-style market oversaturation (or Samuelsson-style too-much-too-soon). While anyone with basic cable knows Tom’s name and face, and anyone in New York, Atlanta, LA, or Las Vegas is within 30 minutes of a menu he’s personally signed off on, he’s taking it one step further. He’s simultaneously appeasing his original fans, the ones who knew him by taste instead of by DVR, and also shoring up the core value of his celebrity. Both of these, fortuitously, are achieved merely by offering the real thing: Himself, in a kitchen, making a plate of food just for you.

Colicchio Cooks! [Diner’s Journal]
Name This Restaurant [Diner’s Journal]
More Details on Colicchio’s New Project, Tom: Tables Now Available! [Grub Street]
Craft [MenuPages]
Craft [Official Site]

National: Colicchio Returns To His Roots