Colicchio's forthcoming 1 Hotel & Homes restaurant will serve organic, Mediterranean-type fare, and he'll "lean on" fellow chef Michael Schwartz for tips on local farmers.
Top Chef judge and restaurateur Tom Colicchio is opening a restaurant in Miami.
Most people know Tom Colicchio as the longstanding lead judge and incisive voice of taste and reason on Bravo's Top Chef. Those who get to New York often have likely eaten at one of his restaurants: Craft, Colicchio & Sons, and Riverpark, as well as his farm-to-table restaurant at the Topping Rose House in the Hamptons. In the coming months, Colicchio will be opening an as yet unnamed restaurant in the soon to be LEED-certified 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach. Here, Colicchio talks to Ocean Drive about the restaurant's food and philosophy.
Why Miami, why now?
TOM COLICCHIO: Why not? It’s a good time. I had looked at Miami over the years and nothing clicked for whatever reason. Why now? It’s I think because of what the 1 Hotel is all about, this idea of an eco-friendly place that feels very natural. These things are all important.
Is that going to translate into your cuisine?
TC: It already does. In all of my restaurants, with the exception of one, all of the meat is antibiotic-free. Probably 95 percent of what we buy is organic. We care about the effects of what we buy and how our food is grown. And I say that not only as a chef, but as a father.
Is it going to be a Mediterranean concept?
TC: Well . . . yes and no. Whether you’re in South Florida or if you’re in the Mediterranean or anywhere where it’s kind of warm and there’s water, I always have this idea you’re on a sailboat. You get off, you get to land and what do you want? You want something simple and grilled. You want really high quality fish. It’s Mediterranean only because it’s olive oil-based and not butter-based.
How will Miami’s environment influence the cuisine?
TC: It’ll be mostly seafood. And then I’ve got to do my homework and obviously I’ll get some help from some friends of mine just to find out who the local farmers are. Michael Schwartz is a friend—we kind of grew up cooking together. So you know, I kind of lean on him a little bit, too. And I would love to figure out a way to actually grow up on the roof. We have a system that we use in New York where we’re growing food in milk crates, and it’s really effective.
When you're growing up as a boy, food is often about stuffing your face. When did you realize food could actually be a beautiful experience?
TC: I remember . . . there’s something about the process of cooking. Looking back on it now, I would have been diagnosed with ADD. I’ve been studying up recently about this . . . there’s this brain science that says the function of your brain—from getting stuff out of your brain to actually writing—is different than just what you need for fine motor skills. It’s a different pathway. I have a very hard time writing. So finding food and being able to have an idea, make it happen, and put it on a plate was like freedom to me. But you know, sometimes you find something that you’re meant to do at a very young age. For me it was very comforting to know that I had actually mastered something.