Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio's thoughts on why Frank blew the breakfast challenge.

on Dec 6, 2006

I exchanged a look with Johnny Schaeffer, my long-time right-hand at Gramercy Tavern, and without a beat, we got to work. We reached into our unused prep for hors-d'oeuvres and pulled out a lobe of foie-gras. We quickly roasted it off in tasting portions and plated it with the original green onion chutney which we turned into a sauce that nicely cut the unctuousness of the liver. We tasted and seasoned as we went, and reworked the presentation so that it made sense with the new dish. The course was a hit, and our hostess came back into the kitchen to compliment us before rejoining her guests and getting good and drunk. I mention this not to toot my own horn (though Johnny deserves some credit for unflappability) but to illustrate just how important it is not to be locked into one single idea when cooking. When I teach cooking classes, I always ask my students to put down their pencils and papers (they hate this) because if I've done my job well they will be able to replicate the dish I'm about to teach with just about any ingredient they like. I am teaching techniques, not recipes, and I want them to substitute the elements that they most enjoy when the time comes to cook on their own. Not a salmon lover? Use sea bass instead -- the important thing is not the fish, but to know how to test for doneness. In other words, I refuse to let them shut down their own imaginations and take safe harbor in a single, fixed recipe.