Tom Colicchio

Tom's take on the group's animosity toward Marcel.

on Jan 3, 2007

that was interesting about these challenges was they did a great job of illustrating people's different work styles. I remember being asked to participate years ago in a mystery box challenge for New York magazine staged at my good friend Alfred Portale's restaurant, The Gotham Bar & Grill. Three other NY chefs cooked alongside us. I don't remember what was in the box, or even what we all came up with. What I do remember was that the five chefs in the room had five very distinct styles. Alfred was methodical and detailed -- he sketched out his whole dish ahead of time and then created lists. Another chef was noisy and talkative, trying one thing and then scrapping that idea and trying something else. I tend to work in a pretty focused way, without the final, completed dish in mind. For me cooking feels like sculpture. I dive into the ingredients and once I start working, the dish begins to reveal itself. Each step inspires the next step until a completed dish emerges. I also taste as I go, and let that guide me as well. The important thing is that there is no wrong or right way to go about this. Alfred's work style -- while completely different than my own -- produces some of the most delicious food I've ever eaten. That said, when people with different work styles are asked to collaborate, it can be tense. Witness the group's frustration when Marcel asked for time to deliberate in coming up with his "deadly sin" dish; the rest wanted to brainstorm as a group, but that simply isn't Marcel's style. When I nose my way around the Top Chef kitchen, I see different work styles at play and I don't judge anyone who seems to be verbal, or actively darting about while working -- I recognize it for the personal style that it is (disorganization is another thing altogether -- that's not a style, that's a liability). Cooking can be a very solitary act, so I do my best to ask questions that will open it up for the cameras and the viewers. I recognize the time pressure our chefs are under, though, so I'm never offended when someone says, "I can't talk right now, chef, I'm cooking." Believe me, I've been there.