Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio shares his wisdom about presenting food on TV. He would know — he's never had a major disaster!

on Dec 3, 2008

We were trying to distract them, because this is exactly what happens on air: The hosts will be asking a barrage of questions throughout. Speaking of the host, always ask him or her to help you ("Can you stir this for me?"), which none of our cheftestants did. Engage the host. He or she is the one with whom the audience feels a connection, so you are being introduced to your viewers through the host and need to establish that you have a rapport with him or her. No matter what. Once, in Dallas, the on-air talent mispronounced my name and introduced me as the new chef of the W Hotel. I didn't correct him, which would have been a gaffe, but at the end I just put in a plug for "the new Craft Restaurant at the W Hotel". As for your rapport with the audience, mugging like Daniel did doesn't usually go over well. It's just unprofessional. And as for rapport with the crew, I always bring a ton of extra food for the stagehands. These folks have been at work since 4 a.m., so by the time you're on at 10, they're pretty hungry.

Finally, when doing a segment on TV, you're usually there for a reason such as a new restaurant. You want to take that moment and shine, plug your work, and, in the very short time allotted, find that one message to put out there and then stay on that message the whole time, using descriptive words that help convey the food to an audience that only has a visual of it. Ariane did all of that really well. She mentioned her restaurant in New Jersey right up front, she highlighted the fresh Jersey ingredients that she'd chosen to honor the state, and pointed out that the ingredients were readily available and the recipe easily accessible to the home viewer. The only caveat I'll make is that you want to pick a signature dish that will help set you up, and there wasn't anything unique enough about Ariane's selection to do that for her.

This challenge was a test of both flavor and presentation, and presentation of the chef as well as the food It was as "New York" as a challenge could be, and I encourage our cheftestants to hone the skills required to master it. By the way, I was asked to do Top Chef based on a segment the producer of Top Chef saw on the Today show. I'm glad that segment went off without a hitch.