Tom Colicchio

Tom on restaurant wars, and why Tre's exit could be controversial.

on Aug 22, 2007

WHY WERE YOU IN THE KITCHEN DURING SERVICE AND WHAT DID YOU SEE?

I thought it was important for me to be there. We heard grumbles that some of the chefs weren't working right in the kitchen, and I wanted to see how each chef directed the other chefs and teammates and how they interacted with the front of house people. I don't think I made them nervous being there -- I just watched them. I got to eat everything cooked in the kitchen, and it was great watching them work and seeing who took responsibility and stepped up. I found Sara really in command of her teammates. She had them make stuff over when it wasn't right. The other team was too lax in letting stuff go out that wasn't right.

WAS THAT TRE?

Tre was the chef. The buck stops with him. He should've pushed CJ. I don't think he tried the lobster -- he dumped it on CJ and said it was his deal.

I THINK HIS DISMISSAL IS BOUND TO BE CONTROVERSIAL.

I think so too. If I were writing a blog I would've titled it "Sometimes the Best Chef Doesn't Win" or something. We judge based on the performance in that episode. We all thought Tre was someone who should've been in the finale. I have been to his restaurant Abacus in Dallas; Tre does a great job, and he also was a total class act all the way through. He stayed focused and in shape and didn't get sidetracked by drinking or any distractions. Even when he left he was a class act. Even though he believes in his heart that he is a superior chef, I think he knows that this mistake took him out of the competition. He's a real class act.

SO THEN WHY EXACTLY DID HE GO HOME AND NOT CJ?

One of the things we looked at were all the dishes he was responsible for. So we felt the salmon dish was not great universally -- conceptually it was a bad dish. I thought the scallop was good, not great. That beef dish that we'd commented on the day before and said we didn't care for it? He didn't change it! Crusting a filet mignon, as Anthony Bourdain pointed out, is very 80s and not very inventive. He did the same dish exactly the second time around. He was running the kitchen with no intensity, it was very lackadaisical. I never got a sense that they were really pushing it, and they weren't cooking as if their chance of staying in the competition depended on it. I think Tre was responsible for setting that tone.