Beats + Bites

Tom Colicchio Reveals How His Humble Upbringing Inspired Him to Become a Chef: "I Hustled My Ass Off"

The judge on Bravo's Top Chef is opening up about his New Jersey childhood.

Tom Colicchio was not always a high-profile chef, entrepreneur, Emmy- and James Beard-award winner, and judge on Bravo's Top Chef. And on the new digital series Beats + Bites with the Potash Twins, he's sharing more about what life was like in his earlier days — and how that upbringing inspired him to achieve greatness. 

At Tom's own Temple Court restaurant in Manhattan — which Ezra and Adeev Potash call "one of the most Instagrammable restaurants in New York City" — Tom got real alongside his identical twin foodie show hosts, as well as fellow esteemed guest, the legendary musician Wynton Marsalis.

"I grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, blue-collar town. My dad was a corrections officer in the country jail. My mom managed a school cafeteria," Tom shared. "I grew up scrappy, I grew up hungry, I grew up wanting to get out of my town. It was my dad who suggested that I become a chef."

Tom wanted to go for it — but took a moderated approach. "In New York City, there's that Frank Sinatra thing — you get one chance and that's it. And for me, that rang true. And so I hustled my ass off learning my craft in New Jersey before taking that shot in New York."

He added, "I promised myself if I found that other thing that I had a gift for, I'd practice it. And cooking was it."

It sure is, Tom.

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