CHef Tom ColicchioThe past two years have been spent fighting for the survival of the restaurant sector. It hasn’t left him that much time to actually eat in any of the restaurants he’s trying to help.
“I really don’t get out that much,”The Top Chef head judge andThe founder of Crafted Hospitality Restaurant Group admits to me that he has never eaten anything great. He instead mentions simple pasta with bacon and peas. andOlive oil he had prepared for himself that night.
Bravo will be rebroadcasting Top Chef tonight at 9 p.m. on Bravo. Houston, Texas. They are both high quality. and the show’s production values may have increased since it first premiered 16 years ago this week. However, Colicchio’s dedication to food that tastes good above all else has never wavered.
Emmy Award-winning Food Network show, “The Greatest” is so loved by the world of food that other more popular reality programs are often held to higher standards. So when news came out around last season’s finale that winner Gabe Erales had been fired from his job as executive chef at Austin’s Comedor for alleged violations of the restaurant’s sexual harassment policy—two months after Top Chef’s 18th season had wrapped—fans demanded answers.
Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef host, tweeted the tweet at that time. “As someone who has been sexually harassed, this topic is a serious one and merits openness. We filmed Top Chef in October of last year & were not aware of the allegations now coming out about Gabe. This should be investigated & the network should consider its best action.”Then she added: “To be clear, no one has alleged sexual harassment on the record or otherwise to Bravo/Top Chef and we judges didn’t have any indication of inappropriate behavior from Gabe during his time on set.”
Erales’ chef/partner at Comedor, Phillip Speer, said that EralesWas “fired for repeated violations of the company’s ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women.” EralesHe finally broke his silence by apologizing for his actions to his wife and claiming that he’d had a “consensual relationship with a co-worker and later reduced her work hours, which in combination was a poor judgment call and led to my termination after I filmed Top Chef.” (We have yet to hear his alleged victim’s side of the story.)
Until now, ColicchioThe controversy had never been addressed in any manner. andHe mentions in the interview that he was married to his first wife while she worked in his restaurant. Erales’ behavior. Here is an edited version. andOur conversation condensed.
The last time we talkedIt was two years ago, when you had made dire predictions about restaurant industry. It was almost two years ago when you made some very dire predictions about the restaurant industry.
It’s not great, you know. Things were good up until December, or even getting better. Omicron was a real problem. One of the bigger problems—the Independent Restaurant Coalition, we managed to get a big chunk of money for restaurants. This sounds like a huge amount of money. It is true, I suppose, because only one-third of applicants who applied for grants actually received money.
Top Chef Co-host Tom ColicchioConversations with contestants
We spent our entire time lobbying government officials to support us. andThey did. But it was actually under-serviced. And so for the restaurants that got money, they’re in great shape. The restaurants that didn’t get money, they’re at a real competitive disadvantage. The guy across the street who has a million dollars can pay more, renovate and do other things. Whereas if you didn’t get the money, you’re kind of screwed.
Did there ever seem to be a rhyme or reason as to who received the money? and who didn’t?
According to the original bill, it was signed by women, minorities, and men. andVeterans-owned businesses should have the first chance. But then, there were lawsuits that stopped it. Then it became random.
Some people are just not lucky.
Yeah, so we’re back, trying to get another $40 billion, which would cover everything. And we’re close, but who knows?
Have you seen any permanent changes to the industry, things that changed during COVID that you don’t think are going back?
It’s hard to say right now. It seems like restaurants will seek out revenue streams where they can. But I also think, just knowing how restaurants run, that if we get back to full capacity, a lot of these little side things that people are doing are going to go to the wayside because they’re not going to have the bandwidth to do them. Equity is one example. andInclusion was happening even before the pandemic. I also think a lot of restaurants are reevaluating the deals they have with the take-out companies, because when they charge 30 percent, it’s impossible for us. So I think that’s changing rapidly.
Before we move on to the next season, Chefs to WatchYou have to know how much I enjoyed the last season. It was the very first episode you made mid-pandemic. This is what I talked to. Gail [Simmons]It was a difficult topic to discuss, however the stakes were higher because of what it is like to be a chef now. It felt different. andThere are many stakes in this situation.
Just in terms of production, it felt different. The show itself, however, felt a lot more gentle than usual. and nicer, andThis rough-and-tumble stuff just doesn’t cut it anymore, I think if you actually look at Top Chef, I think Top Chef mirrors that, culminating in the Portland season, where all the chefs were so cooperative with each other. If they’re going to win, they’re going to win doing what they’re doing. They’re not going to win by bickering and fighting andTrying to make someone else look bad. And I think that’s the way our industry has moved and I think it’s reflected in the show.
Produce andThe stakes of getting a show on the air were much higher because if anything happened or an outbreak occurred, it would be shut down immediately. We wanted the show to be a success from the beginning. I remember calling producers and saying: “We’ve got to shoot a show, we’ve got to figure this out.” I think it’s important to show that we’re still standing andWe can still make something great, even under the constraints. Even though the restrictions were severe, some aspects of the program are actually great. Like Restaurant Wars, like having the past contestants embedded with us because we couldn’t fly people in and out. We asked them to remain with us. andGet quarantined with Us andThat turned out to have been a great idea.
And the other thing that’s kind of interesting—andIt is clear that we will see the future. Houston season—is that all these contestants have grown up watching Top Chef. It was 16 years since we began, and many of the chefs who have been following us for 18 seasons are in their twenties. and it’s kind of neat. It’s almost like the mixture of contestants. and the show itself, that we’ve matured. And it’s become a real rite of passage for the chefs to come on the show.
“It’s unfortunate that allegations like this were made, because [Gabe] is a very talented chef and he won his season. You can’t take that away from him.”
It is becoming a more kinder environment, in certain ways. However, the last season was affected a little by all the news about the winners. Gabe Erales, andThe Allegations against him. Padma knows me [Lakshmi] It was briefly addressed on Twitter, I don’t believe you have. And since you you’ve Defended sexual harassment within the industryBefore I ask, what did you think of his behavior when you discovered it?
Well, I mean, you know, it’s in the past. But I’m not sure what we’re talking about because nothing’s really come out.
It was about a romance with someone who had worked for him and was later fired. This is what I believe people thought was concerning.
Yeah. It’s true. and sexual harassment is talked about—this certainly didn’t rise to the occasion of some of the other chefs, some of the stuff that they were doing or allegations of rape andYou know what I mean. So I’m not saying any of it’s acceptable, but also, we never once heard from the woman who he had an affair with andIt was an agreement.
What effect did it have on the selection of chefs for the next season?
I’m not involved in the vetting process, so I’m not sure, but I’m sure it did. It’s a pretty lengthy process and there’s all kinds of evaluations that are done. And when we were aware of it, it was after the fact, so there wasn’t a whole lot we could do.
It is. That’s why I’m asking whether it had an effect moving forward, but if you’re not involved in that part of the process, then I understand.
No, I’m not involved in that. But I think, the first season aside—we had some real difficulties with one of the contestants—after the first season they got much more strict. We vet everyone very carefully. So it’s unfortunate that allegations like this were made, because [Gabe]A very skilled chef andHe won his season. You can’t take that away from him. And I’ll just say one more thing. It was a question you asked me whether I had spoken out against it. My wife did the same for me andShe was my server at a restaurant. After a long and consensual relationship we were in love. andGot married. However, I personally have a policy against fraternization in my business. These allegations were then made. andWe discovered that GabeI assumed that the non-fraternization policy of the company where he was employed was what caused him to be fired. He was originally told that he “broke policy.”I don’t know what that means. That’s all we were told.
Winner of Top Chef andSexual harasser accused Gabe EralesLeads a toast
The initial version was very unclear.
It used to be called sexual harassment until the end. We were informed that he had been fired from the company for violating policies and breaking laws. It could have been anything. It could be anything. and innuendo. He got fired. That’s between him andHis boss is really his boss.
Alright. So let’s move on to the new season. The first episode was amazing. andIt was great. Could you tell us a bit more about it? HoustonAs a Food City andWhy were you drawn to the location?
I think it’s a great food town. I think it’s a really underrated food town. And part of the reason is there’s not a lot of tourism in Houston. There’s a great scene there. And it’s a really, really diverse scene. There’s great Latin food, there’s great African food, there’s amazing Vietnamese food. Eventually, we’re going to hit every major city andSo it made perfect sense.
It will likely change the perceptions of Texas for many viewers. And I’m wondering if it had that effect on you at all, even just spending time there filming the season.
Texas was a place I’d spent some time. andIn HoustonPrior to that. However, I believe so. When they actually see the entire season, I believe so. andWhat we do and who we work with, I think they’re going to look at HoustonTo be a bit more eye-opening and something they didn’t realize.
Tom ColicchioParticipates in a press conference featuring Democratic legislators about hunger andNutrition outside of the U.S. Capitol, October 26th, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
It seems that the chefs have just improved in their skills as a result of watching the series over the years. and skill andEvery year you will be amazed at the changes that occur. andThis one is not an exception. I’m thinking especially of someone like Chef Luke Kolpin, who worked several years at Noma. We also see him struggle on the first episode to be competitive. Chefs of the Top Comparing it to his professional experience. It’s a good example of how restaurant experience doesn’t necessarily help you succeed on this show.
Well, if you don’t have restaurant experience, I don’t believe you can compete on the show. That said, certain chefs are just better suited for this kind of competition where you’re thinking on the fly. You’ve got to commit to something right away. You don’t have time to tinker. There are some chefs that don’t work that way. It doesn’t mean they’re good or bad. It’s just, that’s their process. The show might be more suited to the chefs who are able to shoot from the hip. There’s no right way or wrong way. Someone who’s had a lot experience with one particular type of kitchen may find it easier to do things the right way. They also rely on specific things in the kitchen. Noma has a wonderful kitchen. There’s things that are there, that are available to them. And keep in mind, unless you’re the executive chef in the restaurant, or maybe chef de cuisine, you’re not the one who’s creating stuff. You’re just cooking. It’s very different when you have to be creative andIt is yours.
As you mention, the chefs who have been watching this show over years are seasoned. How do you feel like the show’s longevity has affected the way people compete? They know from the TV how to perform tasks, just as well as from real life.
It is likely that real-world experiences have more to it than they think. Sometimes they believe they know everything. “Tom likes this.”They don’t know what I love. They know I don’t like okra.
Everyone knows this!
Everything I love and if you put okra in front of me, I’ll eat that too. I’m not going to tell you to go home because you made me okra.
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