My Seven Minutes with Chef Tom Colicchio

I’ve been working to book an interview with Chef Tom Colicchio for a feature article in this paper. As you know, unless you’ve been living under a rock on Gardner’s Island for the past year, Colicchio has just opened the much-anticipated Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. It’s the newest in his family of uber-popular restaurants.

Colicchio is perhaps best known for his appearances on “Top Chef” and “Great Chefs.” I don’t watch television, but people who do have told me that Colicchio is “not a yeller.” I only know Colicchio through two of his cookbooks Think Like a Chef and Craft of Cooking: Notes and Recipes from a Restaurant Kitchen. You can learn a lot about a person from his books.

I’ve been imagining how our conversation will go when I interview him. (I’m wearing a freshly pressed outfit that matches, for a change, and—astonishingly—full makeup. No, maybe a sweater dress…) We’re seated inside the Topping Rose House, or maybe on its porch. Mr. Colicchio, who has by now insisted that I call him “Tom,” takes a genuine interest in my work and asks me what it’s like to review restaurants across the East End. I feel a genuine foodie bond with Tom and answer him as honestly as I can. “Much like organized religion—the more I went to church, the more I questioned that there’s a holy order at work, until I found a new priest—the more I eat out, the more I wish I could stay home, Tom. But there are some bright spots on this end of the Island. I certainly look forward to dining at Topping Rose and I’ve had some vibrantly memorable meals on both forks. Luce + Hawkins in Jamesport is a standout and, of course, The North Fork Table in Southold. South Edison in Montauk amuses me and Greek Bites in Southampton is fun. I appreciate consistency and tradition so Serafina in East Hampton, Pierre’s in Bridgehampton and Le Chef in Southampton are standbys. Beyond that, well, there are certainly others, but my list of favorites is not a long one.”

Then I find an excuse to name-drop some of my foodie friends—Gael Greene, Sarabeth Levine, that actor/cookbook author whose name escapes me at the moment. I’ll throw in something about my friend the designer Maria Scotto because she’s a serious foodie, Italian in fact, and she lives right in Bridgehampton.

Then he’ll want to hear all about my childhood on a farm and I’ll whip out a shot of me looking like a blonde Betty Boop under the ol’ apple tree…. Our knees touch but we just talk and talk. We’re married people.

Technically I don’t have room in my life for another bald friend, but I’d make room for this one. I think that he and his restaurants are special. The centrality of local vegetables on the menu is not about capitalizing on a trend—it’s a timely and sincere realization of a long-held belief.

Hopefully I’ll have a chance to dine at Topping Rose House soon and stop daydreaming about it all. I’ll let you know as soon as I do about its food and proprietor.

Topping Rose House, One Bridgehampton- Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton. 631-537-0870, www.toppingrosehouse.com.

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