Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

8 Quick Questions for Tom Colicchio

Chef returns as head judge on Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’

spinner image tom colicchio on yellow background
Photo Collage: MOA Staff; (Source: Bravo/Stephanie Diani)

Chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio, 61, is back as the head judge and executive producer of Bravo’s Top Chef, which begins its 21st season on March 20. In addition to the show, Colicchio owns five restaurants and plans to release a memoir, Why I Cook, in October. He shares how he likes to spend his downtime, his favorite family dishes to whip up and who he’d love to join him at the dinner table.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How do you think Top Chef has shaped food television?

I don’t watch food TV, so it’s hard for me to comment on it. I know how it shaped the culinary world. When I was asked early on what I wanted out of the show, I wanted our industry to take it seriously. I didn’t want it to be just some entertaining [program]. If you look at the amount of chefs that have come through Top Chef and how much they’re contributing . . . they’re opening up multiple restaurants, they’re winning awards, they’re working, they’re giving back. I think that’s what the legacy of Top Chef is going to be.

The show is known for its timed challenges. If you have 30 minutes to make something satisfying for your family, what’s your go-to dish?

Oh, I do it every night. I cook for my family most nights, and I don’t make big elaborate meals. I can get a roast chicken with vegetables on the table in 30 minutes pretty easily, or a quick pasta with clams and mussels. Whatever I’m cooking, it doesn’t usually take more than 30, 40 minutes tops.

spinner image tom colicchio in a still from top chef
Colicchio is a head judge and executive producer of Bravo’s "Top Chef." Season 21 of the show begins March 20.
Ernesto Ruscio/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Maybe crab. I’m often on the water, and I think that crab is one of those seafoods that tastes so much like the ocean — more than anything else — in my opinion.

Speaking of being on the water, where is your favorite place to fish?

It changes. If I’m 40 to 80 miles offshore when the sun’s coming up, that’s the best place to fish. It doesn’t matter where. I do have a soft spot for the Marquesas, which is west of Key West. It’s the first place I caught a permit [fish] on a fly [rod], which is one of the holy grail fishes that you can catch on a fly. It’s very, very difficult. It’s the only fish that I actually know how many I’ve caught in my lifetime — that’s the only one I keep track of.

Any other hobbies besides fishing?

I play guitar pretty much every day unless I’m traveling and I don’t have one. I usually play for a good two hours a day. A lot of it is just sitting there, watching the news and picking. I have a pretty good-sized garden out in Long Island where we have our weekend home.

Does fishing and gardening work together to produce some nice meals?

Well, that’s a perfect day for me. [Our weekend home is] on the North Fork [in Long Island], and so if I’m out there and everything on the table is either something I caught or something that came out of the garden, and the wine comes from a winery around the corner, that’s a good day.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Are you doing anything differently to stay physically fit and mentally sharp in your 60s?

I think the hobbies I do help me. I work out, but not as much as I used to. I think gardening definitely helps. If I’m in the garden in the season when things are really happening, I’m out at 6:00 in the morning. It’s a lot of bending and stretching and carrying heavy things. I walk every day. Mentally, I think reading keeps your brain fit. Playing guitar helps, [and I’m] trying to learn new things all the time.

Living or deceased, who would your top three dinner guests be?

The obvious one — or maybe not so obvious, because no one ever says it when asked this — but why not Jesus Christ? But [if we’re talking] more modern, I would say Robert Kennedy, FDR [Franklin D. Roosevelt] and possibly Jerry Garcia. I’d love to get FDR’s perspective on modern politics and [ask what] Jerry Garcia thinks about his lasting impression on the music scene 20-plus years after his death. And Robert Kennedy, I think if he won [the 1968 presidential election], this world would’ve been very different. I would love to get his take on that.

                                  More Members Only Access


Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?