About the Hosts and Judges
One of the culinary world's most celebrated figures, Tom Colicchio returns once again as lead judge for Bravo's twelfth season of the Emmy and James Beard Award-winning culinary series Top Chef, and also serves as mentor to the competing chefs on the series, guiding them through their various challenges.
Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Colicchio spent his childhood immersed in food, cooking with his mother and grandmother. It was his father, however, who suggested that he make a career of it. Colicchio taught himself to cook with the help of Jacques Pépin's legendary illustrated manuals on French cooking, La Technique and La Méthode. At the age of 17, he made his kitchen debut in his native town of Elizabeth at Evelyn's Seafood Restaurant.
Colicchio then cooked at prominent New York restaurants such as The Quilted Giraffe, Gotham Bar & Grill, Rakel, and Mondrian. During his tenure as executive chef of Mondrian, Food & Wine magazine selected him as one of the top ten "Best New Chefs" in the United States and The New York Times awarded the restaurant three stars.
In July 1994, Colicchio and his business partner Danny Meyer opened Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan's Gramercy Park neighborhood. Colicchio's cooking at Gramercy Tavern won consistent recognition, garnering three stars from Ruth Reichl of the New York Times and earning him The James Beard Foundation's 2000 "Best Chef-New York" Award.
In 2001, Colicchio opened Craft one block south of Gramercy Tavern. Soon after, the New York Times awarded Craft with three stars, deeming the restaurant "a vision of food heaven." Craft was awarded The James Beard Foundation Award for "Best New Restaurant" in 2002. That same year, he received The Bon Appétit American Food and Entertaining Award for "Chef of the Year." The New York Times revisited Craft in September 2011, ten years after its debut, upholding its three stars and stating that the restaurant is "as magical and delicious as it was when it opened."
With Craft and its casual sibling, Craftbar, established in New York City, Colicchio set out to expand his simple, elegant brand of cooking. He has since opened Craftsteak at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (2002) and Craft and Craftbar in Los Angeles (2007; 2009). Colicchio opened his first 'wichcraft – a sandwich shop rooted in the same food and hospitality philosophies as Craft – in New York City in 2003. Today 'wichcraft has 16 New York City locations, as well as locations at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the Westfield Center in San Francisco.
Colicchio has published three cookbooks to date. The first, Think Like a Chef (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2000), won The James Beard Foundation "KitchenAid" Cookbook Award in May 2001. Colicchio's second cookbook, Craft of Cooking, was released by Clarkson Potter/Publishers in 2003. A sandwich book inspired by 'wichcraft, was released by Clarkson Potter/Publishers in March 2009.
In January 2010, he opened Colicchio & Sons in New York. At Colicchio & Sons, he improvises with small-batch ingredients from the micro-producers and family farmers with whom he has forged decades-long relationships. The restaurant earned three stars from the New York Times. Later that year, Colicchio opened Riverpark in New York with chef and partner Sisha Ortuzar. Riverpark features views of the East River and an urban farm supplying produce to the restaurant. In May of the same year, Colicchio was awarded The James Beard Foundation's coveted "Outstanding Chef" award, the culmination of his 30 years of hard work in the restaurant industry.
Colicchio appears in and served as executive producer on A Place at the Table, Participant Media's documentary about food insecurity in America, produced and directed by Kristi Jacobson and Colicchio's wife, Lori Silverbush, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Magnolia Pictures released the film March 1, 2013.
He brings his passion for cooking with fire to the Las Vegas Strip with the opening of Tom Colicchio's Heritage Steak at The Mirage. Opened in August 2013, the 250-seat restaurant focuses on meats prepared entirely over an open flame -- from wood-burning ovens to charcoal grills. Looking ahead, Colicchio will open a restaurant at 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach with a Mediterranean inspired menu showcasing South Florida's local farms and fishermen.
Colicchio and his restaurants give back to the community by supporting charities including Children of Bellevue, City Harvest, Alex’s Lemonade Foundation, United Way of New York, and Food Bank for New York City. He lives in the West Village with his wife, Lori Silverbush, and three sons.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @TomColicchio
Maggie Nemser is the CEO and Editor-in-chief of BlackboardEats.com, a foodie's go-to site for perks and exclusive experiences at top restaurants as well as deals on artisanal foods and products. Previously Maggie was the food editor at Yahoo where she covered everything from recipes to restaurant trends. As a native New Yorker, Maggie naturally became acquainted with the city’s top-rated restaurants and developed a great appreciation of food at a very young age. After attending Trinity College in Hartford, CT, she began her career in television production at MTV before pursuing her passion for promoting the best of the culinary world. Maggie joins Best New Restaurant to help represent the perspective of the diner, critiquing the entire restaurant experience. She has also appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef and as a food judge on an episode of USA’s The Moment. Maggie is deeply committed to getting food to those in need and is a board member of the Westside Foodbank in Los Angeles. She currently resides in California with her husband and daughter.
Follow Maggie on Twitter: @maggienemser
Jeffrey Zurofsky has followed his passion for entrepreneurship and the culinary arts throughout his career, culminating in the perfect blend as a Partner in 'wichcraft. In 2003, Jeffrey joined with chefs Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortúzar to develop 'wichcraft as a sandwich shop where the ingredients and cooking techniques are rooted in fine dining but served in a casual and welcoming environment. Since then Jeffrey has overseen all aspects of the 'wichcraft business, spearheading its expansion to fifteen stores with over four-hundred team members. More recently, the original partnership opened Riverpark, a fine dining restaurant that was recently awarded 2-stars by the New York Times, as well as the innovative Riverpark Farm, New York’s most urban farm.
Prior to partnering in 'wichcraft, Jeffrey worked in some of Manhattan's most prestigious kitchens including a stage at Lespinasse, Savoy (while enrolled at the French Culinary Institute), Union Square Café and as opening sous chef at Restaurant AZ. With a desire to leave the stove and feed his entrepreneurial passion, Jeffrey took an offer at a tech startup, Bank Pass, as Director of Business Development. After honing his business acumen, Jeffrey found his way back to his passion at Payard where was Director of Operations and CFO at Francois Payard Patisserie and Bistro.
Jeffrey’s entrepreneurial spirit and love for food started at the age of eight, attempting to replicate in his family’s New Jersey kitchen what he saw master chefs create on classic PBS cooking shows. His mother, a small business owner, encouraged his budding interest in everything culinary and Jeffrey put his self-taught skills to work in professional kitchens while studying at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He paid his way through school in the area’s best restaurants, and eventually became sous chef at the Mobil 4-star La Residence before moving to New York City after graduation. In addition to Jeffrey’s many job accomplishments, he was recently awarded Outstanding Alumni from The International Culinary Center in 2011 and currently appears on Bravo’s Best New Restaurant advising host Tom Colicchio as he searches for the nation’s best new restaurant. He continues to be committed to numerous civic and philanthropic institutions and has passionately supported entrepreneurial ventures throughout his career.
Follow Jeffrey on Twitter: @JeffreyZurofsky