With the sixth season of Top Chef, shot in Las Vegas, set to premiere this week (Bravo, August 19, 9 p.m.), there’s no doubt the connection between our celebrity-chef-laden city and one of the most recognizable celebrity chefs, the show’s head judge, Tom Colicchio, will grow even stronger. But before you tune in to see how the typically gruff Colicchio treats his new contestants—and how TV treats Vegas—there are some things you need to know about this guy.
1. He’s a real chef, and he hates the whole celebrity thing. He told me that in an interview last year. “I tell young chefs … if you are getting into this because you want to be the next Emeril, then apologize to your parents right now for wasting their money, because it’s not going to happen. It has to be for the love of food.” He may be on TV a lot, but Colicchio is a serious dude, a purist.
2. His first Vegas restaurant, opened in 2002 in the MGM Grand, remains one of the top steakhouses in a steakhouse-crazy city. Craftsteak is a study in simplicity, from the cool décor (a swanky, whisky-strong bar and leather-accented dining room) to the best-in-beef menu. A recent dinner there hit all the highs: excellent service, a classic Caesar salad, the best potato gratin ever, tender braised short ribs and a Wagyu skirt steak that’ll reinvent your tastes.
3. Colicchio’s other joint, ’Wichcraft, may be the best sandwich shop in town. At the very least, it serves the perfect hangover-curing sandwich—fried egg, thick bacon, blue cheese and greens on a roll. Again, simplicity is the key. And that’s not even mentioning the meatloaf with cheddar or bacon, or the grilled cheese with Gruyere and caramelized onions.