BlackBook Exclusive: The Premiere of ‘Hooked Up’ With Tom Colicchio

What happens when you get some of the best minds in music, film, and food access to their own web TV show? That’s what the Reserve Channel is willing to find out. Hosted on YouTube, the Reserve Channel is a web-based destination for original programming, and the fall line-up includes three new original series. One of which, we’re pleased to say, you can check out exclusively on BlackBook: Hooked Up with Tom Colicchio. Hooked Up is the first show to feature the beloved Top Chef judge and celebrity chef in a completely new element: on a boat, accompanied by one of his famous friends.

In the premiere episode below, Colicchio is joined by fellow chef Eddie Huang. The duo go out into the open waters to fish for shark and shoot the shit—and unlike Bravo, Reserve Channel gives the pair an uncensored platform. ("Rachel Ray or Paula Deen?" Huang asks. "I’m an ass-man. I’m going with Paula Deen.). Check out the episode below!

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Gulf Coast Seafood, The Findings

After listening to Tom Colicchio’s public announcement in support of eating Gulf Cost seafood earlier this month, I cold-called 15 New York seafood restaurants, identified myself, and asked one question: “Are you still serving seafood from the Gulf?” On the topic of the USDA’s evaluation of Gulf Coast fish, Colicchio told CNN’s Eatocracy, “every bit of it is being inspected,” and yet, every single person who answered the phone at the 15 restaurants I called reacted in instant panic. No one gave me an answer. I’m going to keep calling, simply out of curiosity. I like to know what I’m eating.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that “the University of Minnesota found that 44 percent of the people surveyed would not eat seafood from the gulf.” And today, The ProPublica Blog revealed that although seafood is being tested for oil, it isn’t being chemically tested for dispersant. It’s noted that human harm caused by the dispersant is thought to be low or non-existant, but also that the research on the oil-conglomerating liquid is slim. So the question remains, when is Tony Hayward going to eat seafood from the Gulf?

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The Dish: ‘wichcraft’s Spaghetti & Sweet Sausage

What: Spaghetti & Sweet Sausage with rapini, tomato, and shiitake mushrooms Where: Flatiron location of ‘wichcraft, the most mellow of Tom Colicchio’s Craft eateries in a two block radius. Ideal meal: The super laid back upstairs dining area makes ‘wichcraft the perfect suppertime setting for a non-fussy meal. It’s small and relatively quiet, so great for catching up and getting to know your date (if that’s your intention). Because: Like most items on the dinner menu, the spaghetti is understated and executed with relative perfection. The rapini doesn’t overpower the savory flavor of the sausage, and the shiitake mushrooms are of the melt-in-your-mouth variety. Tastes like: A delicately-balanced combo of sweet and salty over buttery spaghetti noodles. Bottom line: The plates aren’t gigantic, but they’re enough food to be filling if paired with breads and sides. At $11, you can’t really complain much. Especially if you’ve paid $9+ for a lunch sammie here.

Watch Tom Colicchio and Drew Nieporent Rock the F*ck Out

Last night at Guastavino’s under the 59th Street bridge, gourmet meat slingers D’Artagnan celebrated 25 years of systematically slaughtering animals, with a massive bath of flesh—cooked and alive. The French were everywhere, dressed in the company’s signature red and white, and less drunk off small glasses of actual red wine than the red wine sauce those chicken legs were braised in. The highlight of the night was mega restaurateur Drew Nieporent (Corton, Nobu, Tribeca Grill) joining Top Chef host Tom Colicchio (who just shredded “Takin’ Care of Business”) on stage for an insane cover of Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plane Pour Moi.” We say insane because we never thought Nieporent was capable of hitting those high notes, and because the elderly gentleman in front of us was clearly high on ecstasy. Video after the jump.

Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese: A Bewitching Side From ’wichcraft’s Sisha Ortuzar

Even a humble sandwich shop is, in Manhattan, prone to the haute treatment. Since 2003, ’wichcraft has been laying out gourmet takes on what goes between two slices of bread. Of course, that’s only the beginning. This year, founders Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortuzar published a book on the subject, ‘wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal — And a Meal into a Sandwich. And Ortuzar has turned the upstairs of the Flatiron ‘wichcraft into a destination dining spot. The menu is market-driven and the combinations are creative, like short rib with romesco and grilled scallions, or a trippy fluke ceviche with green mango and watermelon. In that spirit, Ortuzar passes along a side dish that’ll class up any Thanksgiving spread.

It’s an unlikely combination of sweet potatoes, goat cheese, and black olives. I would have thought the olives would skew things in a briny direction, but a little time in the oven tempers them perfectly for this dish. The goat cheese intensifies the creaminess, making for a savory, sophisticated improvement over the marshmallow indignity usually imposed on sweet potatoes this time of year.

Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Gratin with Black Olives 2 lbs sweet potatoes 3 oz butter, unsalted 1 large shallot, finely chopped ½ cup creamy fresh goat cheese 1/2 cup niçoise olives, pitted 2 tbs olive oil 4-5 basil leaves, finally chopped Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Bake the potatoes at 350˚ until they are completely cooked, soft on the inside (about 35-45 minutes, depending on size). Once they are cool to the touch, scoop out the potato and discard the skins. In a heavy-bottomed pan, over medium heat, brown the butter until it starts turning a hazelnut color and has a nutty fragrance. Add the chopped shallots and allow to cook for about a minute, being careful not to burn the butter. Pour the butter onto the sweet potato and mix. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Place the pitted olives on a small baking sheet and “roast” in a 400˚ degree oven until they are hard and brittle, about 20-25 minutes. Be careful not to burn. Once the olives are cool, chop them with a knife into small pieces, and mix with the olive oil and the basil. This could be done well in advance. Place the sweet potato mix on a baking dish, so that the sweet potato is about 1” thick. Spread the creamy goat cheese over the top, covering most of the potatoes, but leaving the edges uncovered. Bake at 400˚ for about 10-15 minutes, until the cheese and potatoes start to brown in some spots. This gratin wont brown like a traditional potato gratin–the colors of the sweet potatoes and the goat cheese will still be very present. Spoon the olives and basil over the cheese and serve. Serves 4 as a side dish.

If you’re looking for a wine pairing, ’wichcraft’s list of reds is a good place to start. They serve by the glass, half bottle, and bottle. The vintages are Familia Mayol, Malbec Lujan de Cuyo ’07, Vina Echeverria, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva ’05, Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG ’05, and Domaine du Murinais, Crozes Hermitage ’06.

Industry Insiders: Katie Grieco, Crafty VP

As vice president of operations and new business development of Craft Restaurant Group, Katie Grieco works shoulder-to-shoulder with famed chef and Bravo’s most recognizable Top Chef personality, Tom Colicchio. Overseeing the Craft, Craftbar, Craftsteak and ‘wichcraft locations nationwide (New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas) Grieco often has her hands full. She gets the job done one restaurant at a time.

Describe a typical day on the job. After the last five years being in this growth mode at Craft, opening on average a restaurant a year, a regular day for me would be normal office daytime hours. My job is dealing with developing new projects. If we’re opening a restaurant in Atlanta, then I’m working with the architect on the design, choosing materials, figuring out table layout, working on hiring managers for particular locations or working with the graphic designer. On any given day, I’m confronted with human resource issues. Someone needs to be hired or fired or counseled. I get involved with that when it takes place at the management level. I’m in constant communication with Tom. When he’s in town, it’s about sitting in his office and keeping him up to speed on everything that’s going on and asking his advice on certain decisions.

It sounds like you’re never out of things to do. No, never. It’s fun that way, and I appreciate the lack of routine because I think it keeps me inspired to continue learning.

Did Tom’s involvement in Top Chef change the dynamic of the company? The only way it changed the dynamic of the company is that it brings a group of people into the restaurant who might not have otherwise come. The show has an enormous fan base, and Tom has an enormous fan base. He gets all sorts of letters of praise, and people who watch the show and know Tom think, “Oh I should go and see what it is that he really does and understand how he is as a chef and why it makes him a good judge.” That’s certainly the main reason why he wanted to do that show in the beginning. He thought, “People know me in New York, but they don’t know who I am in Dallas, and so, if I can do this show it can get the word out about Craft.” It had nothing to do with wanting fame or notoriety in the celebrity sense. His involvement in the show has really achieved the goals that he set out to meet. It’s been a welcome addition to the Craft world.

Are you a Top Chef fanatic? I watch the show religiously because of Tom but partly just because I love it. If I had no involvement in the restaurant business, it would completely turn me off from being a chef. Many years ago, I had visions of being a chef which is sort of why I got into this business.

You started off as Tom’s personal assistant? I got my masters at Cornell in hospitality management, and when I got out, I wanted a management position somewhere. I had no service experience and was not ready to be a manager but signed on to be Tom’s assistant. I thought Gramercy Tavern seemed to be the place I wanted to work. It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. It got me a career that I love, and I met my husband ant Gramercy Tavern. Tom has given me so much autonomy well before I even deserved it.

Where do you eat and drink outside of Craft? One of my favorites is Lupa. I also like Boqueria. My husband, Paul Grieco, is also in the restaurant business so we go to his restaurants, Hearth, Terroir and Insieme.

Since both of you are in the restaurant business, are you competitive? I suppose some people on any given night are thinking, “Should I go to Hearth or should I go to Craft?” But not really. I think we target different parts of the market, and we’re in different enough neighborhoods.

Has Craft’s emphasis on using local foods wavered at all recently? It hasn’t changed at all. We still have the same priorities as far as using local ingredients and the highest quality ingredients we can find. The recession has made us think of different ways to use the ingredients. For example, we use fava beans for a different use at Frugal Fridays than when we use them at Craft. We can never change the focus of seasonal, high quality ingredients. We could go out of business if we ever did because that’s really what Craft is all about.

Recent positive trends in the industry? When the downturn first happened, I was sitting in management meetings and saying, “Lets not look at this as punishment, let’s look at this as an opportunity to do something great and different and new.” The restaurant business is never easy. It used to be like, if you opened your doors you could makes some money or be trendy enough for a little while. Now things need a shake. There are just too many, and having this opportunity to let the good people rise to the occasion and do some new things has been a lot of fun.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? My guiltiest pleasure is watching America’s Next Top Model. It’s horribly embarrassing.

What’s your dream spot for a Craft location? I’d have to say London. We’ve talked a lot about it, and we’ve always thought that London would be such a perfect city for a Craft.

Industry Insiders: Jonathan Benno, Per Se Persona

Jonathan Benno, chef de cuisine at Thomas Keller’s Per Se Restaurant at the Time Warner Center in New York, on the downside of popular gastronomy, BMW motorcycles, and escaping the kitchen to make time for the fam.

Where do you go out when you’re off duty? Al di Là in Park Slope. It’s a husband and wife team I’ve known for a really long time. They do traditional Italian cooking, and it’s just a place that’s from the heart. She does the kitchen, and he does the dining room. It’s small and special. Either of Michael White’s New York restaurants — Convivio or Alto — because he has such a command of Italian cuisine, and he’s a really, really nice guy. Hearth by Marco Canora, formerly of Craft, and Paul Greco, formerly of Gramercy Tavern, is great because the place is a real labor of love for two guys who were at the top of their games at successful restaurants. They borrowed the money to open this little restaurant in the East Village, and they made it work.

How would you describe yourself? I’m a quiet, focused, disciplined, and passionate person.

How’d you get started? The turning point for me was the first time I worked at the French Laundry. I worked there about 15 years ago, during the first year that it opened. I started at Daniel where Café Boulud is today, then worked for Christian DeLuvier at the Essex House. I spent most of my time working at Gramercy Tavern for Tom Colicchio before I traveled to southwest France to work for Gilles Goujon at L’Auberge du Vieux Puits, then went back to the French Laundry for a couple of years before the opening of Per Se. In my mind, I always look at the French Laundry as the turning point for me.

Who do you admire in the hospitality industry? Thomas Keller for what he’s done for our industry and people’s perception of a chef/owner. Never mind the fact that he’s really set the bar for fine dining at the French Laundry and Per Se as well as Ad Hoc and other venues. Somebody said that he’s a “cook’s cook,” and after all the accolades, that sums him up best. Also, Danny Meyer, for what he’s done for American restaurants and service over the course of the past 20 years at Union Square Cafe. On so many different levels, whether you’re having the tasting menu at Gramercy Tavern or you put up with the lines at Shake Shack, these are two wonderful restaurants at both ends of the spectrum. I was fortunate enough to have worked for him for two and a half years at Gramercy, and it stays with me today.

Name one positive trend that you see in the hospitality industry. I think the downward trend in the economy affects restaurants at every level. You’re not going to see the Per Se’s and the Daniel’s open in the near future as freestanding restaurants. The trend is going to be towards more casual restaurants, and I hope chef/owner-driven small restaurants with a lower price point will make it for the next year or two until the economy comes back.

Negative trends? The use of chemicals in cuisine. There’s this whole molecular gastronomy movement. I object to the manipulation of food that’s been developing over the past couple of years. Even to take a carrot from the green market and juice it and then add chemicals to it to make beads or whatever — why use high-quality ingredients and corrupt them with chemistry?

What is something that people might not know about you? I’ve always daydreamed about being a BMW motorcycle mechanic.

Any non-industry projects in the works? My wife and I have a nine-month-old baby girl. So, they’re my projects out of working hours. I like to read, but it’s like stealing time, and so is going to the gym.

The Tom Is Crafty: Colicchio Opens “Halfsteak” Tonight

Craft-man, Top Chef judge, and now: a hard salesman. Tom Colicchio’s been on the hunt for foodie-recessioneers in a far more high-profile way than many a New York restaurateur would (or could) pull off. First, he turned the Craft private dining room into his every-other-Tuesday, $150 prix-fixe resto TOM: Tuesday Dinner, which he further evolved into Damon: Frugal Friday — a collection of smallish plates by Colicchio’s main man/chef Damon Wise, where nothing is more than $10. But as if that were enough, they’re doing it to Craftsteak, too, in the form of — yes — “Halfsteak.”

The idea’s simple: Take the front bar room and give it a different, recession-priced menu overseen by Colicchio, chef de cuisine Shane McBride, and pastry chef Erica Leahy, with the namesake specialty being a half-cut of Craftsteak’s feature dish (the steak, obvi) served with fries for $14. They’re also cooking up a few sandwiches (example: an incredible sounding fried oyster po-boy), and they’ve devoted a section of the menu to “one-pots” (chicken & lobster pot pie; meatball, gnocchi, & smoked mozzarella casserole), in addition to a grip of small plates and haute snacks. This is coming off of Bloomberg resto critic Ryan Sutton’s four-star reminder that Craft is still as solid a meal as ever, and nothing but strong, positive buzz for Damon: Frugal Friday. We’ve posted the Halfsteak menu below — take a look for yourself, but based on the early reception Damon got, we think it’s gonna get a little crazy from here on out, so you might want to make it in on the first night (while there’s still a decent seat around).

cocktails = $7 1/2 Half Cocked Half Baked My Better Half Not Half Bad

half pints = $4 Victory, Prima Pils, PA Blue Point, Toasted Lager, NY Pork Slap, Pale Ale, NY Smuttynose, IPA, NH Tröegs, Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale, PA

snacks = $6 Fried Oysters with Smoked Cole Slaw Smoked Chicken Wings with White BBQ Sauce Chicken Liver Mousse with Pickled Ramps Lamb Spare Ribs with Cucumber Raita Sliders with Balsamic Onions & Truffled Pecorino Fried Mac & Cheese with Tomato Marmalade

leafy = $8 Arugula with Parmesan, & Meyer Lemon Iceberg with Smoked Bacon & Green Goddess Romaine with Truffled Pecorino & Creamy Garlic Baby Greens with Roasted Beets & Sherry Vinegar

small plates = $9 Chicken Fried Cod with Hash Browns & Tartar Sauce Duck Confit Omelet with Maitake Mushrooms & Fontina Pig Trotter with Frisée, Apple & Ham Merguez Sausage with Feta, Romaine & Grapefruit Country Ham with Deviled Egg & Pickles Fried Tripe with Roasted Tomato & Garlic Vinaigrette Lamb-Leg Steak with Cauliflower, Almonds & Arugula Wagyu Nachos Coullote Steak with Bacon, Mashed & Spinach

sandwiches = $12 “halfsteak” Burger with Hand Cut Fries Fried Oyster Po’ Boy with Creole Aioli Brisket, Sauerkraut & Provolone Patty Melt Grilled Cheese with Country Ham & Aged Cheddar

halfsteak with fries = $14 1/2

one-pots = $14 Chicken & Lobster Pot Pie Pork & Beans Bowl of Red with Corn Bread Croutons Meatball, Gnocchi & Smoked Mozzarella Casserole

dessert = $4 Red Velvet Cupcake Ice Cream Sandwich of the Day

And of course, just because we can, your daily dose of Beastie Boys:

Links: Michelle Obama’s Ball Gown, Tom Colicchio Saves a Life, Amy Winehouse’s Dad Speaks

● Style site Chictopia has combined forces with American Apparel for a hybrid ad campaign incorporating Chictopia users. [Chictopia] ● Is that Andre Leon Talley or Jay-Z in that fur cap? [Cityfile] ● Michelle Obama channeled Nancy Regan at the Inaugural Ball, rocking a Jason Wu cream-colored asymmetrical gown. [JustJared]

● Tom Colicchio: chef, sexiest man alive, lifesaver. The Top Chef judge used the Heimlich maneuver to save cookbook author Joan Nathan as she choked at a benefit dinner in DC. [SlashFood] ● Everyone’s favorite Sir Lankan female rapper, M.I.A, is still pregnant and hanging out with DJ Steven Aoki. [TheCobraSnake] ● Amy Winehouse’s father is like every other proud papa, telling the press that his daughter has almost died twice. [FoxNews]