This Is The Biggest Mistake Tom Colicchio Thinks People Make When Cooking

Tom Colicchio is known to viewers as the long-time lead judge on Bravo's hit series Top Chef, and loved by foodies everywhere as the owner of Crafted Hospitality (via Crafted Hospitality). Colicchio's food insight and crisp, clean flavor profiles have grabbed the attention of Michelin-star food critics and armchair chefs alike, a celebrity status that he's used to bring attention to food scarcity and food insecurity worldwide in his ample charity work. Chef Colicchio doesn't just know food — he lives and breathes it, which is why we listen closely when the celebrity chef is willing to share his food advice. 

The first thing this Small Batch owner reminds us is that cooking comes down to practicing the basics. Says Colicchio, "It's like anything. A lot of it's muscle memory, it's about creating good habits, it's about learning good solid technique and methods. So it's much like learning to play a musical instrument. You have to understand basics, you have to understand theory. And then from there you can improvise" (via Business Insider).

That's right: Taste and talent matter, but without practice, those cooking efforts may be for nothing.

Success as a chef means knowing the basics

When practicing basic cooking skills, one key area Colicchio points out is knife handling. He's noted before that he often sees this basic technique lacking, and knife skills are important — not only speed, but also precision. He reminds aspiring chefs that you don't need fancy tools to learn, either — simply a sharp cooking knife and something to cut, sharing, "When I was a young kid learning to cook, I read somewhere that knife skills were so important, so I would buy celery 'cause it was the cheapest thing I could buy and just practice cutting it" (via Business Insider).

And finally, Colicchio reminds us that recipes aren't a substitute for instinct and judgement. While following a recipe closely is a great way to get started — and he's quick to remind upcoming cooks not to improvise too much too soon — recipes often require adaptation, too. Just think of how differently bread can rise based on room temperature, style of cooking oven, and moisture in the air, and you'll understand what he means. You can find a great demonstration on how Chef Colicchio uses this advice himself as he takes techniques he's known for 20 years and adapts them to unfamiliar ingredients in Bravo's Kaiseki Challenge (via Bravo). Colicchio shares his take on experience and innovation, "...exactly what I'm talking about, just taking the ingredients, but still doing a technique that I'm used to doing."