Self-trained chef, James Beard Foundation award winner, head judge on Emmy Award winning reality-competition program “Top Chef”, world famous restaurateur, family man, mentor, and even life-saver (of cookbook author Joan Nathan, while choking on a piece of chicken) are just a few of the many hats worn by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio. So what are the secrets behind the success? A three ingredient recipe: “make people happy”, “remain flexible”, and “learn from everyone”.

”Make People Happy”

Eating out is about eating good food, of course, but it is also about convenience. When at a restaurant, whether it is fast casual or fine dining, we don’t want to worry about a tåhing. From the food, to the service, to the atmosphere, we want it wrapped up in a nice bow to be devoured as we please.

Tom Colicchio believes that the fundamental principle that is the foundation of every successful restaurant is that “everything has to work- food, service, and hospitality.” He understands that not only does the food have to be tasty and well-served, but the mood is crucial as well. When “no one is making you feel good”, you leave unsatisfied, with a bad taste in your mouth, if you will. And for Tom, it’s all about “the feeling when you’re walking out the door.”

”Remain Flexible”

What does Tom Colicchio, who has opened several extremely successful restaurants, believe is the most common mistake made when undertaking this notoriously arduous task? “Too much of a game plan.”But don’t misunderstand what he is saying. According to Tom, “always go into a restaurant opening with a great plan, but be prepared to make changes quickly.” On occasion, ideas which sound great in theory don’t always translate into reality as imagined. And this happens to everyone, including the greats. For example, Tom explains that when opening Craft, the menu was confusing customers. So, instead of saying “this is just how we do it,” he and his team realized that it was “causing too much confusion,” and changed the menu as to cater to the diners.In the end, as Tom explains, “you might have a plan… but if it’s not working, you may have to make a change to that plan. You have to remain flexible.”

”Learn From Everyone”

As a chef, restaurateur, and television personality, Tom Colicchio receives his fare share of criticism. What does he do with it? He listens, and then he learns. When considering reviews and the like, Tom doesn’t take it personally, and doesn’t necessarily equate a negative comment to a mistake made by him or his team. Instead, he takes his own advice to “learn from everyone,” and says “you have to start looking for patterns. And once you establish a pattern, then you can identify where there’s a problem that needs fixing.”As a judge on “Top Chef” and an expert on all things culinary, Tom also knows how to dish out the criticism. His advice: “don’t make it personal.” Most of us know that when feeling attacked on a personal level, what is actually being said, the critique itself, goes in one ear and out the other. There is no chance of learning, and improving. So, Tom suggests that we instead “focus on what people are doing as opposed to who they are.”

Sage Advice

Not one person can argue the success of Tom Colicchio, and as such, his advice is in all likelihood good advice. In essence, he’s telling us to stay true to ourselves and our intentions, and that we must be open to change, and adapt. Now those are two tactics we can all use!

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