Posted by lemonjelly on:
Fans of Top Chef received a treat last Wednesday when its primary judge and host, Tom Colicchio gave a presentation at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. It was the Arts and Lecture series’ big foodie event of the year and nearly every SB foodie or food influencer was in attendance.
Fans of food and those skilled in patience, received a more tangible treat by way of several food trucks parked outside the Campbell Hall loop, organized by the Arts and Lectures peeps. The Burger Bus had sliders, Sweet Arleens had cupcakes, and the O Street Truck had its normal menu of banh mi, pomme frites and a specialty menu item that slipped the notice of many: a boulangerie inspired sandwich made of prosciutto, sweet butter and Dijon mustard on a small baguette. This was O Street’s homage to the ‘wichcraft chain of Colicchio's sandwich shops and cookbook.
I have to say, the queues for the food trucks were crazy long, and the Burger Bus, while having a yummy product, is not known for delivery speedy enough to feed the crowds. I stayed strictly in the queue for the O Street, which was long, but moved at a decent pace. The trick was knowing about the specialty sandwich, as it was not only a one-time offering for the event, but was prepared beforehand and was handed over the instant $5 was offered up. Boom. Wrapped in brown paper and tried with string and a little sprig of rosemary.
At the time I really wanted a ham and butter sandwich more, but a few days later I sat down my with my friend Matchoo who’d just returned from several months in Paris, and he spoke of a popular neighborhood boulangerie that served meltingly delicious baguette stuffed with thin-cut cured ham, the French version of prosciutto. So in retrospect, O Street went authentic French sandwich and I have much kudos for that. Thanks, guys!
During the presentation Colicchio encouraged more of a spontaneous Q&A style of speaking, he didn’t appear to have a specific agenda, and paced the floor recounting amusing events and milestones in his life that sent him towards his culinary career. Mainly: being a casual cook at a beach club in the early teens, making more money than a young teen could fathom (several hundred in cash each week). He had initially planned to be a professional swimmer, but his cooking job took more of his time and he fell out of practice. He was determined not to let the next opportunity go and when his skills in cooking increased through experience, he pursued it fully. He's a fine example of a self-taught cook succeeding with multiple restaurants, books and obviously the television series.
The early days of Top Chef entertained the crowd, with stories about low budgets, horrible accommodations, and amazement at what people will happily say on air. Now, in its ninth season, cities and hotels are courting the Top Chef producers to hold the competions in their locations and celebrities are begging to appear on the show. He’s come a long way, baby.
Overall, I was impressed by Colicchio’s ability to speak engagingly on the fly. Unlike many celebrity chefs, he speaks with a level of authenticity that’s trusting and authoritative. You naturally want to believe him. When someone knowingly asked, “Why Padma?” He responded to the obvious dig by saying she represents the consumer point of view. As someone who is reluctant to admit being a foodie, I found that a completely valid reply. Food needs to be approachable, you know?
But his opinion on Yelp? Hates it.