What is Tom Colicchio trying to accomplish with his cooking?

I’m looking for the purity of flavor. Years ago, when I was at Gramercy [Gramercy Tavern in New York] still, I had a woman complain. So I called her up. I said, “I’m sorry you didn’t like the experience here, but can you tell me what happened?” And she said, “We had a salmon dish and it tasted just like salmon.” I said, “Okay.” And she said, “We had this baby lamb dish and you had all the different parts, but it was just like lamb. And the chocolate soufflé was bitter.”

And I said, “Normally I would tell you to come back and try to change this experience, but I want my salmon to taste like salmon. I want my lamb to taste lamb, and chocolate happens to be bitter. So I can’t help you. I’ll refund your money.”

That was the biggest compliment someone could pay me: that my salmon tastes like salmon and my lamb tastes like lamb. I think our food should taste exactly of what it is. When you taste a beet, you should taste it and go, “Oh yeah, that’s a beet.” And so, yeah, that’s what I’m looking to do, just really get to the essence of a particular ingredient. Again, it’s purity. When you go through the trouble of sourcing great ingredients that are really fresh and wholesome, I think that the flavor should come through. Your job as a chef or as a cook is to bring those flavors out, not to push them away.

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