Tom Colicchio Stirs It Up

Chef Tom Colicchio is firing up a special meal--one he hopes will make a lot of money to fight childhood cancer. An edited version of our interview with him follows in which he opens up about his family and career.

by Ilyssa Panitz • Celebrity Reporter
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Photograph: Philip Gabriel Photography

More: Your kids are spread out in age. How did your teenage son take to having two baby siblings?
Tom Colicchio: It is not a problem at all. Dante lives with his mother and is actually at boarding school right now. When he comes in, he is so happy to be around his younger brothers. Maybe something was said when the babies were first born, like he is getting the short end of the stick. But he is fine now.

More: Are you more relaxed the third time around?
TC: To me it was never very scary. I am not sure why, but I don’t live in fear of things.

More: You weren’t terrified to have another child, given what you went through?
TC: I wasn’t terrified, but in the back of your mind you are saying, please let my child be healthy. What scares me? Autism. That is what scares me.

More: Why—because you have boys and studies indicate the rate is higher than for girls?
TC: Yes, that is something I was more concerned about. I even do an event every year for Autism Speaks.

More: How would you describe your role as dad?
TC: This morning he [7-month-old Mateo] woke up at 3 AM and went back to sleep by 3:30 AM. Then he woke up at 5 AM, as did the other one [son Luka, 2]. I went downstairs to change a couple of diapers, made breakfast and got lunch together for Luka. At 10 AM I took Mateo to get shots and by 4 PM I was there to pick Luka up from school. I am pretty hands-on.

More: I am impressed.
TC: When Dante was born I stayed home for a year because I was between jobs. So I am very comfortable doing it.

More: Do you whip up gourmet meals for your kids?
TC: Not really. We eat a lot of roast chicken with a side of vegetables. We keep it simple.

More: You just became a father for a third time. Does learning about childhood cancer scare you into thinking it could be your kid?
TC: Of course. When my first son, Dante, was born he was only two pounds and five ounces he was in an NIC [neonatal intensive care] unit for a while. Although he is fine now, when he was in the hospital they told us he would probably be blind, which freaked me out. Turns out they jumped the gun. However, it is things like this that get you thinking.

More: Luckily your story had a happy ending.

TC: I  just said to my wife, “How do people get through it?” It must be so difficult. One of my sons recently cut his chin open and I thought that was dramatic. I can’t even imagine what these people must go through when they have to go to the hospital for chemo.

More: Your own ordeal sounds terrifying.
TC: When we were going to have the baby at 32 weeks and the doctor said, “We don’t care about the baby,” yeah, that is enough to make you freak out. When you see your baby being worked on, so many things go through your mind. It really rips you apart.

More: You are stepping up to the plate by lending your talents on December 6  to “A Culinary Event to Fight Childhood Cancer for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation” in New York City. What sparked your interest in getting involved?
TC: I focus my charitable events on hunger or children’s issues. When I got a call about this foundation and learned about the story behind the cause, I knew I had to do something.

More: Not only are you taking an active role in the Big Apple but you were involved with the Los Angeles event too?
TC: Yes. I also have a restaurant there.

First Published December 6, 2011

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