Tom Colicchio is usually the one dishing out the criticism on "Top Chef." But on Monday night, the tables were turned as former cheftestants and series host Padma Lakshmi sharpened their knives (so many metaphors to mix!) to try to take down the head judge with the piercing blue eyes by a few notches -- all in the name of a good cause.
Colicchio gamely offered himself up as the meat at the center of the second annual Chef's Roast to benefit food advocacy group Chef Action Network. Proceeds from the events (tickets started at $500 per person) were also slated to go toward Food Policy Action, which Colicchio co-founded to help keep tabs on how elected officials are voting on food policy issues.
On Tuesday, several dozen chefs -- "do not [censored] with them, they know how to use knives," Colicchio warned -- canvassed Capitol Hill, meeting with members of Congress to talk about the Child Nutrition Act, which is up for reauthorization.
For Monday evening's event, several hundred people showed up to a purple-lit, palm-fronded, red-carpeted Union Market for an evening of free-flowing booze and jokes. And food, of course! The local who's-who behind the menu: Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto, Gina Chersevani of Buffalo & Bergen, David Guas of Bayou Bakery, Robb Duncan of Dolcezza and Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery and Bearnaise. Plus, Sam Talbot, the "Top Chef" Season 2 contender with restaurants in Maine and New York.
So, yes, if you felt a disturbance in the Chef Force last night, it's probably because so many of them were hobnobbing the night away in Northeast. Including, hey, newly-announced "Top Chef" Season 13 (that many, huh?) competitor Marjorie Meek-Bradley! The executive chef at Ripple and Roofers Union was appropriately tight-lipped about her time on the show, which premieres Dec. 2-3, but said the roast was the first time she'd seen Tom, Padma and company since whatever happened happened.
Speaking of those crazy kids, maybe keep your day jobs? Whether it was the writing or delivery or a bit of both, more than a few of the jokes fell flatter than a deflated souffle. ("Tough crowd for GMO jokes," ad-libbed "Top Chef" judge and former contestant Richard Blais. "I'm going to write that down.")
That being said, here are a few of our favorite zingers from the evening:
Blais: "[Colicchio has] taught me so much, but the most important thing he taught me . . . was the ancient art of eye-rolling. You do it after Padma Lakshmi says anything."
Lakshmi: "What is it with that eye-rolling, by the way? I can see you. I've always seen you. I've got eyes in my ears, and I can see you. Plus, there are 14 cameras rolling. You're not fooling anybody. But then I realized why he's rolling his eyes. It's the only way he knows how to fake he's actually listening."
Lakshmi: "Despite all the fame and success, though, Tom is a really simple man. He wakes up in the morning . . . and he eats his eggs with the same spice-rubbed squab as you and I do."
Lakshmi: "Here we have a small-town boy who went from scooping ice cream to winning five James Beard Awards. . . . That's right. Five awards, including outstanding chef and lots of other ones, but conspicuously absent from this big roster is Mr. Congeniality."
Lakshmi: "A good chef is measured not by the food he creates but by the joy he makes others feel. If that's the case, Tommy, I would say, pack your knives and go."
Colicchio: "Richard's about one pair of glasses away from actually finding his personality. Keep working on it, Richard, keep working on it. You'll get there."
Colicchio: "They asked my wife if she wanted to roast me, and she said, 'I can't do that because it will all be true, and you won't find it very funny.' So my TV wife stepped in. None of it was true. None of it was funny."