By Ezra Klein
There’s a phenomenon in journalism called “burying the lede”: It’s when a writer buries the factoid or argument that makes his story interesting deep in the body of the piece. I do not mean to bury my lede. So here it is: Earlier tonight, Tom Colicchio saved Joan Nathan’s life.
Joan Nathan is a James Beard-award winning cookbook author best known for her books Jewish Cooking in America and The New American Cooking. She lives in Washington, DC. Which is how, presumably, she came to host a sprawling party for the Art.Food.Hope inaugural events benefiting DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table. It was, well, very DC. Bob Woodward was there, and so was Carl Bernstein. Jeff Toobin was in the corner and Rachel Maddow wandered through.
But it wasn’t just politicos. Art.Food.Hope is a set of 12 fundraising dinner parties organized by Ayelet Waldman and Alice Waters and catered by an array of accomplished chefs, most of whom were in attendance at Nathan’s soiree. Jose Andres presided boisterously over the proceedings, and some of his kitchen staff spent the night in the front yard roasting a lamb. Daniel Boulud worked the room, Najmieh Batmanglij — whose son turns out to be in Vampire Weekend, oddly enough — spooned Persian wedding rice onto plates, Dan Barber ambled about, Lydia Bastianich floated through a couple of times, and Tom Colicchio was pinned against the banister deflecting fans (there is grassroots anger over last week’s elimination). Which is how he ended up standing next to Nathan when a chunk of chicken went down her wind pipe.
I was in the next room concentrating on a plate of lamb sausage. Alice Waters flung herself into the banister behind me. She was shouting. “Does anyone know the Heimlich maneuver?” She ran back. This is not what you want to hear at a dinner party. Moreover, this is not what you want to hear in the room full of chefs. Don’t they teach the Heimlich at the CIA? Moments later, Waters appeared again. “It’s okay,” she breathed.
What happened in the interim was this: Tom Colicchio knew the Heimlich maneuver. And the Top Chef judge performed it. On Joan Nathan. So not only can Colicchio run multiple restaurants and anchor a cooking show and win five James Beard awards and cook for the rescure workers after 9/11, but he can save your life. Versatile guy. Think he’d be willing to manage the stimulus package?
Incidentally, I managed to chat with Colicchio and Nathan a bit later in the evening. Colicchio was modest. “I just happened to be nearby,” he shrugged. Nathan was more effusive, “He’s so strong!”