Tom Colicchio: Hero.


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!”


79 responses to “Tom Colicchio: Hero.

  1. “Think he’d be willing to manage the stimulus package?”

    Well, he meets the ‘bald, white male’ criteria for the job. But how good is he at burning things? Specifically, money. How good is he at burning money?

  2. Wow. I’d forgotten that there are people who don’t know the Heimlich maneuver. I mean, good for Tom . . . and for anyone who doesn’t know the Heimlich maneuver, please just google it; there are numerous websites and youtube videos that explain all you need to know in less than two minutes. It’s basic first aid, much easier than CPR–and much more likely to save a life.

  3. Quite possibly the best story ever.

  4. spencerackerman

    I still can’t believe you were at this thing.

  5. Pingback: Another reason to love Tom Colicchio (like we needed any) « relishments.

  6. raffaellopantucci

    I am surprised he didn’t break her in two – he’s built like a boxer/fighter/legbreaker!

  7. hallo I am from indonesia, have never see a cool blog like this

  8. Ezra: it was (though we didnt meet…) quite the foodie rock star party indeed—and i wondered how long it would be until the “real story” of joan and toms intimate interaction broke (they came together over a piece of najmieh’s chicken!) but have to correct you – as my director is soon to correct Joan and Alice – that the organization i work with – FRESHFARM Markets not only was involved in sourcing the food for the dinners but is a beneficiary of the event as well

  9. Colicchio should reprise the role of Mel. Kiss my grits!

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  11. I cannot imagine how harshly he judged whoever made the chicken

  12. Shouldn’t choking aid be among the most basic procedures trained in restaurants?

    A few restaurants I worked in part time actually had posters in the kitchen demonstrating it, and one boss had an EMT worker who was a friend show all the waitstaff and bussing staff the techniques.

  13. I am not surprise. Chef Collichio always manages to stay cool calm an collected even in the most “heated”
    moments at Top Chef. One more reason to like the guy.

  14. Pingback: Before and After the Heimlich Maneuver - Diner’s Journal Blog -

  15. Go Tom. I performed the Heimlich maneuver on someone once. Don’t know if it saved their life, but it eliminated the choking that was going on.

    I agree with the others who have written that this is a simple fix everyone should know – esp. in the restaurant biz.

    Little known fact, but the Heimlich maneuver cut the amount of accidental death by choking down by like 90%. Pretty impressive.

  16. Carlo Scannella

    Alice Waters doesn’t know the Heimlich?


  17. I lurves me some Colicchio (even before this). Despite my ex (the chef), I have a thing for men in chef coats! Bourdain, Besh, Batali. Something about having mad cooking & knife skills. (no, didn’t date the ex ’cause he was a chef, that was lagniapped and the only good thing he could do!)
    Rock on Chef C!!! :)
    Peace all! (and chew your food!)

  18. Was that a chunk of free-range chicken? And where’s the recipe?

    Only kiddin.’ Zei gesundt, Joan. That Collichio is a mensch.

  19. Until this post, I would have thought that any restauranteur, owner or manager would ensure that each staff member have instruction in such life saving manoeuvres…especially the heimlich since it is directly related to eating.

    I am amazed that this is not done for staff.

  20. I hope she eventually went to the hospital to get checked out, as those who truly choke (and subsequently are Heimliched upon) should get a medical exam to see if indeed no tiny bits remained aspirated and to see if the life-saving procedure did not cause injury (as it sometimes can, including cracked ribs, etc.) It’s hard to believe this crowd wasn’t more well-educated about all this.

  21. I love Tom C!

    He is so suave and debonair! :)

  22. Pingback: Guilty Carnivore · Life saver

  23. Where did you get that spelling for lead? A lead is a lead is a lead.

  24. To laborlawguy:

    From Mirriam Webster:

    Main Entry: lede
    Pronunciation: \ˈlēd\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: alteration of 2lead
    Date: 1976

    : the introductory section of a news story that is intended to entice the reader to read the full story

  25. Dude, that’s just drop dead sexy. :P

  26. Well, I didn’t think I could like Tom Colicchio more than I already did, but this post proved me wrong! What a great story.

  27. I’m not surprised he’s cool under pressure. I think Obama will be the same. Though I’m a little disappointed with all his lavish spending on the inaurgural festivities. It seems a tad insensitive with so many Americans out of work.

  28. Mmmm, Charlie would love to be saved by Tommy Boy. Even more reasons to love Mr. Colicchio.

  29. @laborlawguy

    From The Lede, a NYT blog:

    In the news business, the opening sentences of a story are referred to as its “lede” — spelled that way, journalism lore has it, to avoid confusion with the lead typesetting that once dominated newspaper printing presses.

  30. Pingback: Tom Colicchio Saves | Atlanta Restaurant Reviews | Atlanta Food Blogs | Dining in Atlanta

  31. Excellent. Just another reason to love Tom.

  32. hotpinkmartini

    I LOVe this bit of information. Thanks for sharing. I <3 colicchio (even more now)

  33. But what did he say about the dubious elimination?

  34. Well, having actually worked for Dr. Heimlich year ago, I know the Heimlich Maneuver but pray everyday that I won’t be asked to use it. It is damn scary when someone chokes and their life might depend on you being cool, calm and collected. None of which I am!!! Perhaps those people at the party were thinking along those lines because I’m certain most of them know the Maneuver.

    Good for Tom. I love him.

  35. Pingback: Tom Colicchio Saves Life During Inaugural Dinner

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  37. Wish I was there, Maddy! FYI the floater’s name is Lidia (identical vowels flank the “d”) Bastianich.

  38. Great post. Great story.

    What a party!

  39. I have a serious crush on Colicchio. There is something so sexy about a guy who can cook.

  40. Pingback: Tom Colicchio performs Heimlich maneuver, saving famous food writer’s life | Food and More with John Kessler

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  42. Figures that Waters wouldn’t know how to do it. I met her a couple of years ago at a benefit and was thunderstruck at what a ditzy dilletante she is. Feh.

  43. Pingback: Tom Colicchio Uses Heimlich Manuver to Save Cookbook Author’s Life |

  44. The spending is no more lavish on Obama’s inauguration than on anyone else’s in the past. The press are reporting a cost of $160 million as opposed to, say, Bush’s $42 million in 2004 – without mentioning that the Obama figure includes the security cost while the Bush figure did not. If you add in the cost of security for Bush’s second inauguration, it comes to over $150 million – virtually the same as this year.

  45. I lovee this bit of information. Thanks for sharing

  46. Pingback: Another Scene from Joan Nathan’s Party - Diner’s Journal Blog -

  47. Pingback: Channel Surfing » “Top Chef’s” Tom Colicchio to the rescue!

  48. even in the picture accompanying Ezra’s post, Colicchio is performing the Heimlich on a really thin invisible person!

    good on him, of course.

  49. And, EOnline cited you all!

  50. We need to remember that the cost of the festivities eventually filter down to $$ in the pockets of those doing the work that generates the costs. That’s all of us in one way or another … from the guys setting up the barricades, to the folks doing the food prep, to the cop on the street, to the souvenir vendor ……… and on and on. I don’t begrudge them a penny.

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  63. Pingback: Tom Colicchio Will Save Your Life |

  64. Pingback: The IFA Gets a Shout Out on Top Chef. « The Internet Food Association

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  66. what harsh judging is “Joe” talking about? I love Tom Colicchio, though sometimes he makes comments that make me raise an eyebrow…

  67. joepierce1988

    even in the picture accompanying Ezra’s post, Colicchio is performing the Heimlich on a really thin invisible person!

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  68. Thx. Good compliment.

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  72. There is a bigger hero than Tom Colicchio: Martin Clifford Allerding. Marty died of a heart attack after saving a couple. That was quick, he did not suffer.

  73. There is a bigger hero than Tom Colicchio: James R. Abraham. Abraham gave his life saving a person and his ancestors came from Syria. It was then the United Arab Republic.

  74. There is a bigger hero than Tom Colicchio: Jeremy Sizemore. Sizemore gave his life saving others and he is part Cherokee. Sizemore is related to John L. Williams, Williams died unexpectedly.

  75. There is a bigger hero than Tom Colicchio: Julius Stankevicius. Stankevicius did help a teacher from Sparks, Nevada, and he was a son of Lithuanian natives. Well done, Julius Stankevicius.

  76. There is a bigger hero than Tom Colicchio: Ambers O’Neal “Troy” Shewmaker/Cansler. Troy gave his life saving a woman but God took him. Possibly, he died with his western boots on.

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