Foodie Fight: Top Chef vs. Chicago Restaurant

Colicchio seems to poke fun at local restaurant in new commercial

Top Chef fans who watched the Oscars on Sunday were in for a treat. Beloved chef Tom Colicchio appeared in a new Diet Coke commercial, criticizing the ways of overly frou-frou restaurants. But a few locals are wondering if he's talking about one specific business.

Tom Colicchio is an award-winning American chef and has been the head judge on every season of the Bravo reality competition show, Top Chef. In the Diet Coke ad, he walks through a high-end restaurant, eyeing questionable dishes like shrimp suspended mid-air with skewers and dehydrated vegetables served via photo clips.

Foodie Fight

"When it comes to taste, it's important to know the difference between being sophisticated and uh...," he observes a ridiculous-looking tower of unidentifiable appetizers, "...whatever that is."

He steps up to the bar and, of course, orders a Diet Coke.

"You don't have to overcomplicate it. No gimmicks. No fads. No 'shrimp... nests'. Just keep it simple. 'Cuz when you start with good taste, you don't need anything else."

But locals who are familiar with "molecular gastronomy" may have recognized a few of the dishes that Colicchio was dismissing. They are very similar to the courses available at Alinea.

Alinea was named the best restaurant in America by Gourmet magazine in 2006, and chef/owner Grant Achatz is well-known for his inventive and creative food preparations. For example, one course once included a single bite of frozen crabapple puree, dipped in foie gras, with brown sugar and sorrel. It was served on the end of a long, metallic rod and was to be eaten without the use of one's hands.

A typical "experience" consists of 20 or more small courses over the period of several hours.

Yeah, that sounds pretty frou-frou.

So is lifesaving Colicchio passing judgment on Chicago's five-diamond restaurant?

"I have nothing but respect for Grant," he told the Chicago Tribune. "He is that rare chef who creates high-concept food and makes it taste delicious. If anything, [the ad] is aimed at people who try to imitate the kind of sophisticated food that Grant does."

Also, Colicchio made it clear that he did not prepare or write the commercial. He simply showed up and read his lines.

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and "between blogs" blogger, is easily won over by cheap Chicago-style hot dogs and fries.

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