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What Tom Colicchio Can’t Live Without

Photo: Courtesy

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and the electric toothbrush. We asked Tom Colicchio — the head judge on Top Chef and owner of Crafted Hospitality, who recently partnered with Made In to launch a set of fishing knives — about the duffel bag, olive oil, and travel mug he can’t live without.

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I have several Yeti products. They’re just so high-quality. But the best of all is really the coffee mug. I use it every day. I take it with me if I’m driving or going fishing and it keeps coffee hot the entire time. I have a tendency to forget about it, too, and whenever I go back to get it, the coffee is still hot. I have a 14-ounce one. It’s big enough to hold a lot of coffee and fits in my car’s cup holders — the larger ones usually don’t fit, which defeats the purpose of having a portable mug.

Photo: retailer

Olive oil is probably my most-used pantry item, aside from salt and pepper. There’s this little Italian shop–slash–gourmet store near me; I was browsing there one day and saw this brand. I bought it because the name is spelled almost the same as my last name, which I thought was quite funny. But I ended up loving it. It’s a good everyday extra-virgin olive oil. I use it to cook and it’s also great for finishing and salads. I pretty much use it daily.

You can’t cook to time — you have to cook to temperature. Cooking to time is so inaccurate and most ovens aren’t calibrated right, so you really need a thermometer in order to properly cook meat. This is the best meat thermometer I’ve ever used. There are two sensors — one to get the internal temperature of what you’re cooking and one to get the ambient temperature of the oven. Everything syncs up with your smartphone through Bluetooth. You can program it, too: If I’m doing a roast and I want the internal temperature to be 117 degrees, I can set it to that and the probe will actually calculate when I should take the roast out. It alerts me on my phone, so I don’t have to constantly check the oven. That’s great for two reasons. First, when you’re cooking something, especially something big like a roast, the temperature still goes up once you take it out of the oven — it’s called carryover cooking. So if I want my roast to be at 117 degrees, I will take it out of the oven before that because it will reach 117 degrees outside of the oven. This thermometer understands that. Second, when you’re constantly opening the oven to check on your meat, you change the ambient temperature and it will change how the meat cooks. I avoid those issues with this thermometer and I get perfect meat every time.

Just a good, old-school, leather duffel bag. I take it with me when I’m traveling or staying somewhere for a weekend. I’ve had mine for quite some time — many years — and it’s still in great shape. It holds everything I need it to and is not one of those awful wheely things. I prefer the sophisticated look of the leather, rather than, you know, typical carry-on luggage. It’s an investment, for sure, but I get a lot of use out of it. So overall, I find it worth the price. Every time I use it, I think, “Ah, I really like my duffel bag.”

Photo: retailer

I grow tomatoes every summer. When tomatoes grow, they get really tall and very heavy, so you need cages to keep them from falling over. These are the sturdiest I’ve ever found. I’ve used others that are flimsy and fall over with the weight, but these are very well-made. They come in two pieces and actually lie flat when taken apart, so they’re easy to store. I have 12 of them in my garden right now.

I fish a lot on my boat and have a lot of reels from Accurate — maybe 20. It’s not the most popular or well-known brand, but I find its reels to be the best on the market. The company was started by these guys who used to make equipment for the aerospace industry. They are also fishing fanatics. The specifications of each reel are spectacular and their approach to making them is really special. The most versatile one I own is the DX2-600 and I get a lot of use out of it. Oftentimes you’re switching out reels depending on what you’re fishing or where you’re fishing because some reels are better for trolling, while others are better for jigging. You can jig with this, but you can also set it up to troll, which is what makes it special and very good, especially for the environments I fish in.

This spreader bar has really helped me fish. I don’t have a big boat and this pushes the lures out so that when I’m trolling, I can get a wider spread in cleaner water because it’s not dragging toward the back of my boat. I use it mostly for fishing tuna — yellowfin, bluefin, bigeye — and other pelagic fish. The spreader makes it look like a fish is chasing smaller fish to eat them. It gets the real fish excited, so they come up and grab the lure on the spreader that looks like the biggest fish in the bunch, which has a hook on it.

Photo: retailer

I own a lot of things from Made In. I use its products at home and we also use the brand at all my restaurants. Everything is the same quality as, say, Williams Sonoma, but because the brand is direct-to-consumer, it costs half the price. Because I fish a lot, getting the features of this knife just right was important. I wanted it to have a really sticky grip. When you’re filleting fish, your hands tend to get a little wet, which makes it difficult to handle a knife if the grip isn’t good. I also wanted a blade that is flexible enough to cut around the bone, but not too flexible that it moves too much and won’t keep a straight line when cutting the flesh of the fish. This has the right balance.

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What Tom Colicchio Can’t Live Without