The last thing Tom Colicchio wants anyone to think is that he's an interloper, a celebrity descended from Mount Epicurean to dispense fine victuals to the chicken-fried schmucks. The chef--the Top Chef, if you will, as Colicchio's a regular judge on Bravo's TV series--sits in a booth in his restaurant at the W Hotel in Victory Park. It's a week before the W's official June 29 opening, and it's relatively quiet. Few know the place, simply called Craft, is even open: Dinner reservations are full, but the lunch crowd is small, casual. All that will change in coming days, though: Colicchio would insist otherwise, but he possesses the fame and cred to warrant his arrival in Dallas as a Big Deal. He's friends with Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles and Kent Rathbun, the Holy Trinity of homegrown chefs, but also a competitor now.
"My only interest is that the restaurant community down here accepts," Colicchio says. Dallas' Craft location is only his second restaurant outside of New York City; the other one is Craftsteak in Las Vegas, in the MGM Grand. "I have no intentions of coming here and being the best restaurant down here. I just wanna be able to add to what's going on down here and do a good job and have people recognize that.'"
Colicchio had designs on Dallas as long ago as January 2005, when he hinted during the Sundance Film Festival that he would be bringing the simple, elegant and hearty Craft menu to Victory Park. He met Ross Perot Jr. years ago and began discussing the move, but it was Marty Collins, president and CEO of downtown-based Gatehouse Capital, who began discussions in earnest with the multiple winner of James Beard Foundation awards for, among other things, best new chef and best cookbook. Gatehouse is developing not only four W Hotels across the country but also the 125-room boutique Joule Hotel on Main Street, which is scheduled to open in August 2007. "It just made sense to come to Dallas," says Colicchio, whose brother lives here. The chef's also planning to open 'wichcraft, his cheap-eats all-sandwich joint, in Victory Park some time next year.
"I spent the last year and a half trying to get this business going, and the idea of sitting in an office all day bums me out," says the chef, who will be in Dallas for most of the next month overseeing what has thus far been a smooth operation. He will then go to Los Angeles to film next season's Top Chef and open a Craft there. "We've been dealing with this expansion and refinancing, dealing with bankers, and now that stuff's over with. There's a sense of freedom now; I can start playing again and doing what I wanna do."
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