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Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio on affordable cookware and closing the hunger gap

·3 min read

If you’ve seen an episode of Bravo’s Top Chef, then Tom Colicchio needs no introduction. He has been a head judge on the show since it premiered in 2006.

An acclaimed chef and restaurateur, Colicchio heads his popular Crafted Hospitality group, which includes Craft, Craftsteak, and ‘Wichcraft, among other restaurants in New York City, Long Island, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. A native of New Jersey, Colicchio got his start at major New York City-based restaurants including Gramercy Tavern and Gotham Bar & Grill, before launching his first fine dining concept, Craft. And he is the recipient of five James Beard Foundation Awards and an Emmy Award.

Additionally, Colicchio is a strong advocate of causes working to eliminate food insecurity by promoting a food system that values access, affordability, and nutrition over corporate interests. He joined former First Lady Michelle Obama on the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and produced the 2013 food documentary A Place at the Table about hunger in America. Colicchio sits on the board of numerous organizations including City Harvest, New York’s largest food rescue service, and God’s Love We Deliver, which home-delivers medically-tailored meals. He continues to expand upon his message with his podcast, Citizen Chef, which dives into food and policy issues with lawmakers, journalists, and food producers.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Colicchio cofounded the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a voice for restaurant owners across the country, and he was instrumental in the passage of the American Rescue Act. When he has time, he invests in early stage startups in the food tech space.

Why I Invested-Tom Colicchio
Tom Colicchio
  • Startup: Made In

  • Location: Austin, Texas

  • Year founded: 2017

  • Valuation: Undisclosed

  • Number of Employees: 46

Why he invested, in his own words

I was really excited to invest in Made In because they’re making direct-to-consumer, high-quality cookware. It’s just as good as some of the other big brands sold at retailers, but for a fraction of the cost. This is a real benefit to the consumer who might not be able to afford the price. I’ve outfitted many of my own restaurants in Made In—I can tell you that it stands up for itself in a restaurant kitchen environment.

I believe in the Made In team. [The founders] Chip and Jake are disrupting the supply chain of cookware, from the steel to where it’s stamped and where it’s produced and made. Made In is making pieces that are affordable, but are going to last a lifetime. They are authentic to their brand, and they’re just great guys to work with. I’ve seen them create products that didn’t stand up to the quality they expect in their products and not put it to market. I think it takes leadership and maturity to work hard on a product, but to pull back before it goes public to make sure everything is right.

It’s important to me to not only invest money into startups but also be impactful in the relationships I can help create. My monetary investment adds value, but I want to personally be able to add value to the Made In brand. When you invest early, you can have a lot more impact on the direction of the company. The marketing that I’ve done for them has clearly helped expand the brand, and they have been very measured in their chef/restaurant partnerships. Investing and being able to introduce them to other partners and chefs is me ensuring my investment was worth it. I’m not just adding dollars. I add credibility, especially as it relates to food and restaurants.

The team continues to roll out great products that I use both at home and in my restaurants. My advice: Buy high-quality cookware. It’s worth the investment.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com