The Dark Side of ‘Top Chef’ Host Tom Colicchio’s Restaurant Empire

Tom Colicchio from Top Chef stands in front of the set surrounded by cookware including mixers, scales, and deli slicers in front of a half light brown brick wall and a wood wall. He is wearing a black suit with a white button-up shirt.
Tom Colicchio from Top Chef | Getty Images

Top Chef host Tom Colicchio has a reputation as being a nice guy. Still, he’s also had negative stories surrounding him over the years dealing with lawsuits against his restaurant empire. These have one common theme among them, though it’s open to interpretation whether they’re all legitimate. 

Let’s take a closer look at the dark side of Colicchio’s restaurant empire – what happened and how he dealt with it. 

Tom Colicchio has faced multiple lawsuits throughout the years

There have been several lawsuits filed against Colicchio’s business entities over the years. 

According to NY Eater, an employee supporting catered events at New York’s Beekman Hotel filed a wage lawsuit against Collichio’s company. The company provided a catering service for private dining events at the hotel’s restaurant, Temple Court. 

The employee filed a class-action suit on behalf of 40 employees, both past and present. The suit claimed that the company stole the employees’ tips. Colicchio commented that tips aren’t collected at these events, and employees receive a flat rate of $25 an hour. 

Colicchio joined several defendants in another tipping-related lawsuit. According to the Hollywood Reporter, a Minnesota man sued Colicchio and several other high-profile restaurateurs in California and New York. Alleged, the group conspired to eliminate tipping to justify hiking up their meal prices. The suit targeted multiple power brokers within the restaurant industry outside of Colicchio, who wields quite a bit of influence in the culinary world. 

TakePart reported that Colicchio’s restaurant ‘Wichcraft was also accused of wage theft. Colicchio denied the allegation in the strongest of terms, saying they were “just not true.” 

Colicchio avoided at least one of those lawsuits

Colicchio has always been vocal and passionate about denying every one of the claims against him. He’s never wavered or hid from them. 

In the case of the price-fixing suit, all New York defendants were dropped. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White couldn’t find a reason why a California court should have jurisdiction over New York defendants. 

In the wage theft suit against ‘Wichcraft, Colicchio had a defender in the form of Restaurant Opportunities Center cofounder and codirector Saru Jayaraman, who said the following: 

“We gave Tom a gold-star award for his wage standards, his benefit standards, his promotion policy, and also the racial equality in his restaurants. Tom is honestly one of the best we’ve seen in these categories.” 

This chef’s role on ‘Top Chef’ and reputation

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The wage theft and tipping suits against this famous chef are in stark contrast to his image on the show. As one of the show’s hosts, Colicchio is known for being a good guy. 

While Colicchio is better known among the public for his work on TV, he has quite a few business ventures in the restaurant world. Jayaraman also noted that he’s quite reputable in that field. Noting that Colicchio faced allegations against him head-on and with an open mind: 

The people who take the high road to profitability respond differently to those who take the low road. The people who take the high road take the allegations very seriously, respond to them quickly, and are open to reacting and changing. Tom has always taken the high road. 

The fact of the matter is, no matter how much controversy surrounds his restaurant empire, Colicchio doesn’t run and hide. He vociferously defends both himself and his business practices as ethical.