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Tom Colicchio has been a mainstay of reality television since Top Chef premiered in 2006 — but the Emmy-winning chef almost quit TV completely after his first onscreen experience went awry.

“The first time I did TV I swore I would never do TV again,” Colicchio, 61, revealed to Us Weekly exclusively while promoting his new Spirits Network series, Tom Colicchio’s The Pantry.

“So it was [Live With] Regis and Kathie Lee and I had just won Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef. This is 1991,” he recalled. “They called me and said, ‘Can you bring a dish? We’ll go through the steps.’ And so I brought this dish, it was braised red snapper, and then there was an eggplant caviar sandwiched between layers of fried eggplant [with] a sauce with roasted red peppers, lemon, lemon zest [and] olive oil.”

Colicchio continued: “I had my steps set up and so I walked through the steps, and the producer was like, ‘Great.’ So I’m leaving, and [I ask] these two stagehands, ‘Hey, what time should I come here on Monday?’ [They said] ‘Just get here at 8.’ I show up at 8 o’clock. The producer is screaming at me, ‘Where were you? You missed rehearsal. You’re going to screw this up.’”

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Unfortunately for Colicchio, missing rehearsal wasn’t the only thing to go wrong that day.

“So they’re doing the show and I’m over there setting everything up, being very quiet, and every 10 minutes he’d come by [saying], ‘You’re going to mess this up. I should pull this segment,’” he said. “I’m getting nervous now, more than sweaty, I’m freaking out.”

Tom Colicchio Thought He’d Never Do TV Again After ‘Bad Experience’ on Regis and Kathie Lee in 1991

Tom Colicchio
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

When they started the segment, Colicchio said that the late Regis Philbin was “fumbling with the oven,” so he went over to check on the eggplant. When Philbin took the eggplant out of the oven, he quipped to Colicchio, “That’s what happens when you miss rehearsal.”

“I’m like, ‘I can’t believe this guy just threw me under the bus,’” Colicchio told Us. “So I get through the segment and it’s perfect. We nail it. We absolutely nail it. And so a producer comes over and says, ‘Oh, that was great!’ And I was like, ‘Why did [Regis] throw me under the bus like that?’ He goes, ‘No, he missed rehearsal.’

Luckily for Top Chef fans, Colicchio did not let the incident deter him from pursuing a career on TV.

Tom Colicchio Thought He’d Never Do TV Again After ‘Bad Experience’ on Regis and Kathie Lee in 1991

Charly Pierre, Carla Hall, and Tom Colicchio on ‘Top Chef.’
David Moir/Bravo

“It was such a bad experience,” he said. “I walked off that set and I said, ‘I will never do TV again.’ And here I am, 21 seasons later of Top Chef, and I guess I’m doing TV.”

Colicchio is expanding his reality cooking show chops with his new interactive cooking show, The Pantry. Hosted by Colicchio and featuring a star-studded lineup of celebrity chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and Kristen Kish, the Spirits Network series features a “buy bar” that allows viewers to purchase featured ingredients and tools with a simple click. While viewers watch the show, they can easily recreate the dishes themselves at home.

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“I had this idea about 20 years ago, [but] the technology wasn’t there yet,” Colicchio tells Us of the cutting-edge new show. “A lot of chefs when they cook at home, myself included, I’m looking for shortcuts, and a lot of these shortcuts are actually in the pantry.”

For more of Colicchio’s at-home cooking tips and onscreen mishaps, check out the exclusive video above.

Tom Colicchio’s The Pantry is streaming now on Spirits Network.

With reporting by Christina Garibaldi



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