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Top Dad

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It would seem as if Tom Colicchio has everything a man could want. There’s his business empire, which includes eight restaurants and the ‘wichcraft chain of sandwich shops, not to mention his role as head judge on TV’s Top Chef. And when he comes home at the end of the day, it’s to a duplex loft in lower Manhattan, which he shares with his wife and two sons. But there is one thing, Colicchio says, that he still longs for. “It’s hard to get everything done,” he says, “so a 36-hour day would be great!”

If Colicchio, 47, is feeling “dead tired” lately, it’s with good reason. In August he and his wife of eight years, Lori Silverbush, 40, a filmmaker, welcomed son Luka—just as Colicchio was preparing to launch his latest restaurant, Colicchio & Sons (which opened in January in New York City). But it turns out the man known for being a tough critic on TV is a “mushy teddy bear” when it comes to his family, splitting parenting duties 50-50, Silverbush says. “I’m my own boss, so I can build my schedule around the baby,” Colicchio explains. “Luka and I spend mornings together. We sit on the couch and play guitar.” Adds Silverbush: “He’s not one of those dads where you worry he’s going to bathe the baby in boiling water. He’s got it under control.”

That’s because Colicchio’s first go-round with fatherhood prepared him to deal with any parenting emergency. In 1993 Colicchio and his then-girlfriend, who was pregnant, learned that the baby was in distress; after an emergency C-section, their son Dante arrived—nearly 2 months premature and weighing only 2 lbs. 5 oz. Dante spent two months in the hospital before coming home, and even then, “the doctors came to us and said he might be blind,” Colicchio recalls.

Today, Dante is a healthy 16-year-old and “great big brother,” Colicchio says. (Colicchio declined to name Dante’s mother, with whom he shares custody.) “Dante and I spend a lot of time just hanging out, watching dumb videos online, playing Xbox. And Luka is content to sit there on my lap, watching us.”

Despite this brotherly bonding—not to mention the restaurant he named after his boys—Colicchio insists he isn’t dreaming of his sons taking over the family business someday. Instead his real hope as a father “is to raise children who go out in the world,” he says, “and do the right thing.”