A Quickie with Rocco DiSpirito

Maybe you only know of Rocco DiSpirito because you've seen him battling Jeffrey Chodorow on the NBC reality show The Restaurant, spinning around the floor on Dancing With the Stars, helping hefties on Biggest Loser, or taking toques to the table on Top Chef, but before he emerged into our living rooms he was gaining heaps of attention for whipping up some serious eats in the kitchen. Food and Wine magazine once labeled this C.I.A. grad a "Best New Chef," Gourmet Magazine considered him "America's Most Exciting Young Chef," and he's even got a James Beard award shoved up under his belt somewhere. 

Nowadays this New Yorker has traded in the regularly scheduled, big-time television appearances for sporadic shows of cooking love. He's got at least a

half-dozen cookbooks to his name, including one due out next month (more about that later), and he'll be all over the South Beach Wine & Food Festival this year. On February 25, he'll be at Burger Bash, on the 27 you can find him at Midnight Amore, and again on the 27 (and also on the 28) watch him cooking for the kiddies at Fun & Fit as a Family. We also hear he's big into triathlalons and Springsteen. Guess you can say Rocco was born to run. Har!

New Times: Most embarrassing cooking-related moment?

Rocco DiSpirito: I have had several. Can't cook for 20 years without something.

NT: If you came back in your next life as food item what would it be and why?

RD: Salt. It is my favorite! And I use it everyday to season every dish I create.

NT: What's your favorite junk food and where do you get it?

RD: I am off the junk for a while. But I love chocolate of all kinds.

NT: Which chef, alive or dead, would you like to challenge in Iron Chef fashion?

RD: I would love to have cooked with Julia Child, but she would beat me without a fight!

NT: What's your favorite food/cooking related joke?

RD: Don't know any. Wish I did.

NT: What's your favorite soundtrack/song to cook to?

RD: Anything from the Bruce! (Springsteen, of course.)

NT: Next big project? 

RD: I am really excited about Now Eat This! (Plug!!) It's 150 of America's favorite comfort foods. All reinvented at 350 calories! That's where my focus is now.

NT: Please complete this sentence: Never trust a chef who...? 

RD: Doesn't taste his food when cooking.

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Riki Altman