Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito sheds light on Kevin's win. 

on Jul 28, 2011

I awarded the Signature Dish Challenge to Kevin, but warned him to leave the engineer mentality at home, and show me he can cook with heart. To Janet, my advice was similar: think less and feel more.

Kevin and Janet got fired up about the Gastro-Pub Dinner Party theme. Janet loves British fooda, nd I explained that their menus had to be pub-grub but cooked to a really high, creative standard.

Their décor choices couldn’t have been more different. Both chefs kept true to a British pub ambiance, with Janet doing an edgy punk-rock look in the intimate dining room (did you see those kinky napkin rings?) with a dart board, and Kevin created an ambience as close to an English pub as you can find. The minute I stepped into it, I felt as if I’d been warped into London suburbia. The roughhewn table draped with butcher paper, the menu on the chalkboard, the exposed brick wall with British paintings, and the chairs with comfortable upholstery -- all so typical of a classic English pub.

Broken record, I know, but how many times have I mentioned I am always looking at whether a dinner party succeeds on its own terms? And it is not all about the food, if it was, people would just stay at home and cook. Normally, it’s a social experience; it’s about setting up the right vibes, and serving up a wonderful time for guests. Invited to this week’s party were:

Amanda Hesser, New York Times food writer. That has to be the second most fun job in the world, next to being a chef.