Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito examines the different approaches taken by the chefs to celebrate Liza Minnelli's birthday.

on Aug 18, 2011


What a night, what a way to end the season.

We marked a very special occasion with a very special party for a very special lady, Liza Minnelli, who was celebrating her 65th birthday. Forgive the poetic waxing, but in so many ways, fond memories go hand in hand with great meals, and last night, that’s what I wanted to create for the fabulous, incomparable Liza Minnelli.

So in the kitchen were:

Antonio (Tony) Bettencourt, truck-driver-turned-restaurant-owner. His restaurant is 62 Restaurant, in Salem, Massachusetts where he’s also the Executive Chef. Yes, he went to cooking school, but I bet he got his greatest food education eating at truck stops, where some of the best stuff is served. Seriously! I’m hard-pressed to pass up a good ol’ truck stop meal, especially breakfast. To this day nothing brings a smile to my face quite like opening a menu and reading “breakfast served all day.” 

Lucia Palmieri used to be an Executive Chef but decided that working 80 hours a week wasn’t her cup of minestrone. Very cool is that she is the lead soprano for the New York City Opera! She belted out a note so high for me that my wine glasses started shaking. Before she unloaded her bag of food for the Signature Dish Challenge, Lucia started hitting on Tony. I got worried about her sincerity. My kitchen is a place to make magic, but not that kind of magic.

Executive Chef Frank Picchione is a self-taught chef who runs his own catering business Frank Picchione Catering in New York City. He didn’t get those biceps from rattling pots and pans. Frank used to be a personal trainer. After finding out that Tony was happily married, Lucia tried to move in on Frank.

Very different kinds of backgrounds with these chefs.... I couldn’t wait to see where this was headed.