Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito explains why both chefs were winners, and reveals set secrets.

on Jun 24, 2011

Everyone loved Joel’s dessert. Cardamom ice cream – who knew my guests would like that? Sometimes called “seeds of paradise,” cardamom is one of my favorite spices. It gives food a menthol and anise touch.

Speaking of paradise, did you catch how Padma likes her potato skins cooked? We were all fanning ourselves afterwards and D.L. needed a cigarette!

And now on to King’s party: Pork Spare Ribs marinated in oyster sauce and grilled; Grilled Shrimp and Papaya Salad; Seafood Curry, made with scallops, mussels, shrimp, and green coconut curry; Panna Cotta with coconut and lemongrass. He started out with a Lychee Bellini which is a dirty trick. Lychee like black truffle is always a win. Take note.

King got marked down for the Pork Spare Rib dish. Padma didn’t like the “cacophony of smells”. About 90 percent of what we consider taste is really smell. The aromatics of a dish is really important to how we perceive the flavor. If something doesn’t smell right, we usually don’t eat it.

D.L. thought that his Seafood Curry wasn’t bold enough. How does that happen? You can’t screw up boldness with curry. It seemed like King was going down for the count dish by dish. 

But he wrapped things up nicely with his Panna Cotta, a perfectly textured and soft molded dessert. He flavored it with coconut and lemongrass –- a divine blend of tropical flavors. Lemongrass has a strong citrusy tang. It reminded me how important a meal-ending indulgence can be.

Based on my guests’ reaction to the food and the fun they had, I announced the winner in a very close race: Chef Joel, congratulations! He said his win was life-altering too; he wants to use the $20,000 prize to make one his dreams come true: opening a restaurant with his wife! So sweet.