Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito explains the importance of love in cooking.

on Aug 11, 20110

 

It wasn’t Valentine’s Day, but last night certainly felt like it. I am still trying to cool off. Ah,  if every day could be Valentine’s Day …

I welcomed to my kitchen three chefs with completely different backgrounds; hell, one wasn’t even an earning chef, but someone who just loves to cook (we should all be like her!) Let me introduce the trio:

Vicki Ferentino  is the owner of Soulfully Good Catering in New York City. She’s a self-taught chef/caterer who does a lot of huge, up-to-600-guest parties. She had to start cooking at age nine because her parents didn’t cook. That tells me she’s a real survivor. Her signature dish was a Buttermilk Fried Chicken Salad with Maple and Mayonnaise Dressing that I found intriguing. I mean, who combines maple syrup and mayonnaise? I like my maple syrup on buttermilk pancakes, not in my mayonnaise. (Plus, it was a visual disaster… if something looks that bad, you don’t want to taste it, but I had to, or it wouldn’t be fair to cast it out on looks alone. OK, that goes for life too: you can’t judge a book by its cover.) And to prove the truth of that well-worn cliché, Vicki’s dish was over-the-top delicious.

My second chef was Chris Thompson, Executive Chef who has worked in fine dining for more than 10 years in Minnesota. He currently hangs his chef’s hat at Smack Shack and has apprenticed under a lot of award-winning chefs. Chris is a “chef of the people.” He does the whole food truck thing where he sticks his head out the window and cooks great stuff at food fairs. 

But not dishes like the fois gras he was cooking for me. I got a whiff of it. Jeez, I concluded it had been around for a long time. It didn’t make me feel better when he said it had to be in a suitcase to get here. I wasn’t feeling very hungry after hearing that remark. Well, his full dish was pancake with fois gras, quail eggs, Serrano ham, and blueberry gastrique. It was a very indulgent and gorgeous-looking, but certainly not a breakfast you’d get at the local pancake shop, that’s for sure. But if you can get this in your town, let me know. OK, I ran my finger over the squiggle of gastrique and licked it. I said  “wow,” but what I really meant was “yuck.” It wasn’t balanced well against the strong flavors of the fois gras and eggs. On second thought, if your local pancake restaurant serves this dish, don’t call me.

Here is the most interesting entry in our signature challenge: Yuki Tsutsui, an investor relations professional with Avenue Capital. She’s a financier who loves to cook! I was freakin’ blown away by her willingness to come to the loft to compete. I am a huge believer in all of us learning to cook at home more often. I don’t care if you heat up tea in a microwave or slap together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you can cook. Hell, don’t get me started, but I think it’s healthier to cook at home, more satisfying, and definitely more economical -- and that’s coming from someone who has been a partner and executive chef in several restaurants. OK, let me jump off my soapbox with a thud, and say Yuki did something very creative and original. In fact, I’ve never seen such a feat before. Her signature dish not only told me how she cooks, it also told me so much about her heritage. She is Japanese with a Venezuelan background, so she prepared a fish taco called a JapaZuelan fish taco. It defined her persona from so many different points of view. BUT, yes there is always a “but”... the flavors of the fish (cod) didn’t combine well with the tomatillo sauce. Yuki flunked Sandwich 101, and she was eliminated. My final advice to her was: Hey, if you love cooking this much, get some formal training. If she takes my advice, I think we’ll see her in the next generation of celebrity chefs.

16 comments
Deeisme
Deeisme

You lost me at fois gras. Oh dear heavens! Not only did it smell gamey but he admitted it had it's own unrefrigerated air miles? I have to ask why anyone allow such a thing to be served to their guests? I think this episode would be on par with watching someone pick their nose, continue cooking and then smilingly serve. What example should a dinner party host exhibit when witnessing such a disgusting display? Personally I would called for pizza before allowing that to happen. eeooww!

Olivia Pettibone
Olivia Pettibone

I have been watching all of the Bravo food-related shows for years. I enjoy all of them, even Rocco's Dinner. The bad thing about this show is the level of snobbery that comes from Rocco and his guests. If you truly listen to the conversations they have, while waiting for their different courses, they are very boring people. In fact, Rocco has no personality with the exception of constantly insulting the 2 final chefs. I guess if you dont have anything much thats interesting, then insult your help. I feel sorry for him - he did a great job on the contest he was in charge of for the pre-packaged pasta dishes. I hope he gets a reality check. He has a likeability factor there somewhere, if he just tries.

Offended
Offended

I cannot believe that more people were not offended by the "I did not marry you to have brown eyed babies" and "nobody wants brown eyes" comments by Samantha Bee and her husband. What an extremely limited attitude. I sat and thought about it since it aired hoping that I was wrong about the exchange and I am at this point fairly certain it was one of the most vulgar comments I have heard aired by TV network.

Shame on you Samantha Bee, all children are beautiful. In a time when we are working so hard to create a safe environment for all children this comment was offensive. Shame on you Rocco for supporting the comment with your claim you have hazel eyes and shame on Bravo for airing the exchange.

nana1176
nana1176

Rocco, Love the show and Chris should have been disqualified when he ignored the food restrictions. Plus, he was late on his food service and he had more time to get the dishes done then Vickie did and he says that he should have won because he was the "true" chef. If doesnt matter if you are a trained chef or a person who just cooks for family and friends if you know how to cook then you have every right to compete if you can meet Roccos requirements. I do believe that we over think our food. I know that when I over think the dish I am making it doesnt come out as good but my spur of the moment creations are awesome. Love your show.

WesternMass
WesternMass

Hi Rocco, Love your show! Makes me want to throw a dinner party (and I *never* throw dinner parties). ANYWAY, up here in Northampton, MA, we have a great joint called Local Burger, and they do sweet potato fries with a maple–mayo dipping sauce. The two together is an amazing combination of flavors and textures.... crunchy, salty, sweet, creamy. I wouldn't have tried it if someone hadn't recommended it... maple+mayo is not intuitive! Thanks again for such an entertaining show.

Pickle8182
Pickle8182

I have to ask you Rocco, my son likes helping me cook (when I do!). PLEASE tell me not all male chefs are as arrogant as the ones who seem to find their way to your show. lol What's up with them?

Linda Lee
Linda Lee

Great episode - Great Theme - Great ambiance - Great food. Vicki who was asummed to be the underdog showed how cooking from the soul really outweighs all and I loved all the cheesy lovey dovey decor.

browneyesarebeautiful
browneyesarebeautiful

I enjoyed the show until Samantha Bee and Jason Jones started talking about eye color. I thought it was declasse and trashy for Jason to say, "...well no one wants a baby with brown eyes." You are entitled to your opinion, Jason, but some things are better left unsaid. Particularly on national television. As the proud parent of 2 children, one of whom who has gorgeous brown eyes, I can say that I am far more concerned that my children have 2 properly formed brain hemispheres, 4 properly formed heart chambers, and many other essential physical components, than I am about their eye color. Eye color is cosmetic. Shame on you.

Tpoulos
Tpoulos

My grandfather always said...if you can read...you can cook!!! Love your show...marry me??? LOL!!!

RoccoFan82
RoccoFan82

OMG!!! I love this show! This show has inspired me to cook. I'm not very good at cooking but everytime I watch this show I want to try and get better. This show is so great and I look forward to it every week. All the food that is prepared looks delicious and I love how the dining rooms get set up. This show is just fabulous! I also adore the dreamy Rocco!

BevAnn
BevAnn

Chris created two major faux paus by serving the guests food they didn't eat or were allergic to. That should have disqualified him. Regardless, if Simon ate the ribs and loved them or not. It put an uncomfortable spin on the dinner

lou colleen
lou colleen

I totally agree with Rocco. Chris ignored his guests' requirements & I find that a complete faux paus in entertaining. Although some of his dishes seemed much better than Vicki's, he did have MORE time & then still miscalculated terribly. Poor loser... Rocco, your show ROCKS, by the way...

Amy Conner
Amy Conner

Food and love go hand in hand..grandmothers making Sunday dinners, your mom cooking pancakes into funny shapes so you'll eat them, cooking a special dinner for the one you love..and let's be honest, it tastes better when you know there was heart put into it! I remember my grandmother always teaching me things in the kitchen even if I didn't want to listen. When my daughters were little I remember sitting them on the counter to help me.Messy, yes, egg shells in the mix, yes..But we did it together..when my youngest was 8 she wanted a pasta machine for Christmas! That was great. I must admit wanting the Creme Brulee "kit" when she was 13 was a bit scary.Who wants a teenager with a blow torch?? But now she is 23, a mother and I see the love she puts into feeding her family. ALL her baby food is home made! And since I digressed so much from your question, yes we over think our dishes! Sometimes less is more..it actually is like your "fashion" themed party..sometimes food can be overworked..now that I've rambled..I love your show..I love the combination of food with decor..it is thoughtful and instructive..Keep it up!! Thanks