Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito reflects on his history with renowned chef and guest judge Daniel Boulud.

on Apr 3, 2008

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Daniel Boulud. What incredible screen presence. The look on the cheftestants' faces when Daniel walked into the room was priceless. He is a legend, and his magnetism is palpable.

All young chefs dream of meeting, cooking, working, or just plain riding the elevator with Daniel Boulud. I moved back to NYC from Paris as a young chef looking for work. I remember calling Daniel, who at the time was the chef at Le Cirque, and begging him for a job. In those days we had to beg, there were fewer restaurants, and man, many cooks -- today the opposite is true I said the following in one long sentence spoken in double time ... "Chef Boulud, this is Rocco Dispirito I just came back from France where I worked for Dominique Cecillon he suggested I call you because he said you're the best I know this guy and my CIA roommate Barney worked for you on his externship and chef so 'n' so recommended me to you at the Beard house and and and ... " and before I could finish my pitch he said he wasn't looking for anyone. He then gave me a moment to re-pitch, testing my tenacity I suppose, but I cracked under the pressure. I didn't even use my finely-honed French in that conversation, fresh off the boat too! That probably would have made the difference, but I was shy in those days. I would have done anything to work for him. He was, and still is the man. Since then I have had the good fortune to interact with him at many events, dine at his wonderful restaurants, and form a friendship with him over the years. I don't know a kinder chef with more grace and talent than Daniel Boulud.It makes perfect sense that the Quickfire Challenge was about classic techniques with Daniel in the house, as he is a master of the classic French technique. As young eager students of cuisine we all wanted to know the "classics." This is actually why I went to the Culinary Institute of America, and why I traveled to France as a penniless teenager (sans work papers).

Ryan spent time with Daniel? Huh.