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Rocco DiSpirito


dockhl
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I've tried to read all of the various Rocco threads (whew! :unsure: ) but

Can someone PLEASE give me the Reader's Digest version on this guy and what caused him to be so maligned at this point?

I have no idea where I have been the past few years when it was all happening but I know NOTHING about this man (except the Top Chef-Bertolli thing :sad: ) ? Maybe I was abducted by aliens? Dunno.............

:huh: Kathy

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Here's a down and dirty summary for you; I'm sure there are better writers here who can give you a blow-by-blow of the truly gory details.

After starring in his own "reality" tv show called The Restaurant IIRC, he became almost universally seen as a no good, shillin' skanky ho' for the letting all of the celebrity crap go to his head. The purpose of the show was to open and make a stunning success out of an Italian-American themed I guess restaurant, relying heavily on his mom's recipes. We were also supposed to wait breathlessly to see which of the waiters/waitresses could cut it or get kicked to the curb. Just picture your usual cast of reality tv show stereotypes--the bimbo/himbo, the go-getter, the slackers, etc. and you've got it. Short story is that restaurant tanked, the investors fired him and closed the restaurant--believe me, he deserved it--and Rocco went on to be a radio talk show personality. I have no idea what he's doing now.

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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The sad thing is that prior to that Rocco was the chef at what may arguably have been the best restaurant in NYC at the time - Union Pacific. He was and presumably still is extremely talented.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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i think he's hosting some radio show or something like that.

previous to union pacific, rocco worked under gray kunz at lespinasse. he also went to the cia (i think) and did some study in europe (again, if i remember correctly). he was a very exacting and very good chef at one time.

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^^Apparently shilling for Bertolli and blogging on Top Chef for Bravo.

docsconz is right. He's very talented, and it's very unfortunate that his career took the path that it did.

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Try this: http://nymag.com/nymetro/food/features/n_10216/

Basically, it's the old hubris story of being hoist on one's own petard.

Well.

This all helps very much. I guess I missed a lot of it because I never watched TV until very recently (maybe the last 1-2 years?) . It fascinates me that "The Restaurant" was about a REAL restaurant ! All of the "reality TV" that I've ever watched has seemed anything other than REAL. (Top Chef, Hell's Kitchen, Food TV Star....all sets.)

But.....

other chefs (good or formerly good) hawk their merchandise, restaurants &products, etc.

What makes Rocco different ?

I feel like I am much closer to understanding but am still missing a piece of the puzzle.

Kathy (who loves the expression"hoist on your own petrard" :hmmm: )

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Gee dockhl, it's been awhile since it was on tv and I only half-watched a few episodes, but one of the main problems was that he seemed to lack focus and leadership when it came to dealing with the day-to-day challenges of getting a restaurant off the ground. When there was a problem/crisis at the restaurant, he was often seen schmoozing with "the lay-deez" or doing a talk show or a book signing or something, anything else but taking care of business. In other words, it appeared to many, myself included, that he pissed away a wonderful opportunity--prime location, national exposure, full financial backing, etc.--that a lot of young chefs would give their right arms to have. Writing cookbooks or hawking good cookware is fine, but to not handle his business obligations in a mature and responsible way (and the fact that there were REAL people with REAL jobs at stake) was so unbelievably unprofessional. He just didn't seem to take it seriously which I still find so odd given his background. Like docsconz said, the man has talent in the kitchen.

Edited by divalasvegas (log)

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Do you think a lot of the animosity against him is that people are just so disappointed?

(And, it sounds like he hasn't attempted to get back into the kitchen and resume what he had done so well ...?)

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It's true. Union Pacific was putting out amazing food, and he was the young hot darling of the ny food scene. I vividly remember my meal there, must have been more than 5-6 years ago.

The show was horrible all around, but the worst part was that this formerly brilliant young chef's priority in his new restaurant was to flit from table to table to pose for photos with cute girls. It could have partially been the editing, but he looked like an absolute media whore who didn't care about anything substantive - not the service, not the food. I don't think he actually ever cooked on the show.

What I don't get is why he doesn't just put his head down and cook again. He could redeem himself.

edited to add: I was writing this while others were posting. I think that if he tried to get back into the kitchen he would certainly be given another chance to succeed. I would forgive the stupid mama's meatballs bullshit for another taste of the truffle risotto I had at Union Pacific. The bad behavior was exactly as divalasvegas described - he literally just seemed to blow off all responsibility involved in the restaurant. It was pitiful. If the guy couldn't cook it wouldn't bother me as much.

Edited by daisy17 (log)
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Well maybe, but my guess is that people came to see him as someone who quickly became a spoiled, self-centered, unprofessional, gigantic tool.............. at least IMHO.

Edited to add: My "Well maybe" was directed to dockhl's question re: all the animosity Rocco seems to have engendered, not your observations daisy17. :smile:

Edited by divalasvegas (log)

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Well maybe, but my guess is that people came to see him as someone who quickly became a spoiled, self-centered, unprofessional, gigantic tool.............. at least IMHO.

Edited to add: My "Well maybe" was directed to dockhl's question re: all the animosity Rocco seems to have engendered, not your observations daisy17. :smile:

I watched "The Restaurant" faithfully and the one episode where the vibe was actually palpable was when Rocco stepped into the kitchen. It was the one truly great episode. Rocco was a jerk otherwise. But his partner Geoffery Shoudrow was a bit of a prick as well.

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Well maybe, but my guess is that people came to see him as someone who quickly became a spoiled, self-centered, unprofessional, gigantic tool.............. at least IMHO.

Edited to add: My "Well maybe" was directed to dockhl's question re: all the animosity Rocco seems to have engendered, not your observations daisy17. :smile:

I watched "The Restaurant" faithfully and the one episode where the vibe was actually palpable was when Rocco stepped into the kitchen. It was the one truly great episode. Rocco was a jerk otherwise. But his partner Geoffery Shoudrow was a bit of a prick as well.

Oh yeah HIM. I couldn't think of his name but you are so right about his Royal Prickness. I mean the man gave new meaning to the word "oily." Still doesn't explain what the Hell happened to de Spirito; almost as if he lost all of his professional pride in one fell swoop.

Edited by divalasvegas (log)

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Here's a down and dirty summary for you; I'm sure there are better writers here who can give you a blow-by-blow of the truly gory details.

After starring in his own "reality" tv show called The Restaurant IIRC, he became almost universally seen as a no good, shillin' skanky ho' for the letting all of the celebrity crap go to his head.  The purpose of the show was to open and make a stunning success out of an Italian-American themed I guess restaurant, relying heavily on his mom's recipes.  We were also supposed to wait breathlessly to see which of the waiters/waitresses could cut it or get kicked to the curb. Just picture your usual cast of reality tv show stereotypes--the bimbo/himbo, the go-getter, the slackers, etc. and you've got it. Short story is that restaurant tanked, the investors fired him and closed the restaurant--believe me, he deserved it--and Rocco went on to be a radio talk show personality. I have no idea what he's doing now.

Jeez. it's still amazing how people can leave out the biggest part of this chefs career ( the good part) and only remember the serious screwed misstep this guy took that could have probably happened to anyone.

Well, maybe not anyone but, DiSpirito and Union Pacific aren't figments of peoples imaginations, this was some of the best, inventive, impressive and tasteful food in NYC at the time, fondly remembered 6,7 years later.

Edited by tan319 (log)

2317/5000

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Here's a down and dirty summary for you; I'm sure there are better writers here who can give you a blow-by-blow of the truly gory details.

After starring in his own "reality" tv show called The Restaurant IIRC, he became almost universally seen as a no good, shillin' skanky ho' for the letting all of the celebrity crap go to his head.  The purpose of the show was to open and make a stunning success out of an Italian-American themed I guess restaurant, relying heavily on his mom's recipes.  We were also supposed to wait breathlessly to see which of the waiters/waitresses could cut it or get kicked to the curb. Just picture your usual cast of reality tv show stereotypes--the bimbo/himbo, the go-getter, the slackers, etc. and you've got it. Short story is that restaurant tanked, the investors fired him and closed the restaurant--believe me, he deserved it--and Rocco went on to be a radio talk show personality. I have no idea what he's doing now.

Jeez. it's still amazing how people can leave out the biggest part of this chefs career ( the good part) and only remember the serious screwed misstep this guy took that could have probably happened to anyone.

Well, maybe not anyone but, DiSpirito and Union Pacific aren't figments of peoples imaginations, this was some of the best, inventive, impressive and tasteful food in NYC at the time, fondly remembered 6,7 years later.

It may not be fair, but I think that this is the case for several reasons:

1) As I said before, the man just didn't seem to give a damn. Now, he's probably a wealthy man, so what the Hell. But he had the livelihoods of an entire staff that he was responsible for and he really seemed to just blow it off. That's not a misstep and this did not just "happen" to him. As my mama would've said "he done shit and stepped in it."

2) He did this on national television.

3) Unfortunately, the vast majority of the time he seemed to be interested in anything but putting out "inventive, impressive, and tasteful food."

I'm sure there are others here who can come up with even more reasons. Please do not feel sorry for him.

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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But.....

other chefs (good or formerly good) hawk their merchandise, restaurants &products, etc.

What makes Rocco different ?

The loss (the squandering, is a more appropriate word) of what was perceived as great potential, as someone else has posted.

After the demise of his reality show, Rocco was on QVC hawking his cookbooks and his own line of kitchenware along with hawking his mama's meatballs (yes, you could order the actual infamous meatballs from his series "The Restaurant"). He even dragged her onto QVC to help shill. Poor Mama.

I just love the line "hawking his mama's meatballs"...as if they went down the wrong pipe. :laugh:

If you search the QVC website, all that remains of Rocco is a colandar and a chef's pan.

Googling him finds he has his own shillsite, in case you really want his cookware or 3 pounds of his mama's meatballs:

http://www.roccodispirito.com/

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Back in 1985 at CIA, Rocco was fresh out of High school, and he was very popular with the ladies. My buddy, classmate, was his roommate, and he filled me in on Rocco's score card. He kept in touch with him for awhile after school, and he was in Boston, working at the Four Seasons Hotel, working on a degree from BU. We went to New York for a Hotel/Restaurant show @ Javits :wub: , and we got the VIP treatment at his new restaurant, Union Pacific. It was incredible what that kid had done with his career. He worked his ass off to get to that point! He told us he got a visit at UP from Ferdinand Metz & Tim Ryan, President & Vice President respectively at CIA, where they came to congratulate him on his success, and to have dinner, of course. That doesn't happen to every kid that goes to CIA.

Rocco was doing that cooking show on the food network too, which I can't remember the name of. He was on Oprah, on the cover of Food & Wine... he was a "Celebrety Chef"! Celebrety Chefs get TV spots, product endorsements, and I would assume, money! I have no idea how much he got paid for doing "The Restaurant", but I'm sure it was more than Italian restaurant Chefs that serve spaghetti & meatballs get paid.

Yeah, the show sucked right out of the gate. I was really expecting to see him in the kitchen, not spending all his time taking photo ops. I think this is why we are all so disappointed with Rocco. We were counting on him to show some real-life kitchen drama, and all we got was BS.

Rocco's a good guy. He made a mistake doing that show, and I'm sure he regrets it. Its not easy being a Chef, by any stretch, but he should've made a better meatball. I say we should give him a second chance. :wub:

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I know it's a slow time of year but????

I hope CBS and Chodorow will read this and realize what a fucking goldmine they had!

Wow, it's only been four or five years now...

2317/5000

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If Rocco were to get back into serious cooking, I would be more than happy to give him a second chance. I have to wonder why he hasn't. Has he been blackballed for some reason or does he simply not care to go that route again secondary to burnout or something else?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Judging from when his name comes up, no one would give him a second chance.

In all of my time here, it seems like him & Union Pacific never got that much attention, except from him doing show's like 'Melting Pot" on FTV.

2317/5000

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From Roccos website.

Calling all "Good Lifers"! Are you planning an event or party? Do you need

some culinary counseling with food or wine? Want to revamp your life Rocco

style? Well if you live in the NY area, a major cable TV network would

like to hook you up with Rocco and his Team so they can get you on the road to

the Good Life! Please E-mail Mikefigs@roccodispirito.com with your problem

and we will contact you!

Grab The Good Life!

Rocco

Chicks dig wheelguns.

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The scene that summed it up for me in "The Restaurant" was where Rocco sat his sous down so that he could watch Rocco sign cookbooks for a minute, just before he fired the man. It was a chickenshit move.

But, Rocco has started to blog episodes of Top Chef over on Bravo!'s website, and so far I've enjoyed his entries. He writes better than that Gail woman from Food & Wine in my opinion, and it seems to me that his head has deflated somewhat. He and Bourdain had a short exchange via blog re Tony's frequently expressed contempt of/disappointment in Rocco. It didn't really resolve anything but it was interesting to read.

Edited by Dignan (log)
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Bourdain kind of nailed it, didn't he?

" And-- as if watching a highway safety film--they shall watch last night's episode of Top Chef where they will learn of the hidden dangers of "this thing of ours", the inevitable collisions between ego and ambition...between business alliances beyond our control...and our own desire to just cook and cook well."

Bourdain went thru his own hell, I would bet he's glad it was what would be considered privately as compared to the trainwrecks we see everywhere.

For me, if you're not a cook, a chef, you'll never understand the story...

2317/5000

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