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Rocco DiSpirito


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I, for one, have no problem with Rocco or any other chef making money or doing it for the money. I just wish that he was still doing what got him to making money.

I don't really know of the show other than what I have read. What I do know is that he, for whatever reason, is no longer making incredible food - at least not for the public.

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 am a big fan of his talent in the kitchen. Unfortunately (for me) that talent has not been put to good use for quite some time.

You might want to consider calling him for a dinner date, doc.

You're a personable guy, good-looking, and my goodness I'd love to hear you and Rocco discuss meatballs. :wink:

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This is an interesting discussion.

I agree with the person who said that one would think that if he really wanted to re-invent himself he would go back to cooking, get in a small restaurant, work his way back up.  He clearly isn't trying to do this, merely trying to salvage and continue on with his media whoring persona.  This speaks either to his huge ego or that he is so self deluded he really has no idea how he is percieved.  Both speak volumes as to what type of person he has become.

In his blog exchange with Tony, Rocco asked Tony how the two of them are so different. He said, to paraphrase, we both used to cook, now we do TV and sell things. You call Rocco a media whore. Would you call Tony a media whore? Is it all because of the 15 minutes of "the Restaurant", where he left such a virtual bad taste in so many TV devouring mouths?

Yeah, Bourdain is a MW but he plays the game and for the most part delivers as he goes about making a nice living.

......and perhaps he was lucky (and smart enough) to keep the skirt chasing, self indulgent crap away from the cameras.

Bourdain is a writer first, then a TV personality, then a chef. He originally became famous for the book "Kitchen Confidential", not for his food or restaurant. And he continues to be a darn good writer, one who's books/articles I'd rather read than any other food writer. He sticks to what he does well, with some measure of humility and self-deprecation at times that keeps his celebrity in focus. Rocco did not stick to what he did well.

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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Rocco did not stick to what he did well.

Why am I reminded of the line "Keep the little woman in the kitchen"? :laugh:

Seriously, does anyone care to hear (read) what Rocco thinks about Ferran or anyone else? I don't.

Mmm. Yeah, sure. As much as I want to watch him on TV. Which is not terribly much but then again I don't like TV too much - I don't think it's designed to be either high culture or terribly educational or real.

I'd rather read what Rocco thinks about Ferran etc., and I'd give more weight to it, than I would want to read what any person outside of the industry, or less experienced in the industry (i.e. most anyone who cares to post on an internet board) thinks about Ferran etc.

And since I like to read what people post on internet boards then I guess I'd like to read Rocco on it all even more.

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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This is an interesting discussion.

I agree with the person who said that one would think that if he really wanted to re-invent himself he would go back to cooking, get in a small restaurant, work his way back up.  He clearly isn't trying to do this, merely trying to salvage and continue on with his media whoring persona.  This speaks either to his huge ego or that he is so self deluded he really has no idea how he is percieved.  Both speak volumes as to what type of person he has become.

In his blog exchange with Tony, Rocco asked Tony how the two of them are so different. He said, to paraphrase, we both used to cook, now we do TV and sell things. You call Rocco a media whore. Would you call Tony a media whore? Is it all because of the 15 minutes of "the Restaurant", where he left such a virtual bad taste in so many TV devouring mouths?

Yeah, Bourdain is a MW but he plays the game and for the most part delivers as he goes about making a nice living.

......and perhaps he was lucky (and smart enough) to keep the skirt chasing, self indulgent crap away from the cameras.

Bourdain is a writer first, then a TV personality, then a chef. He originally became famous for the book "Kitchen Confidential", not for his food or restaurant. And he continues to be a darn good writer, one who's books/articles I'd rather read than any other food writer. He sticks to what he does well, with some measure of humility and self-deprecation at times that keeps his celebrity in focus. Rocco did not stick to what he did well.

from cnn.com http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/TV/08/22/a...n.ap/index.html

[bourdain] - He hopes, he said, to never sell out, as he sees it, in the way other TV chefs have.

"I have, to date, endorsed no products, I have no line of merchandise -- not yet," he said. "You know, never say never. ... (But) I gotta wake up tomorrow, look at myself in the mirror. Life is good, do I really need to endorse cat food? No."

Didn't someone say Rocco endorsed cat food? :laugh:

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Here are some comments about Rocco from chef John Besh of New Orleans (the full interview will be published next month in OffBeat Magazine, a New Orleans magazine of music, food and culture). Besh is one of the top chefs in New Orleans and about to get a lot more media exposure when he stars in an upcoming Food Network reality series. Besh also attended the CIA with Rocco and they were both named "best new chefs" by Food and Wine in 1999.

You’re friends with the New York chef Rocco DiSpirito. Four years after he starred in the NBC reality series The Restaurant, his national reputation is still in tatters. How do you avoid that?

You have to be careful about what you do and why you do it. You know, Rocco had an entourage back in 1999 when we were both Food and Wine best new chefs together. If you’re surrounded by people without the same values who don’t have your best intentions at heart, then you’re prone to fall into situations that won’t be good. Whereas Emeril is surrounded by like-minded people, and he’s managed to do pretty well by it. Mario Batali is another. Very few and far between will you have a bad meal at any of his restaurants. He’s surrounded by people that understand the vision and have the same intentions as him.

So I think that, one, you can’t get too caught up in it. Two, it’s only media and it’s very fickle. Three, I have to be a sound person. I still need to be the chef who cares about his client, and not about what I’m doing on TV next week.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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In his blog exchange with Tony, Rocco asked Tony how the two of them are so different. He said, to paraphrase, we both used to cook, now we do TV and sell things. You call Rocco a media whore. Would you call Tony a media whore? Is it all because of the 15 minutes of "the Restaurant", where he left such a virtual bad taste in so many TV devouring mouths?

If not for his writing, I doubt anyone would know who Bourdain was. It was his skill with a pen that brought him his fame, not his prowess in the kitchen. That's what sets him apart from Rocco. I thought it was funny that he even tried to make the comparison. I do love Bourdain; his particular brand of evil snark is right in line with my own. Doing a TV show to educate the masses about interesting cuisines and travel is fine, but crossing over into Top Chef judging and Bravo bloggery is getting close to media whoring. And that's ok too - the more Tony, the merrier.

Rocco, on the other hand, still a little defensive over his Restaurant fiasco and the demise of Union Pacific, is whoring himself to 1) make money; 2) keep himself in the public eye. He's not stupid. He's not being defeated. His blog on the Bravo site is full of insight and judging from the positive comments he is getting there, he's being forgiven for his mistakes. I think he'll come back, eventually, but he'll not be the same ingenious young chef he once was. That chapter of his life is over. He's moving on, and really, we should too. Why do we waste time hating someone we don't even know for mistakes he's made that hurt only himself?

There's plenty of room in this word for both Bourdain and DiSpirito.

Kathy

Minxeats
http://www.foodloversguidetobaltimore.com/'>Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore

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I don't personally hate the man and I really don't care if he's fabulously successful or a dismal failure or the biggest media whore there ever was. He most certainly doesn't need my forgiveness. I'm sure he'll be just fine.

But the reality is he did more than just hurt himself. It seems to me that probably quite a few people lost their jobs--you know, the "little people"--busboys, waiters, waitresses, bartenders, sous chefs, etc. and they probably didn't have a radio show or a cookbook or Top Chef to fall back on, mostly because of his "I really don't care if this place sinks or swims" attitude. Of course restaurants fail all the time with even the most hardworking, dedicated owners/chefs and staffs. But that's not what happened in this case.

Like I said, I don't hate him, I just have very little respect 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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I think we're pushing it a little to saddle Rocco with the responsibility for the hopes and dreams of the itinerate busboys of NYC.

If you call "hopes & dreams" paying the rent and buying groceries, then the answer is yes, we can saddle him with those responsibilities.

 

“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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I can't remember what the percentage is of restaurants that fail due to poor management by either FOH or BOH or admin but should all those managers and chefs and owners be blamed for this perceived loss of dreams and paychecks of the people who worked for them too?

Or is it only Rocco that bears this mark.

If it's Rocco, why only him?

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I think we're pushing it a little to saddle Rocco with the responsibility for the hopes and dreams of the itinerate busboys of NYC.

If you call "hopes & dreams" paying the rent and buying groceries, then the answer is yes, we can saddle him with those responsibilities.

Ridiculous. Rocco has no obligation, nor does Chodorow, nor do you, nor does any other employer, to continue to operate a business on the grounds that if it doesn't continue its employees will be out of a job and therefore not able to meet the rent and pay for groceries.

If all the drama hadn't occurred, how long would Rocco and Chod have had to keep the business going before you freed them of this supposed responsibility?

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I certainly don't hate Rocco. With the great meals that he has produced that I have enjoyed, I could never hate him. I am disappointed in him, though, because he had so much to contribute with his culinary skills and creativity. Whether he cares about that disappointment is another question. I don't think he has any responsibility to anyone but himself, but I am still disappointed with him. Again, whether he cares....

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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Whether he cares about that disappointment is  another question. I don't think he has any responsibility to anyone but himself, but I am still disappointed with him. Again, whether he cares....

It seems to me that you are wondering why someone with so much to offer would not want to offer it, John. An understandable question, for sure.

To me the answer would be one of two things. Either he is what some people like to consider as just a money-hungry jerk who only cares about himself, or (and this is what I would like to think, for I like to think the best of people till proven completely and inarguably wrong) he got in over his head and the entire experience has made him gun-shy. That level of performance demand in that sort of market is not an easy skate in any way: physically or emotionally, regardless of what sort of arrogant mask one might put on to make it through it.

He might bear some scars that haven't healed yet, whether he seems like a jerk to lots of people or not.

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I think we're pushing it a little to saddle Rocco with the responsibility for the hopes and dreams of the itinerate busboys of NYC.

If you call "hopes & dreams" paying the rent and buying groceries, then the answer is yes, we can saddle him with those responsibilities.

Toliver, to me he bears the responsiblities that any manager bears, no more or less.

He bore the responsibility of doing a job, and in that, he failed.

But two sayings keep coming to my mind about all this. The first is one my mother used to say often, and certainly it has proven true in my life.

"You are responsible for You". Nobody else is. We each are responsible for our own way in the world.

The second saying is one that I learned later in life, and might be one used by those who worked for Rocco or who work for anyone who is having problems that might affect them, or even the other way around - might be useful for a manager who is having problems with an employee.

"I'm not going to let your problems be my problems." Each of Rocco's employee's had the option at any time to say that and to get the hell out of there if they so chose, and to make their own destiny . . . whether that destiny was to again be an employee somewhere else or whether that destiny was to take charge of the things that were directly affecting them in the workplace by becoming managers themselves.

We all have these options.

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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Whether he cares about that disappointment is  another question. I don't think he has any responsibility to anyone but himself, but I am still disappointed with him. Again, whether he cares....

It seems to me that you are wondering why someone with so much to offer would not want to offer it, John. An understandable question, for sure.

To me the answer would be one of two things. Either he is what some people like to consider as just a money-hungry jerk who only cares about himself, or (and this is what I would like to think, for I like to think the best of people till proven completely and inarguably wrong) he got in over his head and the entire experience has made him gun-shy. That level of performance demand in that sort of market is not an easy skate in any way: physically or emotionally, regardless of what sort of arrogant mask one might put on to make it through it.

He might bear some scars that haven't healed yet, whether he seems like a jerk to lots of people or not.

Actually, Karen, I don't really wonder that at all. Whatever his reasons, I hope that he is happy with his decisions and with himself. My disappointment is purely selfish in that his food was some of the best I have ever eaten and now neither I nor the general public no longer have the opportunity to partake of it.

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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In his blog exchange with Tony, Rocco asked Tony how the two of them are so different.  He said, to paraphrase, we both used to cook, now we do TV and sell things.  You call Rocco a media whore.  Would you call Tony a media whore?  Is it all because of the 15 minutes of "the Restaurant", where he left such a virtual bad taste in so many TV devouring mouths?

I call bullshit on this. Tony does a show based around travel and food which allows him to focus on writing. I'd say it's a quality bit of culture. It is his baby and it takes advantage of his skills to make something grand.

Rocco shills frozen pasta dinners in TV commercials. He's doing a web-based show (...) based around said frozen pasta. He writes a blog at bravo, which is vaguely interesting but mostly devoid of personality - although he's currently adopted what I'll generously describe as a Bourdain-esque tone on his bravo blog ("Lets face it--without Hung the only choice left for Dale was a .38 Smith and Wesson and a walk down the beach.").

[i posted this elsewhere, but will repost here - take it for what it's worth]

Here's how I see the strange, strange saga of Rocco:

He made his reputation by running a stellar restaurant. This is a fact and nobody will argue it. He made excellent food and he damn well made it seem effortless, which was inspiring to watch. Then, he let a camera crew follow him around when he opened his first restaurant under his name, and he made a complete ass out of himself. This can happen when you're young and outrageously talented and everybody and their dog is telling you so, and it's unfortunate that there was a film crew there to document it, which they did meticulously.

You would think this would be a humbling lesson learned, and that he'd go back to playing to his strengths. Strangely, he decided to sign on for a second season of that show. God knows why. The one thing he seemed to get out of it was being on camera, and he seemed to really like that. Enough so that he couldn't see how he came across, or see how maybe he was behaving irresponsibly.

Then he decided he didn't want to be a chef anymore. Maybe because the whole world of cooking had lost it's appeal to him, maybe because he no longer liked not having a life just so he could have a restaurant, maybe because his reputation was ruined by the whole tv debacle, I don't know. It was his decision and he's welcome to it. However, he still needed to earn a living. And he likes being on camera. Obviously, he decided to become a spokesmodel. This so clearly is him playing to his weaknesses that it's baffling that he cannot see it. Yes, he's hunky and affable and seems very comfortable in front of the camera, but the only reason anybody is going to put him there is because he used to be a great chef.

So he's capitalizing on his skills and reputation as a chef to shill for sub-par products. It's a little like a NASCAR driver doing commercials for Yugos. Only it's a NASCAR driver who doesn't want to drive anymore.

I respect him for his ability to cook, but I think it's insulting when he tries to use that respect to sell me frozen pasta that he had no part in making, and which he describes as "letting me feel like I'm cooking". I think it's ridiculous.

You could say that I'm being dismissive of Rocco for not being the person I want him to be instead of who he wants to be, which is a valid point. I have no business whatsoever telling him how he should run his life. But ultimately, since he's trying to use his credibility as a chef to leverage me into buying a bag of frozen pasta so I can pretend to cook, my opinion of him matters quite a bit. The fact that it's shared pretty widely does as well. And while we'll never meet, I was rooting for him, and am baffled by the career choices he's made.

And all is forgiven the day he either gets back in the kitchen or out from in front of the camera. Either one is fine by me.

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Hi Carrot Top and Dignan. :smile: I guess your comments are partly aimed at me. If you re-read what I've said, then the answer is absolutely not do I expect owners of a losing business to shovel good money after bad nor feel obligated or guilty for life for poor management of their businesses. But unless I'm wrong, people open businesses to try to make money and be successful. As an employee I think this would be a reasonable assumption. There's no guarantee of course. What an employee or an investor at least deserves is that the person(s) running the operation don't DELIBERATELY run the business in the ground by doing shady/illegal things (remember ENRON?) or like DiSpirito just decide to blow off his responsibilities to look out for number one. Likewise, an employer deserves employees that don't have their hands in the till or show up to work drunk or deal drugs on the premises.

Ridiculous. Rocco has no obligation, nor does Chodorow, nor do you, nor does any other employer, to continue to operate a business on the grounds that if it doesn't continue its employees will be out of a job and therefore not able to meet the rent and pay for groceries.

Actually Dignan there was a time in this country when, yes, there were employers who actually felt obligated to their employees and vice versa. But I'm sure your version of employer/employee relations in today's business climate is sadly far more common today. Every man for himself, it's all about me, right? Too bad. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. :wink:

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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So it comes down to on the one hand, from John and others, "I want you to cook for me. " :biggrin: Eh. Ya gotta love it.

On the other hand, Rocco is only respectable because of his cooking but also disreputable because of the way he handled his cooking. This guy can't win, can he.

We live in a culture that celebrates celebrity. Models are revered for being models, Paris Hilton is revered (or followed avidly in order to be called out) for being Paris Hilton, ex-TV stars and sports people are all over the place doing this thing called "shilling".

I have to wonder if everyone who cries so loudly out at the horror of it would actually turn down the chance themselves if they ever were offered the chance, based on whatever other thing they had managed to accomplish. I can hear the cries of outrage now. "Oh, NO! Not I! I don't do that sort of thing! What? Seventy five thousand for thirty seconds? Oh. Well. Well then. You know, I always did sort of like that product . . . "

As far as employers caring for their employees in a dedicated or familial manner, yes, that has mostly gone the way of the horse and buggy. Not just "because" but because the business environment demanded it. Things like global economics and population densities and income levels and benefit package expectations that did not affect business started to at one point, and that was it. I've never seen a company that really did not care about their employees, and I have seen many staff reductions and had to participate in some. It's not pretty at all. But the business environment means lean and mean (and smart to boot) wins right now, and there's not a lot of room for survival if you don't work that way. Not as a manager and not as a company.

Did Rocco put his hand in the till? Deal drugs on the premises? If he did so, then I'll have to alter my perception of who I think he is. But all I saw (on those prepared and edited shows) was a guy that didn't really know how to manage what he'd gotten himself into.

He'll never be Bourdain so the comparison is moot. He wasn't born Bourdain, who has a plethora of innate charm and that thing called charisma. He'll never be Bourdain who also is incredibly street smart in a way that works well in business. He's just Rocco.

I don't blame any of you guys for not being Bourdain. Why blame Rocco for not being Bourdain?

:smile:

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Your nostalgia for the good old days contains some truth, but I see it as much a watered down noblesse oblige as anything. As you note, the relationship is a two way street. Once the peasants lived on the land and farmed it for the Lord. The Lord needed them and looked after them, which was good because the peasants had nowhere else to go. A version of that continued in industry and extraction based on the same mutual need, with the worker realizing along the way that he had more power to exert. I know all property is theft and all that, but our employment reality is much different these days and certainly is in this context. We have a highly mobile workforce that is not shy to exercise that freedom of mobility in pursuit of a better position. The other side of all this is that the busboys owe Rocco pretty damn little. I'd be willing to wager that anyone of them offered a dollar more an hour next door for the same work wouldn't pause to make high falutin' arguments about duties owed to Rocco when faced with that decision. To compare this to Enron overstates the case to the point of silliness. Chodorow might make an argument somewhere along those lines, 'cause he fronted the money based on Rocco's best efforts and didn't get them.

I'm not defending Rocco. I've already called him chickenshit once. But because we think he's an asshole shouldn't mean he's subject to unreal standards that we wouldn't hold non-assholes to. I'm not saying that an employer doesn't bear obligation to his employees. But there's an enormous difference between the obligation to not take advantage of employees, to not waste investors resources, to not commit massive fraud, to provide safe work environments, etc. That he failed some ethical obligation to the staff of the restaurant because they had to stop working there when it closed is something I'm willing to disagree with you on, that's all.

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