Rocco DiSpirito on Why Hung is Just Like Him


Last night, finally, we got to experience the return of Rocco DiSpirito to Reality TV as he appeared as a guest-judge on Top Chef. The show is no stranger to product placement, and neither is Rocco (remember the American Express-laden scenes on The Restaurant?). Now he’s pushing Bertolli frozen pasta dinners, which the “cheftestants” had to recreate for the elimination challenge.

We found this episode extremely frustrating because almost no one listened to the overt clues that they should freeze each ingredient separately. We hate people. People are so stupid. In the end, Joey went home in a puddle of tears, and we rewound to watch his breakdown twice. Reality TV brings out our ugly side.

Then today we talked to Rocco (our former boss). Here are some highlights of our chat, which was decidedly less fun than it should have been, because Bravo insisted on having a PR chaperone on the line too. A friend of ours wanted us to ask him if each part of his face was frozen separately, but we wimped out on that joke. Sorry.

So, how was it, watching yourself last night? Well, I was watching with my mom, so I could hardly hear anything because she is so, uh, animated. I will watch it again at some point. But I thought it was fine. They did a good job of making the drama what it should be. It’s a great show, really. It transcends a cooking show, and it transcends a reality show.

Did you see the full-length interview with Joey, where he calls you a douche bag? Oh, is that what he called me? I was thinking he must have worked for me to know I’m a douche-bag. Right?

I guess not. So, at the time, were you aware that he was sobbing uncontrollably? No, we had no idea. Once they leave the kitchen, we’re pretty separate. He’s an Italian, we’re pretty emotional. He took it hard. I would take it hard too.

Were you surprised that only one team had the brains to freeze everything separately? I was. I gave them many, many cues that that was the key to the challenge. Some of them said they ran out of time.

What about your little disagreement with Colicchio about the truffles? Well, he’s the head judge, so I defer to him.

It seemed like a wording issue, like, does “Mediterranean” means something different in the world of marketing? To me, it means light and flavorful, and made with olive oil, not butter. It’s called “the cuisine of the sun”.

What do you think of Hung? Hung reminds me of me, when I was younger. I was dangerously fast in the kitchen, and arrogant, but also talented. I’m still arrogant, but I was a lot more arrogant. Hung is clearly running on high-octane fuel, but it’s also informed by a deep belief in what he’s doing. When that confidence is tempered with maturity, it can be a pretty powerful combination. He’s definitely talented. His flavors, his skills are all there.

It sounds like you expect him to make it to the final three, if you had to predict? Well, all the people who are left are really impressive. None of them are slouches. I thought they were going to be more in the amateur world, but they’re not. When they were doing the quick-fire challenge, I was thanking God I wasn’t on the other side. When some of those ingredients are taken out of context, it’s really hard.

That was pretty entertaining. Yeah, when Casey put all that fish paste in her mouth, I was like, oh man that sucks.

Yeah or when whatsherface drank the vinegar? Ha. Yeah, a big mouthful of raspberry vinegar. When Hung guessed anise seed without tasting it, I felt so bad for him. That was totally something I would have done when I was younger.

But now you would taste it? I like to think so…

So, did you see Grub Street today? Josh Ozersky said you were “two injections away from turning into Jocelyn Wildenstein.” That’s pretty funny! Imagine how good I’m gonna look when I actually start getting botox. It’s weird, I started doing triathlons and I’ve lost about 30 pounds. People keep telling me I look younger, but I actually think I look older. Anyway, I have no plastic surgery whatsoever to report.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 2, 2007


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