More Top Chef! Rocco DiSpirito on Dale’s Lobster: “It Tasted Like Indian Sewer Water”


I had a brief pow-wow with Rocco DiSpirito (who, for full disclosure, once again, was once my boss) about last night’s Top Chef finale. Here are the highlights.

Rocco says he didn’t go out to celebrate after the show, but “Those guys definitely did. I think Dale took everyone to Boy’s Club. Maybe he converted a few.”

He called Hung “by far the best cook on the show” and said “he’s the sweetest, most deferential, well-valued, talented guy. I was really happy for him.”

I told Rocco I was not buying the idea that their being paired up was a chance happening. “It felt pretty random to me,” he said.” I told him it was too perfect. “If that’s their worst crime, it’s OK,” he said. I’m agreeing.

When is the Rocco/Hung restaurant opening? “Ha, I was kidding when I said that, but now people keep asking me about it. I would definitely help him out however I could, but I don’t know how a restaurant could fit into my life right now.”

Rocco said he thought Hung was poised for New York. “He’s got the right drive. He’s living the first generation immigrant dream right now.”

He also raved about Top Chef, saying he thought last night’s show was a spectacular feat in terms of production. “I had no idea who won until the last second, and I think half of Bravo didn’t either. You even thought Casey could win until pretty close to the end.”

What? He did? No, Rocco clarified. “I was there, I knew what happened, but watching the show, it still seemed possible.” He added that the judges debated for six hours. No mention of how many producers were at that table. “Tom takes this stuff very seriously,” he said. I told him I knew Hung had won when Colicchio said “I think we made the right decision.” There was no way he could have gone for Dale with that ass-lobster. “None of us could,” Rocco admitted. “It tasted like Indian sewer water.” Ouch.

But two of Dale’s other dishes were “pure genius.” He’s pretty hit-or-miss, I said. “Yes,” Rocco agreed. “If he were as focused as Hung — wow.” Rocco says he’s looking forward to Dale’s restaurant, Town and Country, which will be in Chicago. (Cuisine = Americana).

So, what happened to Casey? Rocco said she suffered from not having a thought-out plan. It was a case of too much freedom, perhaps. “When Casey’s third course arrived, we were all stunned at how different it was from all the good food she’s served throughout this season. At this point it was clear that this was a two person competition.”

Rocco loved being a sous chef apparently as much as we loved watching it. “When you’re the guy in charge, sometimes you just wish you were the guy just chopping vegetables,” he said.

Then I got sentimental and told Rocco how pleased I was to see him cooking and talking about food on television. He said, referring to the blog he writes for Bravo, too: “It’s nice to be able to talk about the thing I like most. I think it’s partly TV that has changed. People didn’t used to want to hear from an honest chef. All the media training those guys get is about how not to be boring and just talk about food, but I think Bravo has the perfect balance — eye candy and credible expertise, and drama… It’s really remarkable.”