Life and career
DiSpirito was born in Queens, New York. He graduated in 1986 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and in 1990 from Boston University with a bachelor's degree in business. DiSpirito is known for his Italian-American cuisine and his innovative fusion cooking.
DiSpirito is best known as a celebrity chef and a cookbook author. He is known for his involvement in Union Pacific, a restaurant he opened in 1997 in the Gramercy Park section of Manhattan. A year later, New York Times reviewer Ruth Reichl, in an ecstatic three-star review, reported that a woman at the next table was moaning in uncontrollable ecstasy as she ate, but it was impossible to determine what dish had provoked that reaction, since just about every entree was worthy of such moans. DiSpirito departed Union Pacific in 2004.
From 2003 to 2004, DiSpirito starred in the NBC reality television show The Restaurant, which followed the launch and operation of a new Manhattan restaurant called Rocco's on 22nd. The show was canceled and DiSpirito was successfully sued by the restaurant's financier Jeffrey Chodorow to have the restaurant shut down and DiSpirito banned from entering the premises.
DiSpirito succeeded Arthur Schwartz as host of Food Talk, an hour-long morning talk show on New York Radio WOR (AM), from October 2004 through December 2005, and then hosted 12 episodes of the TV show Rocco Gets Real on A&E (October 4 through December 27, 2008).
He was also featured in a Lincoln MKX commercial and the ABC sitcom The Knights of Prosperity, and was a guest judge on Bravo's Top Chef. DiSpirito returned in the Top Chef season three finale (Top Chef: Miami) — in which three celebrity chefs were brought to work as sous chefs to the contestants, with DiSpirito assisting Hung Huynh — and was a guest judge on the March 14, 2008 Top Chef season four premiere (Top Chef: Chicago). He appeared on NBC's The Biggest Loser: Couples (season 5) in an episode that aired on February 5, 2008 (episode 506), in which contestants were challenged to prepare three healthy courses based on DiSpirito's recipes; DiSpirito judged the food and determined the winning team. The following season he appeared on the second episode (airing September 23, 2008) of The Biggest Loser: Families, taking the "worst" cook of each pair shopping and teaching them to prepare healthy recipes.
DiSpirito was a contestant on season seven of Dancing With The Stars and was paired with professional ballroom dancer Karina Smirnoff. He was eliminated on the October 14, 2008, episode and placed ninth overall.
DiSpirito hosts the syndicated television program Now Eat This! with Rocco Dispirito, which debuted on September 15, 2012.
In 2013, DiSpirito hosted the Food Network reality show Restaurant Divided, in which he went to struggling restaurants where the owners had two differing visions and then picked which concept would save the restaurant.
On August 20, 2017, DiSpirito appeared on celebrity chef Guy Fieri's Guy's Grocery Games - Superstar Tournament Part 1, competing against other celebrity chefs for a $40,000 first prize donated to their chosen charity. DiSpirito made it to the finale, and beat out previous tournament winner Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli.
- James Beard Award for his book Flavor
- 1999, America's Best New Chef by Food and Wine Magazine
- 2000, Most Exciting Young Chef by Gourmet Magazine
- 2000, Nominated Best Chef: New York City by James Beard Foundation
- 2001, Nominated Best Chef: New York City by James Beard Foundation
- 2002, Sexiest Chef Alive by People Magazine
- 2003 Nominated Best Chef: New York City by James Beard Foundation
- 2004 Winner James Beard Award: Best Cookbook - Cooking From A Professional Point of View
- (2003, November 5) Flavor. Hyperion. (ISBN 0786868562)
- (2004, November 17) Rocco's Italian American. Hyperion. (ISBN 0786868570)
- (2005, December 6) Rocco's Five Minute Flavor: Fabulous Meals with 5 Ingredients in 5 Minutes. Scribner. (ISBN 0743273842)
- (2007, November 6) Rocco's Real Life Recipes: Fast Flavor for Everyday. Wiley. (ISBN 0696237032)
- (2008, October 21) Rocco Gets Real: Cook at Home, Every Day. Wiley. (ISBN 0696238233)
- (2010, March 2) Now Eat This!: 150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories. Ballantine Books. (ISBN 0345520904)
- (2011, March 22) Now Eat This! Diet: Lose Up to 10 Pounds in Just 2 Weeks Eating 6 Meals a Day! Grand Central Life & Style.(ISBN 0446584495)
- (2012, September 25) Now Eat This! Italian: Favorite Dishes from the Real Mamas of Italy--All Under 350 Calories. Grand Central Life & Style. (ISBN 0446584517)
- (2016, January 28) The Negative Calorie Diet: Lose Up to 10 Pounds in 10 Days with 10 All You Can Eat Foods. Harper Wave. (ISBN 0062378139)
- Reichl, Ruth (August 5, 1998). "New York Times review of Union Pacific". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Peterson, Helen (July 28, 2004). "TV Eatery's Rocco Gets A Bitter Pill To Swallow". Daily News.
- UPI (October 16, 2004). "Rocco DiSpirito hosts 'Food Talk' on radio". UPI.com Entertainment News. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
- Gordinier, Jeff (December 17, 2008). "Taking Heat for Not Cooking". The New York Times.
- A&E's Rocco Gets Real website. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
- Barrett, Annie (October 15, 2012). "'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Not so negative campaigning". Entertainment Weekly.
- "Rocco DiSpirito Promotes Food Drives". Do Something. Retrieved 2006-11-21.
- Keller, Rich (May 3, 2010). "ABC Announces Its May Sweeps Highlights". HuffPost TV.
- Stasi, Linda (June 13, 2011). "Two hot dishes". New York Post.
- "Episodes". Taylor Hicks, Warren Sapp, Rocco DiSpirito. Fox.com. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
- Hibberd, James (May 8, 2012). "Fox's 'The Choice' cast revealed! Joe Jonas, Dean Cain, The Situation, many more -- EXCLUSIVE". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 11, 2013.
- "'Now Eat This' To Debut To 75% Coverage". TVNewsCheck. September 13, 2012.
- Merwin, Hugh (January 22, 2019), "Rocco, Rebooted After 15 years, Rocco DiSpirito is back on the line. Will his critics give him another chance?", Grub Street
- Chikiamco, Norma (January 2007). "Everybody Loves Rocco". Food: the Philippines’ Largest Selling Culinary Magazine. Philippines (published December 2006). p. 62.
- Brett Moore, About.com Guide. "Rocco DiSpirito Biography". About.com. Retrieved June 26, 2011.