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Aug 25, 2008 05:28 AM

Rocco DiSpirito on Dancing with the Stars

What's the next step up in his rehabilitation? Working the line at a hotel brunch?

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  1. Rocco does not need to be rehabilitated. He stopped being a chef years ago with the apparent goal of becoming a celebrity and it appears he has succeeded. By being on Dancing with the Stars his name will be known by more people than ever.

    16 Replies
    1. re: KTinNYC

      So is this the goal? Kind of like the culinary equivalent of the Gabor sisters? Going from the IT guy in the culinary world to "Why the hell is this guy famous?"

      1. re: Phaedrus

        I can only guess but I think Rocco realized that he could make more money with a lot less work by becoming a "personality" rather than being a chef. The hours are a lot better. I would not be surprised at all if Rocco has Rachel Ray as a model of what he wants to become.

        1. re: KTinNYC

          KT, I think that you are right on about this. Chefs have become a hot item of late, but I think that few people realize how few of them make a decent living.

          Most chefs, even the ones that are trained and work for well known places in NYC, do not make much money. And they work very long and hard hours. Considering how many nowadays go to culinary school, and get themselves in debt, well, that just adds to it.

          And, if you can land that TV gig, it can be a sweet deal. Bobby Flay was once asked by Dorothy Hamilton how he was able to make all of the different TV shows he does AND run the restaurants. He said that he was able to make ALL of the episodes for ALL of the shows in only a few weeks. If we can assume that he makes as much money from those shows (that is, also, the "free" publicity that it brings to him, and by extension, his restaurants and books) as he does from his restaurants, then, the ROI is pretty amazing.

          1. re: DougRisk

            The difference is that Flay still owns restaurants and Rocco does not.

            I have no problems with chefs trying to make a living. Even with guys like Emeril, I think he is still as passionate about his chosen profession.

            I don't get the same vibe from Rocco, I think if he could turn his back on his culinary past completely he would, in a heartbeat. Which brings us back to the question: what does Rocco bring to the party without his culinary genius?

            1. re: Phaedrus

              An awful lot of "celebrities" these days do not bring anything at all to the party. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. I am not a fan of Rocco's but who can fault a guy for giving up the culinary genius (which failed him), and riding the fame-and-money train along with the Kim Kardashian's of the world? He has made a choice. He probably will never be taken seriously in the culinary world again, but I am sure he knows that. And does not care. Like gloriousgood said below - everyone is entitled to a career change.

              1. re: Justpaula

                So what you are saying is that Rocco is about nothing. Kind of like the Seinfeld show.

                1. re: Justpaula

                  His genius did not fail him. He turned his back on it that is what disappoints many people most. He could be taken seriously if he chose that path. I would bet he could find many financial backers if he chose to cook seriously once again but I doubt that will ever happen.

                  1. re: Justpaula

                    As KT said - he turned his back on the culinary world, and that lost ongoing potential is what bothers people who love great food the most.

                    The ONLY reason I can see he might be doing DWTS is to promote that TV show he was supposedly working on back when he was judging on Top Chef....did that ever come to fruition? But if all he's doing is doing the Kardashian "reality star road trip" on whatever reality show he can be on, he becomes even more of a laughingstock in the culinary world...and should he ever wish to get back into the kitchen, it might bite him in the ass.

                    As you said - he probably doesn't care. But I cannot think of a greater crash of ongoing potential than what he's (not) done in the last few years.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      i'm one of those people who desperately wishes he was back in the kitchen. his work at Union Pacific was *brilliant.*

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        That is funny, LindaWhit, that you compared Rocoo to the Kardashians because I was thinking the exact same thing.

                        Watching "The Soup" the other night, Joel McHale was saying how they couldn't admit (joke) Kim Kardasian to the hospital when she stepped on glass because she left the occupation line of her admittance form empty.

                        ... And that made me think of Rocco here. How many people are famous for no reason and with "job" other than being famous? Paris Hilton. The chick who's doing diet food commercials because she was on Survivor five years ago or something. And they all get reality shows.

                        Rocco is the first from the culinary world but otherwise just another character in a long line of "ain't got no job 'cept being famous is my job" people who for some reason people watch and (even here) talk about.

              2. re: Phaedrus

                Everyone is entitled to a career change...why not Rocco? As KTin pointed out, he stopped being a chef many moons ago, so this really should not be a shocker to anyone.

                Me, I'm just wating for the Mario Batali movie to hit the big screen.

                1. re: gloriousfood

                  <<Me, I'm just wating for the Mario Batali movie to hit the big screen.>>

                  In Spain with a famous young movie star for PBS..perhaps the big screen IS next!

                  1. re: gloriousfood

                    Or Mario on Dancing with the clogs!

                    1. re: Claudette


                      That was the first thing I thought of when I read it. I thought I was being an idiot. So, thanks for saying it first and Welcome to my nightmare.

                      1. re: Claudette

                        You know, if they will take Warren Sapp (really big football player) on Dancing with the Stars, then I'm sure they won't say no to Mario. They are about the same body shape.

                    2. re: Phaedrus

                      "Kind of like the culinary equivalent of the Gabor sisters?"
                      That's funny Phaedrus!

                      Will there be a spot for his Mom to take over when his feet hurt? ; )

                  2. So maybe he really can dance. What happens if he wins.........

                    1. Now I'm tempted to start a thread.... which cheflebrity would you be most horrified to see Dancing on the Stars.......

                      9 Replies
                        1. re: southernitalian

                          O, I don't know, I don't think I'd be to thrilled to watch Paula Deen groping her dance partner.

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            The one and only, Galloping Gourmet!!!!!

                            James Beard might make a great DWTS's contestant, no? I'd do any dance Jamie Oliver asked of me.....

                            Mario? Well, for one thing, he is too sweaty to dance with, and I don't think he'd be able to get away with the (cute) funny faces he makes- next time you see him, watch when he turns food over in a saute pan!!

                            1. re: JalamaMama

                              Mario would be interesting for the humor value.
                              But I'd have to say my nightmare.... but what i would tune in to watch... would be Rachael Ray. I wonder if she can dance and keep her hands still......

                            2. re: DiningDiva

                              LOL! thanks for the laugh, DD...although it does inspire a pretty disturbing visual :)

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                Yeah, lets blind the entire Food TV audience.

                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                  Paula Deen dirty dancing with her sons..


                                  seriously, though, i must confess that in addition to having been blown away by his culinary talents, i've always thought Rocco was pretty easy on the eyes. i've never seen DWTS, but i might actually tune in to watch him...

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    You've never seen Dancing with the Stars?!?!?? Oh, you must tune in. It is delicious fun and the dancing gets better week by week. It is a bonafide hoot, in part, because it doesn't take itself too seriously. Most of the stars are really awful the first few weeks, but there are always some that are surprisingly Emmit Smith or (oh my god was he sexy last season) Jason Taylor. You've got to have true self confidence or an utterly secure ego in order to go on national TV in front of millions of people and risk making a complete fool and a** out of yourself. Trust me, if Rocco gets too full of himself Bruno or Len (2 of the 3 judges) will have few well placed comments for him.

                                    Rocco's partner is Karina Smirnoff who is very strong willed and she rarely gets stuck with a real dud for a partner in these things. They maybe vying for top diva billing in this duo.

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      Jason Taylor was the one reason i considered watching last season :) but i think it must have aired at the same time as something else i was into. anyway, i'm on a dance kick now since i got hooked on "So You Think You Can Dance" a couple of months ago...those kids were amazing.

                                      i hope Rocco has some rhythm. few things make me more uncomfortable than watching someone who can't hold a beat try to dance - i get so embarrassed for them. plus, he's already taken enough heat for the disaster that was "The Restaurant."

                        2. I don't understand all the negative posts about Rocco DiSpirito. I am not a fan, but one shouldn't be forever stuck doing the same thing just because one does it well.

                          I for one is happy that DWTS is branching out besides the actor/ess, comedian, singers, athletes, etc. So now celebrity chefs are mainstream enough.

                          27 Replies
                          1. re: notmartha

                            >>I don't understand all the negative posts about Rocco DiSpirito. I am not a fan, but one shouldn't be forever stuck doing the same thing just because one does it well.<<

                            You are making two assumptions that are wrong.

                            1) That being a chef is a dead end job, that there is no room to grow. There are plenty of counter examples of that.

                            2) That Rocco had reached THE pinnacle of his craft. He may have reached what he feels like is HIS pinnacle, but he wasn't close to reach THE pinnacle.

                            I think everyone who are blasting him, myself included, is that he is a story of an unfulfilled early promise.

                            1. re: Phaedrus

                              No, what I am saying is that just because he's good at cooking doesn't mean he should keep on honing his craft and be the best chef possible, not if he is not really interested in it.

                              I think there's a thing called free will, and he's entitled to pursue what his interests are, regardless of whether he's good or bad at the new venture.

                              Just reminds me of all the hoopla, disappointment and confusion when Michael Jordan decided to quit basketball and pursue his dream of playing baseball.

                              It takes courage to pursue something you don't do well, and give up something you are very good at. I just don't understand all the ridicule. It's not as if there are not many, many more promising chefs out there.

                              Also, growing in the restaurant business inevitable seems to lead to opening more and more restaurants, and at that point I doubt the chef really cooks anyway. It's really a management position at that point. Not everyone wants to be a manager with all the dealings with HR, logistics, etc.

                              1. re: notmartha

                                So his dream was to be a reality show faux celeb? What kind of courage or skills does it take to be Paris Hilton?

                                Opening more and more restaurants does NOT mean inevitably opening more restaurants. Keller did finally start opening satellite restaurants when he could have done it many years ago. It is the trend, it is the money making path, but as you yourself said, there is such a thing as free will and he could have resisted the temptation. And Rocco wasn't even a success in the restaurant biz. His first foray was well documented on "The Restaurant" and it was a trainwreck. So he hadn't even succeeded in that if his heart was init.

                                Most of the people in the chef business are obsessive to a fault. They are all a little obsessive. Perhaps it is a tribute to Rocco's mental health that he isn't so obsessed. But it is sad to see someone so gifted to walk away from something that he is brilliant at but isn't passionate about anymore.

                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                  Well, Rocco *was* initially successful as a chef (Union Pacific), but not in owning his own restaurant and then branching out. And I think that is what most people are disappointed in - he's walked away from what could have been a great career in the culinary world, only to become a reality show guest judge.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    I think Rocco was taken by his quick celebrity status and thought that the world was open to him and he could do no wrong. His "Restaurant" relied on his celebrity and not his cooking. As guests were served cold raw food he was busy posing for pictures. He soon learned that his celebrity could not overcome the bad food and service.

                                    DWTS is his attempt to recapture that celebrity, look at who does this show, many, but not all, are former celebrities who have disappeared from public view, or ones who want to change their direction if life.

                                    In may ways this is Rocco's attempt to rehabilitate himself.

                                    1. re: chazzer

                                      I watched the trainwreck called "The Restaurant." I'm aware he was quite taken with himself...couldn't miss that! LOL

                                      But shilling frozen dreck for Buitoni - or whoever it was - and dancing on DWTS doesn't seem the way to "rehabilitate" himself, at least IMO. But if he wants to be a celebrity for celebrity's sake vs. getting back on the chefwagon, so be it. I still see it as a fall from grace that will be ever more difficult to recover from.

                                      Will I watch DWTS? Yeah - I'm a sucker for that show. Like the little girl with the curl - when the dancing is good, it's very, very good. When it's bad, it's horrid. :-)

                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                        At least he didn't end up living in the same house with Flava-Flav, Jose Canseco, and one of the Two Coreys.

                                          1. re: LindaWhit


                                            Agred. It's only a matter of time.

                                            I just found out the other night there's a reality show on -- I swear this is true -- and I wish it wasn't -- with the actress who played Marsha Brady, Carrie Wilson and Bobby Brown running an inn in the country together. *sigh*

                                  2. re: Phaedrus

                                    DWTS seems to be a good medium in getting more positive exposure, and if he can survive at least half way through the show and show people that he can dance, I don't see why that's bad. I don't think the TV viewers think that Apolo Ono, Kristi Yamaguchi, Emmett Smith, and Jason Taylor as losers for being on the show.

                                    Dancing takes skills - agility and coordination, so it will be interesting to see whether a chef who should be somewhat fit, coordinated and can multi-task will do well. The only thing is I am not sure I want to see him with very skimpy outfits.

                                    1. re: notmartha

                                      However, Apolo Ohno, Kristi Yamaguchi, Emmitt Smith and Jason Taylor all didn't "sell out" their chosen profession as Rocco did. They all went in there as champion athletes in their own right with recognized, long-standing and ongoing talent in their fields.

                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                        I don't see how not continuing with cooking is 'selling out their profession'. I didn't mention it, but past winners also include TV stars, singer and a race car driver. So isn't DiSpirito a recognized talent in cooking?

                                        It'll be neat if he can actually dance. For all we know, maybe he wants to participate because he wants to be a dancer. I guess we all jump to the conclusion that he wants more fame and exposure, and that's why he participated.

                                        I saw some of his endorsement as somewhat questionable, but even Mr. Puck has a line of TV dinners and soups.

                                        Anyway, I don't have a dog in this fight, but it just seems odd, and oddly parental. It's kind of how some parents force their kids down a certain career path - because they are good at it.

                                    2. re: Phaedrus

                                      I was taking a hospitality management course when "The Restaurant" was airing. Our instructor would show us a 10-15 minute clip of the show which aired that week with our assignment being to write down everything we thought Rocco was doing wrong. We would then have to pick an example and explain why it showed poor management style. There were usually so many examples of bad management in any 10-15 minute clip of that show that we could fill up two hours of classtime discussing them.

                                      1. re: LabRat

                                        wow...and you learned about hospitality by picking apart a paid professional? ask for a course refund!

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          Actually we were taught about proper management techniques first, then our instructor quizzed us on what we learned by having us pick apart a paid (but clearly inept) professional. It was a very effective teaching technique. Request for refund rejected.

                                          1. re: LabRat

                                            Teachers can teach effective techniques without having to bash a professional and not all of us believe Roco deserves nit-picking. Reconsider the refund.

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              Refund reconsidered and re-rejected. I learned quite a bit in that course and was able to translate what I learned in to career advancement at a pace far exceeding expectations. The best way to learn is by making mistakes and learning from them. The next best way is to watch others make mistakes and learn. The mistakes Rocco chose to broadcast to the world were a treasure trove of learning.

                                              1. re: LabRat

                                                Interesting, bully pulpits. You advanced at a pace far exceeding your expectations but you have insight critquing the choices of a fellow professional? Interesting perspective on learning. With all due respect, all I see is irony. Best of luck, LabRat!

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  Doing case studies is SOP in B schools, are you objecting to this proven method of education of are you objecting to someone picking on poor Rocco.

                                                  1. re: chazzer

                                                    Neither. I asked LabRat a question. LabRat's reply (which I appreciated) rang rather ironic for me. Hardly earth shattering.

                                2. re: notmartha

                                  I was such a HUGE fan of Rocco's when his first TV show started but his narcissistic ways did not bode well for was magnified being in front of a camera and I think that is where most of us are turned off by him..from a chick's point of view..he is hot and we need more good looking men on TV but you realize that a pretty face is just that.
                                  Like, I had reiterated from a previous post that I had a chance to meet him in NYC last year after we both taped a show but I declined..should of gone to goof on him.
                                  I do wish him well on DWTS..

                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                    At least if it's his TV persona that offends people I can understand. I don't catch enough of the first TV show to form any type of impression, good or bad. Just seems most comments here are negative because he quit cooking.

                                    There's another thread on the board on Ming Tsai, who apparently did the opposite. A degree in Mechanical Eng from Yale with a father a professor in Stanford, and ended up cooking/owning a restaurant. Ming maybe an interesting candidate for DWTS.

                                    Anyway, it won't be the first time that a pretty face does well in the entertainment media.

                                    1. re: notmartha

                                      "Ming maybe an interesting candidate for DWTS."

                                      Mmm, I would love that! It would finally make me watch the show for the first time ever. Also, Jacques Pepin and Wolfgang Puck. For the women, bring on Sara Moulton, who seems like she would be a good sport.

                                      1. re: gloriousfood

                                        I vote for Wolfgang Puck, that would be so fun.

                                        1. re: chazzer

                                          I second Jacques Pepin. His smile alone would get my vote. "Happy Dancing!"

                                          1. re: brendastarlet

                                            I vote for, sigh, Eric Ripert. You know he can dance.

                                            1. re: yamalam

                                              Eric Ripert...mmm...yes. And I'll raise you Ming Tsai while we're at it!

                                              Perhaps they should do a show called "Dancing with the Chefs."

                                3. Rocco does have great culinary talent...just look at how he rocked us early on at Union Pacific...It's a loss to the field but if he chooses a different career path and go for the bucks, that's certainly his choice.
                                  I wouldn't mind seeing him dance with George Hamilton though...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: gutreactions

                                    Rocco is what I'd call "stunt casting." The producers will keep him on the show long enough for him to cook for the other contestants, and to figure out a way for Wolfgang Puck to make an appearance. He'll be voted off around week four.