That’s right folks, Rocco is back, or wait, has he ever left (The Restaurant)? Anyway, his own show premieres tonight on Bravo: Rocco’s Dinner Party will pit three chefs against each other, each cooking their signature dish for Rocco. The two that impress him the most go on to cook a dinner party for the host and and his guests. Fortunately, Alan Cummings and Liza Minnelli are his nearest and dearest (and he name drops another handful of celebs!)
I got a chance to chat with Rocco and ask him a few questions about what we can expect from his dinner party.
ES: You’ve been a guest judge on Top Chef a few times. Have you been wanting to judge your own show for some time?
Rocco: I loved being on Top Chef. They do such a good job of balancing—honoring the craft of cooking while making great entertainment for television—which is not easy to do, as I know personally. It felt like a real privilege to be able to sit there with Tom Colicchio and all the other judges and talk to those guys and the contestants about food and offer them insight. It always feels like the camaraderie you feel in a kitchen or a professional kitchen when chefs get around and talk about food.
Bravo and I have been looking for a project that we could work on together and the idea does come from my real fondness for entertaining at home and the fact that I entertain at home all the time now. I got out of the professional restaurant business in 2005 so the idea does come from part of what’s true in my real life.
Which celebrities can we expect to see on the show?
In the first episode there’s Bryan Batt from Mad Men, Michael Kenneth Williams from Boardwalk Empire and Christine Ebersole, who we first met in the movie, I think, Amadeus, Bill McCuddy is the movie reviewer for Forbes.com, Marcus Samuelsson, winner of Top Chef Masters Season 2, and Kelly Choi who hosted Top Chef Masters and that’s just the first episode. And then, it goes on to include Cat Deely, Liza Minnelli, Marvin Hamlisch, Sandra Bernhard, Alan Cumming.
How is this show different from the other cooking shows out there?
It couldn’t be more different from every other cooking show out there. It is the only one on television that celebrates why we cook, not just how we cook. Most culinary competitions focus on the how, the culinary part of cooking, the technique, the ingredients, the passion of the chefs. This show is entirely focused on why we get together and cook.
The reason we cook is because we want people to know we care for them, we love them, they matter to us. We want to celebrate and we want to have real human moments with them around the dinner table. The show is interesting because it’s not always the best chef who wins, it’s the person who understands most that this show is about making guests happy.
What is the caliber of chefs on the show, home cooks, executive chefs, etc.?
We have everything from professional chefs who are currently running restaurants in big cities in America to assistant chefs, chefs who are just starting out and people who are running catering businesses out of their home. One person is a food blogger by night and a trader by day. So, it’s kind of a broad spectrum.
Are you able to tell us of any memorable moments from the show that we can look forward to?
So many. My God. Yes. In the first episode there’s a great Kelly Choi comment about sucking it, and you’ll just have to watch what happens to see what she’s talking about. There are a lot of wonderful moments.
Like I said, we’re sitting at the table for hours eating one dinner party after another and, you know, by the time we’re into the third course or second course of the first dinner party my guests have really sort of let their guard down, let their hair down, and opened up and we just get to hear a lot of wonderful things about their lives.