BY HANA MEDINA
IN THE LATE ’;;s, when celebrity chef Rocco
DiSpirito began turning heads in the food world,
he was known for the incredible flavor combinations and creative gourmet execution at his popular restaurant, Union Pacific, in Manhattan.
After getting some sobering news from the
doctor about his high blood pressure and cholesterol in ;;;;, he transformed himself into a
health-food advocate, ditching the unhealthful
ingredients of the gourmet lifestyle for leaner,
DiSpirito chatted with The Connection by
phone to talk about his career and the release of
his upcoming cookbook, Rocco’s Healthy ;
Delicious: More Than ;;; (Mostly) Plant-Based
Recipes for Everyday Life. Each recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, no sugar added, and emphasizes eating real food. (See a sneak preview on
the next page.)
THE COSTCO CONNECTION: How did your
upbringing influence your love of food?
ROCCO DISPIRITO: My upbringing was as if I
lived on a farm in Naples. I would say it had massive influence on not only my cooking, but a lot
of my food preferences and tastes and style and
the way I lived my life. [My family was] quite
self-sufficient. They made all their own bread,
their preserves, their own wine.
I grew up in Queens, New York, one of the
most ethnically diverse parts of the world. While
I was living this imitation Italian farmer’s life in
my home, outside were hundreds of ethnicities
with lots of restaurants, cafés, diners and carts
on the streets, selling lots of different ethnic
foods. By the time I started cooking, it almost
felt like I’d traveled the world in terms of food.
CC: You’ve had a renowned restaurant, TV
shows and a James Beard Award–winning cookbook. What did you envision your career to be
when you started out?
RD: When I first started out I was about ;;, so I
envisioned my career to be a guy who could afford
Love Gun by Kiss. That was what motivated me to
get my first job. My mom hated them. She told me
to get a job if I wanted to buy that album. I called
her bluff and got a job the next day. [It] happened
to be in a pizzeria, and I made ;; bucks that week.
I bought three albums from three of the groups
she hated most, and took her out to a Chinese food
lunch in Coney Island.
I fell in love with the business from then on. By
the time I realized there was a career possibility
from cooking and not just buying my favorite
record, around [age] ;; or ;;, my goals were to
make a perfect omelet and a clear consommé.
Then, fast-forward ;; years later, I was still
working in restaurants, and it was starting to
become a real career.
CC: What inspired you to help others on their
RD: I was amazed at how wonderful and how
delicious life still could be despite cutting sugar,
alcohol, meat, carbs—the things that we all
know we should be eating less of. It took about
six months for everything to sink in, and by the
end of that year I’d lost ;;-something pounds.
Being the kind of guy who gets really excited
about discovering and sharing new things, I was
eager to do so and I wrote my first [healthy eating cookbook], Now Eat This!, which wasn’t an
easy sell, by the way. I was known for this very
indulgent food. It took a while to convince people that I was the real thing.
CC: What was the process for creating Rocco’s
Healthy ; Delicious?
RD: We tested ;;; [recipes] over a year and a
half and ended up with about ;;;, and then were
told we had ;;; pages for the book, so had to cut
I have a fresh-food delivery service, which
requires that we generate new recipes every day
because our clients get customized menus. We’re
always creating dishes specific to their needs,
their medical conditions and their food preferences. And the ones that are really great, we say,
“Let’s save that for the book.”
CC: What advice for those who are just getting
started on their wellness journey?
RD: To wake up. It’s important that you take
a really good look around and recognize the
signs. You can make incremental changes,
like drink more water. Reduce the amount
of refined sugar. Increase the amount
of plant-based whole foods that you eat.
Reduce the amount of packaged food. Any
of these things done in any quantity will
change the outcome of your health. C
Rocco’s modern life
Rocco DiSpirito dishes up his 13th cookbook
FOR YOUR TABLE
Look for healthful ingredients and Rocco’s
Healthy + Delicious (Item #1191940, 10/17) in
your local Costco warehouse.
Rocco’s Healthy + Delicious
has whole chapters on
smoothies, snacks, avocado
dishes, chocolate and more.