Chef profile: David Rocco
Canadian-born with a strong Italian heritage, David Rocco has become an international food and television star. While his TV series David Rocco's Dolce Vita has become a worldwide hit across 150 different countries, it's his loyalty to his roots that makes him a true success.
Ever true to his love of Italian food, he has achieved the ultimate dream -- turning his passion into prosperity. Throughout his career, with four TV shows, three cookbooks, and a new line of wines (launched in 2014), David has seamlessly combined food and travel to advocate for, literally, "La dolce vita" - the sweet life.
1 What is your favourite food destination and why?
David Rocco: I might be a little biased, but I have to say Italy. For starters, they have such high-quality ingredients, from the bottarga of Sicily, to the truffles of Alba, to the cherry tomatoes of the Amalfi Coast. And there’s something for everyone: vegetarians, seafood fanatics and meat lovers. There’s a ton of culinary diversity on that small boot.
2 Where are you yearning to travel to next?
DR: Japan. I hear the food is amazing but I also have a fascination with Japanese culture.
3 What do you think will be the next biggest food trend?
DR: The next trend is no trend. I think there’s a real shift of everyone getting back to basics. We’ve all traveled everywhere and tasted everything, and as a result, I think we’re all craving simple down-home comfort food. You know, those family recipes that have been passed down for generations. The kind of food thing brings the whole family to the table.
DR: I’ve learned that no matter where you are, whether it’s a small village or a big city, food is a universal truth. We all need to eat. It breaks barriers, it brings people together, and it makes people happy. That’s what Barilla’s Share the Table program is all about. The emotional connection to food that makes mealtime so special – it’s more than food. The experience of eating together is something you share with the people you love.
5 Where did your passion for food begin?
DR: I’m Italian. Next question.
6 Best food memory?
DR: Too many to mention! I guess I’d have to pick the time I was in the desert of Rajasthan filming the first season of David Rocco’s Dolce India. I was with a group of hunters in a small village when they killed goat. At first it was a bit of a shock for me, but it became a pretty transformative experience. It’s a very respectful, ceremonial process where they pay tribute and give thanks to the animal by not letting any of it go to waste. I’ll never forget that.
7 Best dish you've ever eaten?
DR: That’s really hard to answer. I’ve eaten so many amazing things! I guess I’d have to say it was yesterday, when I had mom’s pasta al forno, with eggplant smoky scamorza. It’s phenomenal. The pasta gets all crisped up around the edges and on the inside it’s soft with oozing tomato sauce.
8 Strangest place you’ve ever eaten?
DR: I don’t know if it can be classified as strange, really, but I’d have to say the langar at the Golden temple in Amritsar was pretty out of the ordinary. Watching 100,000 people cook and eat together is pretty surreal.
9 Strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
10 Describe your kitchen style.
DR: Modern Italian with lots of space for everyone to congregate. At my house, the kitchen is the hub of the home.
11 What tools do you use in your kitchen on a daily basis?
DR: I really only rely on the bare essentials: knives, cutting boards, pots and pans. I’m not a big fan of clutter in my kitchen and I don’t like to keep a lot appliances. I don’t even own a food processer.
12 What is the one kitchen item you can't live without?
DR: Really good knives and super heavy, super thick cutting boards. 13 What’s your favourite thing to cook/bake? DR: I don’t bake. Unless Tiramisu counts! I love my pasta. I could cook and eat it every day.
14 Quick: 10 things you have in your kitchen right now.
• 1. Two types of extra virgin olive oil: my work horse for frying and the premium stuff for drizzling
• 2. Parmigiano-Reggiano
• 3. My go-to Barilla pasta
• 4. Qquality tuna
• 5. Quality anchovies
• 6. Olives
• 7. Sundried tomatoes
• 8. Peeled plum tomatoes
• 9. Garlic
• 10. Fresh herbs: basil, mint and parsley from my garden
15 What food item are you obsessing over right now?
DR: My wine. I have Chianti, Pinot Grigio and a Prosecco. All three are made in produced in Italy and are available at the LCBO. Funny thing is now whenever I have guests over to the house they expect all-you-can-drink David Rocco’s Dolce Vita Wines!
16 Favourite spice/herb?
DR: With all my travels to India of late, I’m really digging Turmeric, mustard seeds and coriander seeds. I’ve even started using it in classic Italian dishes. I make a mean Indian-style lamb ragu.
17 Favourite childhood food?
DR: Potato croquettes.
18 Tea or coffee?
DR: Coffee. Good espresso with crema where the sugar rests on top for five seconds.
19 Biggest guilty pleasure (food wise)?
DR: Hamburgers. The crazier, the better! Seriously, add on that foie gras or pork belly and don’t forget the onion rings.
20 What are some of your favourite cookbooks?
DR: Mine of course! But if I had to pick ones I didn’t write, I’m a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi and the River Café cookbooks. I love the recipes, the beautiful layout, the gorgeous photography and above all else, the storytelling.
21 Best food tip?
DR: Use the best ingredients you can afford — the very best olive oil and the freshest, most seasonal produce — and then it’s not cooking, it’s assembly.