Rocco DiSpirito: Misunderstood Chef of the People or Megalomaniacal Celebrity?

"What DiSpirito really loves to do is bring attention to himself Paris Hilton–style and try to cash in on it."

There is a silly profile of Rocco DiSpirito in today's New York Times that is notable for its lack of insight. Yes, DiSpirito was at one point a very talented young chef who, it must be said, never figured out how to run the kitchen of a successful restaurant.

But his reality TV show debacle The Restaurant showed in horrifyingly minute detail how little interest Rocco had in either cooking for people, doing anything meaningful with his kitchen skills, or even running a successful business.

Reality shows often don't offer up complete portraits of their stars. But in DiSpirito's case The Restaurant did. DiSpirito turned out to be obsessed with becoming famous. Rocco DiSpirito didn't lose his focus, as the reporter suggests. In fact, I would say that he discovered he had a laserlike focus on fame and fortune, which he may or may not have achieved.

For the Times to let DiSpirito's obviously disingenuous-verging-on-fictitious assertion that "what he loves to do is to bring his rarefied culinary skills to regular folks everywhere" go unchallenged is unfathomable. In fact, it verges on the weird. Because what DiSpirito really loves to do is bring attention to himself Paris Hilton-style and try to cash in on it. Only she can't cook.

Now, a zillion appearances on reality TV shows (it's too bad he never ended up vying for Flavor Flav's affections on VH1); a radio show on WOR in which he routinely never prepared for even the most basic interviews (I was a guest a number of times and saw his lack of preparation and aggressively shallow, egomaniacal on-air persona firsthand); a bunch of poorly conceived and received cookbooks; and too many Page Six mentions to mention, DiSpirito has become a caricature of himself.

His fall from grace out of the kitchen shows what can happen when a talented cook loses his way and in the process loses touch with reality by appearing on too many reality shows. Rocco DiSpirito's feet left the ground a long time before he hoofed it on Dancing with the Stars.

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