Why did Rocco DiSpirito quit cooking?

Rocco Dispirito

In the late 1990s and into the early aughts, Rocco Dispirito was at the top of his game. He had a successful New York City restaurant, Union Pacific, that was praised by critics and frequented by celebrities.  He was one of the earliest "celebrity chefs," before food television and social media rocketed an entire cadre of chefs into the spotlight. But in 2004, Dispirito left the kitchen. He has not cooked professionally since then. 

In a lengthy article on Thrillist, Kevin Alexander tries to answer the question of why Rocco Dispirito stopped cooking. Alexander recounts Dispirito's rise into the highest levels of the NYC restaurant scene, and then turns to the reasons that he feels prompted the talented chef to put down his knives. Says Alexander, "And as a lover of said food, I struggle -- truly struggle -- with trying to understand Rocco's refusal to cook. It upsets me, still. Confuses me. Is it an act of defiance, or one of survival? A temporary respite that just got too comfortable, or a well-planned second act?" 

The article explores whether the criticism that has been heaped on Dispirito for embracing the 'celebrity' part of celebrity chef is warranted. Far from disappearing after he stepped away from the stove, he has remained in the public eye by appearing on many televisions shows (some not even food related), by promoting products ranging from frozen foods to cars, and by writing several cookbooks (which, judging by the EYB Library, are not hugely popular). 

Alexander wonders whether a talented chef owes something to the dining public. "What if Thelonious Monk quit jazz to write toilet bowl cleaner ad jingles? Or Salinger started doing Harlequin romance novels?" he ponders. While Alexander doesn't believe that Dispirito should feel guilty about leaving the restaurant world, he does want to answer the question of why the chef did just that. Dispirito would not agree to be interviewed, so the world may never know. 

1 Comment

  • Norakag  on  8/24/2017 at 10:35 AM

    In my opinion, I do not feel that he owes us anything ... he shared his gift and has moved on to something else that fulfills him .. celebrity life must be a nightmare , and I can't imagine the pressure it must put on a person, in their professional life and , even more importantly, their personal life .. He owes us nothing and we have not got the right to expect from him or anyone , who is gifted.. It is each persons choice , to share their gift , or not to.. I hope he's doing well :-)

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