His kitchen is "not as green as it should be, but it's pretty green," says chef Rocco DiSpirito. "I use a lot of local ingredients. The best way for chefs and cooks to be green and eco-friendly is to use local ingredients because those food miles are devastating to the environment," he points out. The best-selling author and focus of the 2003 series "The Restaurant," a high-stress experience for him, is hosting "Rocco's Dinner Party," which premieres on Bravo June 15. He finds it "a lot more fun. I very smartly left the cooking to other people."
In the series, a celebrity soiree meets cooking competition shot in DiSpirito's downtown Manhattan loft, "an interesting mix of people" like Liza Minnelli, Marvin Hamlisch, Kenneth Cole, Alan Cumming and Sandra Bernhardt eat food prepared according to a theme by chefs vying for a $20,000 prize. "I ask them to cook their signature dish and give them 30 minutes to do it. We give them unlimited resources and tons of help. A service team, design team — they have to come up with a décor, a design for the room that reflects the theme," he outlines. "One of them is a speakeasy and they had to come up with a sort of forbidden, taboo dinner party. There are lots of vegetarian elements because more people are vegetarian these days. Sometimes we learn about it when a guest shows up. Sometimes we know beforehand and we tell the chefs to be prepared."
The competitors range from famous restaurateurs to a food blogger who's a financier by day and a caterer "who runs a service out of her home kitchen in Connecticut," notes DiSpirito, whose own culinary journey began as a boy. "All I wanted to do as a kid was learn how to make a perfect omelet," he says. Now he applies his years of experience as a chef to books like "Now Eat This Diet," and more in the works. "I have at least two more coming," he reveals. "The next one is called 'Quick Calorie Solutions.' It's about how to save 100 calories anywhere, anytime."