Celebration of heritage
Chef David Rocco rediscovers his Italian roots through his cooking.
DAVID Rocco is not your conventional celebrity chef.
He is not armed with any culinary school experience, he is not a fan of how-to recipes and he certainly doesn’t view cooking as a mere process to satiate gastronomical pleasures.
The way Rocco sees it, cooking is really about putting together ingredients and retaining the flavours of the different components in a dish. His style is simple and honest, relaxed even.
“I come from an Italian family and food is always around me whether I like it or not. It’s in my DNA,” Rocco says in a recent phone interview from his home in Toronto, Canada. The celebration of his heritage has always been highlighted on his cook shows that focus on casual Italian cooking while bringing out the rustic charm of Italy.
Now, the actor-producer-chef is back with a new show called David Rocco’s Amalfi Getaway. In the show, he takes viewers to the beautiful scenic coast of Amalfi and into the home kitchens, restaurants and farms to cook traditional dishes that have defined the region for centuries.
Situated in the province of Salerno in the region of Campania, the town of Amalfi is about 35km from Naples, where some of Rocco’s family members live.
“It was literally a getaway for me. I got to spend a few months going around exploring every inch of the town and reconnecting with family and old friends. It was definitely an adventure.
“Amalfi is a spectacular place. It’s beautiful and the people there have such an amazing laid-back approach to how they live life,” the Canadian-born chef says with a chuckle.
With the 41-year-old Rocco, food sometimes takes a backseat in his television series as he lets the sights and sounds of the location do the talking.
But it’s also this enthusiastic affinity to the place he visits that give his shows such an intimate and endearing quality. In other words, it’s not so much a cooking show as it is a show that reveals the journey of an Italian guy rediscovering his roots.
“The thing about shooting on location is you do get inspired by your surroundings.
“Travelling around, it’s impossible not to take in all the beauty and just feel a rush of excitement as you see the ingredients first-hand,” Rocco shares.
When Rocco says he enjoys seeing the ingredients first-hand, he doesn’t mean as a spectator. Rather, he takes on a very active role in gathering them for a dish.
From milking a buffalo in the town of Pasteum to make the luscious mozzarella di bufala (buffalo milk mozzarella), to hauling an octopus out of the sea for a seafood dish cooked on the boat, Rocco goes to great lengths to make sure he gets the freshest ingredients in Amalfi Getaway.
“There is a certain spontaneity about cooking on location. You just feed off the energy of the environment and the company you’re with,” says the proud father of three.
For Rocco, meeting, breaking bread and having fun with people are just as important as reflecting Amalfi’s local delicacies. That said, he recounts his favourite episode in which his friend Eddie’s brother turns 90.
“It was very special because not only did we get to shoot an episode, I also got to be at a friend’s party and be part of the celebration.”
Indeed, with Amalfi Getaway, the line between business and pleasure is often blurred.
“I’m a very lucky guy because the series has so many of my personal elements in it – my work, my family and my girls. And that’s really what the show’s all about – showing the importance of food bringing family and friends together.”