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David Rocco

January 7, 2016 by Speakers' Spotlight

David Rocco’s Dolce India – Italian Passion Meets Indian Adventure

Celebrity chef David Rocco brings his passion for food and healthy cooking to millions of kitchens every day through his worldwide hit television programs David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, David Rocco’s Amalfi Getaway, and his newest program, David Rocco’s Dolce India. He is also the author of two internationally bestselling cookbooks. Lending his wit, charm, and charisma to everything he does–whether hosting a unique event or overseeing a corporate cook-off, appearing at a charity gala, or endorsing a brand–whatever David is  involved with, it’s sure to be fantastico! The Toronto Sun caught up with David to talk about Dolce India and it’s premier this Sunday at 7:30pm (ET) on TLN, and you can watch the trailer, above:

What happens when you blend the savoury traditions of one culture with the delicious elements of another?

Pure magic, says cookbook author and TV food personality David Rocco.

Rocco, definitely GQ material with his rugged good looks, is famous for his Food Network La Dolce Vita TV series about his culinary adventures to his Italian roots. He brings that sense of adventure and vibrancy to his new series, David Rocco’s Dolce India — an Italian TV chef goes exotic in a must-see 13-episode culinary and cultural exchange that culminates in a bright and colourful celebration of India, Italy and Canada.

This spanking brand-new Nat Geo People Asia series has its exclusive Canadian premiere this Sunday, Jan. 10 on TLN Television at 7:30, and each episode is a total celebration of food and culture set against a background of some of the most dramatic and stunning locals in south Asia, including the boisterous streets of Chennai, Kashmir and Goa — known as Rome of the East. The visit to the Darbar Sahib — the Golden Temple, and considered the holiest for Sikhs worldwide — was a life changer, admits Rocco during a visit to the Toronto Sun’s offices.

“Every step I took in India I encountered a sense of life and vibrancy that I’ve never known existed,” said Rocco. “It changed my life as a chef and as a person…the impact on my family was extraordinary.”

In fact, Rocco brought along his wife and three children on this adventure, exploring the old neighbourhoods and the new shopping spots, even taking a rickshaw ride for the thrill of it.

How the show came about — Rocco and his wife own the show, now seen in over 160 countries — is an adventure in itself. “I got a call from an Indian broadcaster who said my (Dolce Vita Italy) show was huge in India. I thought it was a crazy notion to do a similar show, blending the two cultures, but I flew to India and did a scout, and I saw this as an amazing opportunity.

“It was life changing. We did 26 episodes with our own money, and the show is now top-rated in Italy, India and airs in Australia and all of Europe. It’s even in China.”

But Rocco admits his initial fears when he first arrived to start setting up. “When I was leaving for India for the first season, I arrived in Shani in the south of India and it’s four in the morning and I’m in my room, with a meeting in three hours and the realization hits me — what the f…k have I done? I’m not an Indian chef! I tried to call my wife, but she was out. I tried to call my mom and she wasn’t in! I found myself in the fetal position in bed and I almost cried myself to sleep.”

But, ever the professional, Rocco rose for his meeting — and he realized by the time he got to the elevator that he was okay. “I’m stopped by an Indian, who says ‘you’re David Rocco! Can we have your picture?’ Halfway to my meeting, another group of people stop me and say the same thing. A waiter does a beeline, and I realize the universe just gave me gifts — it was an incredible awakening and awareness, and one of the most powerful moments of my life.”

He hasn’t looked back since. The show is a tasty marriage of his Italian-rooted passion for foods to prepare in “Indi’talian” way, a sparkling fusion of traditional dishes from both sides of the pond. Dishes like stuffed naan meets panzerotti/calzone, an Indian-style risotto incorporating the local cheese ‘paneer’ and peas — a spin on both the Indian classic dish Mattar Paneer and the Italian Risi e Bisi. And he did so without projecting his show as “another Slum Dog Millionare — India is progressive, modern, traditional and sensual. Nothing wrong with the movie, of course, but there’s more here than what I — we’ve — heard about.”

Rocco explains that India’s cooking is based on traditional recipes that can vary tremendously from region to region, and, from the beaches of Chennai to the mountains of Jaipur, the series sees Rocco digging for the soul of India by exchanging recipes, stories and laughter with world renowned chefs, Bollywood stars and — always the toughest critics in any culture — grandmothers.

It’s an India never seen before — “the spices are absolutely astonishing, and I love the way you can marry them with what I grew up with,” said Rocco excitedly. “I made my dad a lamb ragu, where I blended various Indian spices with my Italian go-to’s — and he loved it.”

In fact, “there’s not much difference between Italians and south Asians — we embrace family and culture, good food — and we love to eat!”

Rita Dimontis/Toronto Sun/January, 2016