Celebrity chef David Rocco. Photo from DavidRocco.com
Celebrity chef David Rocco. Photo from DavidRocco.com

I’m one lucky girl.  Not only do I get to write for an awesome culinary guide, but I get to talk to people like Anthony Sedlak, Christine Cushing, Rob Rainford and pick their brain about what they’ve got going on, maybe even have dinner together.  As my dad would say “Che bella vita”.

Well, yesterday, I hit an all time high.  Celebrity chef David Rocco called me.  Uh huh.  A “bella vita” indeed.  David is in town this weekend for the Carrousel on the River and I was ecstatic to have a chance to chat.

I’ve been a David Rocco fan for years.  His show, Dolce Vita, features simple, Italian cuisine, usually with a bit of “Rocco” twist to it. It has always been a favourite with my mom and me.  It reminds us of our own trips to Italy, cooking rustic meals with my nonna and zias.

Based in Florence, the show travels with David and his wife, Nina, as they mingle with locals, have dinner parties with friends, visit cafes and markets, enjoying the moment and celebrate it with food.  It’s a wonderful glimpse into Italian life and culture.

My mom and I love the simplicity of it all.  Grassroots Italian cooking.  No measurements required. Just a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

“I’m not a chef per se, but a food enthusiast,” explained David. “I didn’t want to do a show with a chef’s jacket.  It had to reflect my lifestyle and my strengths.”

The television series and his new cookbook, Made In Italy do just that.  Both are filled with beautiful images from across Italy and stories of David’s connection to food.  It’s simple, easy cooking at its best.

“It was based on a passion, our love for Italy,” he explains.  “We try to do things with heart. There’s genuineness to it, a connection that people have when they watch it.  We envisioned a show that inspires people to cook and eat together.”

Of course, I had to ask about using local ingredients.  In Italy it’s easy to keep it local without having to really think about it.  Adriano and I like to refer to it as the “0” mile diet.  My nonna keeps chickens and has a significantly sized garden that grows everything from the tomatoes to can for sauce to corn, grapes, squash, peppers, lettuces and more.  Cheese is as easy as a quick drive down the road to a gentleman who produces mozzarella di bufalo….the best cheese you’ll ever eat in your life.  Ever.

So I asked David if he keeps the same emphasis on local ingredients when he’s at home in Canada.

“My style of cooking is very simple.  To have a few tomatoes from your garden, for certain products that you get locally is great.  Where I’d rather be more conscious is the quality of food, and the simplicity of food.  There’s a certain respect that may not be about the actual distance but rather the quality and the respect of not overeating.”

We asked our Twitter and FaceBook followers if they had any questions for David.  Here’s what they wanted to know:

@BradleyReiter:  Are you still a marathoner?  No.  I’m running less and less because of time and old age.

What’s your favourite post race meal? A big plate of pasta with heavy cheese, as heavy as possible and fries, any carbs I can get into me.

Paul Synnott – Having been a judge on Iron Chef America and seeing what Kitchen Stadium is like, would you ever consider competing?   No.  I’d get my ass kicked.  Only because you’re doing 5 dishes and you have a limited time. These guys do amazing work, and are very skilled.  If it was one dish, an Italian dish, I think I could handle my own.

Cheung’s Trading Company:  What do you see as the next big trend in the culinary world?  Less is more.  Nothing impresses me anymore.  I say that in a humble way.  We’ve all had amazing this and amazing that.  At a certain point with the change in economy, tightening belts, we are going to look for a simpler heather way of eating.  The cucina povera has stood the test of time.  I see people going back to that.

You can catch David Rocco in Windsor this Saturday, June 9 at 5:00 p.m. at the Carrousel on the River at Festival Plaza.  Watch David prepare a few recipes in a cooking demonstration and answer questions from the crowd.  You can bet me and my mom will be there…front and centre.

He will also be signing copies of his new book “Made in Italy”. If you don’t have a copy don’t worry, he’s offering signed copies for $30 this weekend (less costly than in the bookstores).

Carrousel by the River takes place June 8-10.  They have great entertainment lined up this weekend, including fellow celebrity chef, Christine Cushing, on Sunday.

Tickets are $20 for reserved seating for each celebrity chef performance and includes entrance into the festival for the day.  General admission into the festival is $5.  For more information on this weekend’s activities visit Carrousel of Nations.

Be sure to also check out the schedule for the upcoming Carrousel Villages that takes place June 15-17 and June 22-24.  A great opportunity to take in the multitude of culture and diversity we have in this city and what makes it such a great place to live.

Adriano will be the emcee and introduce David.  David also said he’s got an announcement to make on Saturday and to ask him what it’s all about. Oh ya.  You know I will!  I’ll be the crazy lady in the front waving her hand in the air yelling “Oh! Oh! David! Pick me! Pick me!”  See you Saturday David!