In Conversation With … David Rocco
Celebrity chef David Rocco discusses la dolce vita, the way travel can change a person and why his kids are his favourite critics.
For David Rocco, la dolce vita is all about family. It’s about being able to celebrate work with his loved ones, while taking time to enjoy the good life. Throughout his career, Rocco has been bringing his passion for food and travel to a huge audience. His shows, Dolce Vita, Dolce India and Dolce Africa, have been wide successes, he’s published three cookbooks and won a number of awards and accolades.
“I feel very blessed, and it’s interesting, because over the course of 180 episodes going to Italy, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Vietnam and Cambodia, I come back, and it changes you forever,” Rocco explains. “I think food is our connector and how we are able to connect with people, and it’s a universal truth. Not everyone drinks wine or whisky, but we all have to eat, and there’s something magical about sitting down,” he says. “Whether it’s in Vietnam, Cambodia or Sicily, it’s all the same. To be that conduit to an audience and bring in other aspects of life — I’m honoured to be able to do that.”
With a career like Rocco’s, it can become difficult to leave the family for extended periods of time, so he made a pact with himself. “There’s been a deal, subconsciously, I made with myself,” he says. “If I’m going to go out into the world and spend 17–20 weeks away from my family or outside my home, my family has to participate and see the world with me. That is the deal, and it’s a nice legacy for me to leave them.”
Rocco has also found that the more he’s travelled, the more his perspective is changing, to the point that someone described him as more of a food journalist. “We’re looking to push the boundaries of what we can do as producers, and every country, every city offers something really special,” he continues. “This past series, we worked with refugees in Kuala Lumpur and in Rome. We worked on talking about the new face of Rome and migrants. What is being an Italian now? You open yourself up to changing and also you just can’t stand and stare any more. It’s about human connection, and how food can be a powerful medium.”
Talking with Rocco, it’s clear family is a big part of his life. His definition of la dolce vita is making sure they’re present, but that’s not to say they keep their opinions to themselves when he gets his food to the table. “My kids are very funny, because they’ll cook, but also be fantastic critics,” Rocco laughs. “They do it more to have fun with me, but they’re slowly developing their palettes. And it’s nice that it goes beyond Italian food. One of our favourite family meals is a very good ramen or pork buns or Thai.”
Despite the corners of the globe he’s visited and the countless cultures he’s encountered along the way, Rocco remains proudly Italian-Canadian. “When I go out in the world, I certainly have an Italian-Canadian perspective on things, because the Italian in me is strong. But Canada is my home,” he says. “It’s where my family is, my friends, and so there’s this really deep connection with Canada. I feel fiercely Canadian when I’m abroad.”