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1999 America's Best New Chefs | Rocco DiSpirito

Union Pacific, New York City

Age 32
Background Born in New York City. Trained at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Worked at Jardin des Cygnes in Paris; Lespinasse and Maxim's in New York City; and Aujourd'hui in Boston.
First thing he ever cooked Fried dough.
How he got into cooking Working at a pizzeria in Queens. "I only made $30 a week, but I got all the ices and pizza I could eat, and that's all you need when you're 11."
Weirdest thing he's ever eaten Cod sperm. "The Japanese use it to thicken soups. It is truly disgusting, and I usually love anything Japanese."
Strangest customer request Foie gras with no fat.
Favorite place to eat Nha Trang, in New York City's Chinatown.
Ingredient he loves now Lily bulbs.
Favorite kitchen tool Misono slicer from Japan. "You can do just about everything with it."
What he eats at 1 A.M. Sushi or a raw shellfish platter from Balthazar in SoHo.
Food vice "I'm definitely a sucker for chocolate."
Recipe tip To ensure crispness, start the fish skin side down, pressing the fillet with a spatula. The skin will stick at first; when it releases, flip the fish over.
Restaurant details 111 E. 22nd St.; 212-995-8500.

Published July 1999
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