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Q&A With Rocco DiSpirito

The chef and author talks about his new cookbook, his new cooking show for kids, and how he juggles work, family, and health.


"It was a culinary challenge. Taking apart a classic dish and then rebuilding it as something healthier -- it felt like the Bionic Man each time. Often these were dishes that no one had really looked at or considered changing in a long time. Some, like lobster bisque, wound up better than the originals. In terms of my culinary journey, that was a very satisfying thing: to reduce the calories, yet retain the flavor. It's a type of cooking I had never done before. I was incredibly surprised by the results."

5. What can't you resist, regardless of the calorie count?

"Great wine, wine so good that it changes your outlook on life. But I don't drink often. I save it for a special occasion."

6. Do you have a regular exercise routine?

"I do a lot of biking. Five times a week, I bike a fast 20-plus miles. And I do resistance training three to four times a week."

7. Your new show targets families. Your food truck makes weekly stops at schools. Why are kids such an important audience for you?

"It has always been important to me to teach others the value of what I do. Cooking changed my life for the better when I was 11. I want to impart that to kids. Plus, with obesity being such a widespread problem, I want to give kids the resources and skills to make healthy choices."

8. When it comes to food and eating, what are three lessons you want every kid to learn?

"Sugar is bad. Learn how to cook. Healthy and delicious are not mutually exclusive."

9. Did the food you grew up on -- and the cooks you grew up with -- influence your approach to healthy cooking and eating?

"I love Italian food, and on the list of most obese countries, Italy is number 26 while the United States is number one. Clearly, Italy has a successful system that produces healthy results. It's delicious and healthy and fresh. Growing up, there wasn't a dinner that didn't have six kinds of vegetables."

10. Which of your healthy, low-calorie recipes gets the most converts?

"The fried chicken, the macaroni and cheese, and my black bean brownie cupcakes."

11. What is your best health habit?

"My best habit is being conscious of everything that I put in my mouth. I consume thoughtfully. I always think about the importance of making better, healthy choices when it comes to what I eat."

12. What is your worst health habit?

"Eating late at night. The food just sits in your stomach when you sleep."

13. You're in your mid-40s now. Is there anything you wish you had known about health, say, 20 years ago that you are just learning now?

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