It’s tough to not enjoy David Rocco’s company. He walks and talks food, and has a million-dollar smile that explains why he is the TV phenomenon that he is. Last week, we spent a day with him and Bhaskar Sankhari, executive chef of ITC Grand Central. The plan was simple — to get David to sample Mumbai’s (in)famous street food and eventually cook us a dish inspired by what he saw.
Moments into meeting David, we warned him, lest he sue us later: “Hope you have a strong stomach.” He smiled: “Abs of steel… not just on the outside.”
David is on a two-month tour of the country. He’s shooting a 13-part series on Indian cuisine with Fox Traveller. “India is going to be one of those places that will explode in the next few years. And if the show is as good as we think it is going to be — and I feel it will be great — then we might do five or even six seasons. We haven’t even scratched the surface with Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Jaipur,” he says.
Even though this is only his second visit to India (the first time, he came for research), he doesn’t think twice before proclaiming his love for Indian food. “The historical context, the spices and how recipes are passed on by families — there is so much Italian passion in this,” he says, before revealing a fact that explains a lot of his fondness for Indian food. “I love chillies. That’s one thing I’m criticised for, probably the only thing, that I cook too spicy,” he says, with a disarming smile.
What’s heartening news for young foodies, however, is that David has no official training in cooking. He was exposed to the kitchen at a young age, which explains why he’s passing it on to his kids — his four-year-old knows the difference between onions and shallots! “I have three kids. Ever since they were 18 months old, I’ve held them in my arms and cooked. When they were two, they would watch from a high chair. Now, at four, they stir the risotto, add in wine and salt. My four-year-old can make risotto,” he says.
Tell him Indian kids rarely venture into the kitchen with the intention to cook and he sits up. “Kids discriminate easily even on the basis of colour; that’s how they work. But when they cook, they know ingredients and they eat everything. It’s true,” says the father of three, as a friendly piece of advice to Indian moms and dads.
First dish david ever cooked
“Eggs In Purgatory”
Fresh tomato sauce or puree
Salt and pepper
Add some olive oil to a pan. Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil and add the puree and salt. Let it cook for a few minutes, then drop in some eggs in the mix. Don’t mix them. Grate Mozzarella on top, shut the heat and let the eggs get steamed. Tah da! Eggs On Purgatory ready to be served.
Inspired by desi street food
“Italian street food”
Add olive oil, garlic and tomatoes and sauté. Leave. In a new pan of hot oil, drop a thick flat slice of pizza dough. Wait for the dough to rise, and strain. Sprinkle salt on the dough. Smear tomato-garlic mix over one piece of dough and honey over the other. Grate Parmesan over the second and serve.