Summer Entertaining with Rocco DiSpirito

Summer Entertaining with Rocco DiSpirito
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Summer Entertaining with Rocco DiSpirito

We asked celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito how he entertains during the summer and scored amazing advice covering everything from how to prepare for an outdoor event to cooking for the entire family. Read on to discover Rocco’s 20 tips for hosting the perfect summer soiree.

Make Food In Advance.

“I always recommend that people prepare in advance,” Rocco says. He advises cooking food ahead of time that can be served at room temperature, so that you can spend the most amount of time with your guests. If your dinner party is a show of you cooking, he suggests having your guests eat at the kitchen counter with you.

Image Credit: jupiterimages

Use Fresh Ingredients.

Rocco chooses ingredients for freshness over anything else. “I go to the store and see what seems to be the best and the freshest and cook it in the best way I can,” he says.

Image Credit: Noel Hendrickson

Don't Rely on Food Trends.

“I do what makes me and what I think will make my guests feel good,” Rocco asserts. But there is one trend he’s on board with: raising your own chickens and growing your own eggs. “There is nothing better than a fresh egg.”

Image Credit: jupiterimages

Let the Ingredients Inspire You.

More than anything else, Rocco finds inspiration in his ingredients. “I’ll base dishes around ingredients and make several dishes with the same ingredients in many ways,” he shares.

Don’t Worry About Cooking Too Much Food.

“That should be the least of your worries,” says Rocco. “People take food home and they eat for three days, and they are usually pretty happy about it.” If you’re on a budget, estimate making about one pound of food per person. “A pound of food is a lot by the way, but that is a good marker.”

Don’t Always Serve Food Hot.

Rocco looks to the Italian way of cooking for inspiration. He notes, “They don’t serve all of their food super hot. They are often cooking for big groups and being stuck in the kitchen is not what they are about.”

Image Credit: George Doyle

Serve Low-Maintenance Foods.

Rocco’s go-to dishes include soups, stews and salads made from ingredients like roasted peppers, asparagus, cauliflower, olives and anchovies. He finds grilled foods “great either right off the grill or at room temperature” and snack mixes are “very low-maintenance.”

Image Credit: Getty Images

Serve Flavors that Appeal to Large Groups.

Some foods, such as lamb, pork and some shellfish, may be harder to please all palates than other foods like chicken, beef and salmon. Also, he recommends serving at least one dish that is all vegetables. Other popular eats include meatballs, shrimp cocktail, tuna tartare and pasta.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Grill Pizza and Vegetables, but Skip the Cruciferous.

Some of Rocco’s favorite things to grill include pizza and vegetables like endives, radicchio, asparagus, peppers and eggplant, and he suggests using a grill basket or a griddle tray with holes. However, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower don’t shine on the grill. “They don’t have enough sugar in them to grill,” he explains. “If there aren’t natural sugars to caramelize on the grill, they don’t really improve that much.”

Create a Fun Environment.

Show your guests a good time, and reserve any judgment or criticism. “If they want to put ketchup on the foie gras you made for them, who cares,” Rocco remarks. “As a host, your job is to make people happy.”

Image Credit: Getty Images

Cheat on Holidays.

Even Rocco’s private diet clients, who he cooks for every day, are forced to take a break from their diets on certain food-centric holidays, like the Fourth of July.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Let the Food Dress Up the Table.

“Serve everything family style and [use] reasonably attractive platters,” Rocco advises. “Let the food do most of the visual work.” He mixes and matches from his own collection of serving pieces that he has accumulated over the years.

Image Credit: jupiterimages

Use Simple Centerpieces.

Rocco grows a lot of flowers in his garden and uses them as an easy centerpiece. His favorite this season? “Hydrangeas, which kind of grow everywhere in the summer,” he shares. He also likes candles, especially “big, silly elaborate candelabras that Liberace would have had." "The more candles, the better,” he adds.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Accent with Fire.

“I’m a big fan of those clay Mexican fireplaces,” he says, which make a beautiful outdoor accent when dining al fresco.

Image Credit: Flickr / David Reber

Cook for Kids and Adults.

Rocco reveals that the secret formula to cooking for all ages lives in three properties: being round, being fried or appearing to look fried and being able to be dipped. Other foods that make great crossover dishes include shrimp cocktail, barbecued chicken, burgers and hot dogs.

Offer a Healthy Dessert.

Rocco loves popsicles because they are low in calories, taste great and look great on the table. He recommends buying the no-sugar added, fruit-based options.

Rocco’s Food Picks for Summer Gatherings:

“I do love boiled lobster during the summer, and I make lobster bisque with the leftovers,” Rocco mentions. Another contender is an endive-avocado salad. “You take endive, toss it with avocado, a little sherry wine vinegar, no oil necessary, and cherry tomatoes.”

Rocco’s Go-To Salmon Dish:

Rocco often makes a filet of salmon broiled with a glaze made from orange marmalade, miso and lemon. “I just broil it until the glaze is burnt and the salmon is kind of rare. People go crazy for that,” he adds. Serve it in the middle of the table to share.

Rocco’s Go-To Dessert:

For an easy dessert, Rocco marinates strawberries in a little coconut nectar and sherry overnight and serves them the next day with whipped yogurt.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Rocco’s Go-To Wine:

Brachetto D’Acqui is a sweet sparkling red wine with low alcoholic content. “Because it is only five percent alcohol, you can drink a lot of it,” he says. One glass has about 90 calories.


Rocco DiSpirito's favorite part about entertaining is the magic that happens when people come together. "The beautiful part about being alive is the interaction with other people. The moment [in which] you are exchanging energy and chemistry is what makes life worth living," he remarks. These interactions have carved a lasting impression. "It was what I fell in love with the first day I worked in a restaurant when I was 11 years old."

Rocco also believes that spending time with others around food can be healthy for you. He notes that in most European countries, where obesity is not as severe an issue as it is in America, people prioritize eating together. "There is no such thing as eating alone. Everyone is given time to go home and eat because they understand that eating is about being social," he observes. He believes that eating alone can lead to overeating because there is nothing more than food to satisfy your needs. "If you don't have other things like the interaction with people to fill that void, to fill that need, then you are going to rely on food 100 percent."

We asked Rocco how he entertains during the summer and scored 20 amazing tips spanning everything from how to prepare for an outdoor event to cooking for the entire family.

Check out the slideshow above to discover Rocco DiSpirito's 20 tips for hosting the perfect summer soiree.

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