I know I've ripped on Rocco quite a bit, and I don't take any of that back. The guy made a compete ass of himself on The Restaurant with the schmoozing, the preening, the Vespa presenting, and the lack of cooking. And frankly, when he came back to Bravo and showed up on Top Chef this year, he was still a bit of an ass. He had a chip on his shoulder and he took really bad styling advice. Then after that appearance, Bourdain rightfully ripped into him right on the Bravo blogs, but what followed was pretty impressive. Rocco didn't whine or cry or make excuses. He calmly accepted Bourdain's slaps, calmly commented on them, and calmly moved on. It took an impressive amount of guts and self-discipline, but Rocco did it. Finally, here he comes back to Top Chef, and it was a reappearance I was dreading, but he was charming and helpful and ego-free. That is the sort of Rocco who can make a comeback. Plus, as I already mentioned, the hotness is back.
Hung tells Rocco, "Awesome, I'm so glad it's you." "I'm glad you're glad," Rocco tells him. Casey burbles excitedly, "Who am I going to get?" Michelle Bernstein is the next to arrive, so we've got some girl-on-girl action there. Casey greets her happily. And finally for Dale -- arriving in a black jacket with red accents, black pants, looking like the chef supervillain of the three -- is Todd English. "Here's how bad his on-camera chemistry is," the Evil Dr. Mathra analyzes for me "That coat? Is actually white." That's by way of saying that we were unfavorably impressed by The Todd when he did a Boston cooking show awkwardly named Cooking In With Todd English that aired on WGBH. We also had friends who worked in his kitchens and proclaimed him the height of assholery. However, that said, we adored his food at both Figs and Olives, and his pizza dough recipe is a godsend. (A Todd-send?) Meanwhile, he has a dorky MySpace page that plays "Roxanne." However, it doesn't matter what I think, because Dale is stoked about his assigned sous chef. The cheftestants and their "assistants" scurry off to begin their three hours of prep.