David Rocco will be opening his first global restaurant in Kuala Lumpur this year. Below is an excerpt of our July 2022 cover story in which we catch up with the chef and author.

“As with most things, there’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes—especially if you want to achieve a certain success,” says David Rocco.

But while many may be envious of the celebrity chef, cookbook author and television host living what appears to be la dolce vita, it’s not all sweetness and light. “What most people don’t realise is that being in front of the camera is tough, and shooting can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining,” he says.

Take the process of making his Dolce TV series, which sees him travelling the globe to discover culinary and cultural secrets, but life behind the scenes isn’t easy; it can take three days of intensive shooting to complete a 30-minute episode.

“Sometimes I get off a 12- or 18-hour flight, and we immediately start shooting, due to time constraints. The end product looks amazing—I mean, take this [Tatler] shoot, for instance, it looks glamorous, but that’s because you guys made it easy. But I’ve had friends and family come on set, and after five hours, of sitting and watching, end up wanting to leave, while we’re there working for 12 hours or more sometimes.”

See also: Tatler and Chopard's Exclusive Dinner with David Rocco

Rocco is also keen to emphasise that his cooking shows aren’t merely about recipes and learning to make dishes, but rather learning about people and cultures through food. “Previously, in Malaysia we did a story on Picha Project [now PichaEats] that shared how these three wonderful women are using food to give refugees a livelihood and dignity,” he says, adding that he finds the lessons personally rewarding too. “Usually, when I’m doing my interviews, I’m learning about them for the first time as well, alongside the viewers.”

There’s a slightly less intensive process when it comes to his “work babies”, as he refers to his cookbooks; he has published four so far. “I call them my babies because it takes me around nine months to produce a cookbook; and once it’s out there, you just got to hope for the best—much like children,” he says with a laugh.

See also: 7 Cooking Show Hostesses From Around The Globe

What we really want to talk about—and the reason Rocco is in Malaysia—is his eateries. Of course, Rocco doesn’t just stop there, he also has set up a number of eateries, including the one he started during when Covid-19 shut down other plans.

“Everyone was looking for a little comfort over the course of the pandemic, and eating is one of the easiest ways to achieve that; everyone has at least one dish that serves as comfort food, if not an entire cuisine,” he says. As one of his television series was cancelled, he opened David Rocco Bar Aperitivo in Toronto, Canada.

“We had to pull the plug on a TV series, despite the investments that were already made, but what happened was we saw a spot, and we set up shop, with the new dining experience in mind—that is, of people wanting to connect with each other, in a space where they can feel good, and which isn’t too stuffy; basically, a return to simplicity.”

See also: Chef Wan Creates a Malaysian Menu for Qatar Airways' Business Class

Rocco visited KL just before Covid-19 hit to launch his first global restaurant, which was initially due to open at KLCC. “I was in KL in March 2020, on the last plane out before the world as we knew it ended,” he says. “The NBA, the NHL and schools were getting cancelled, the world is falling apart and I’m here trying to open a restaurant, and I remember thinking ‘I got to get out of here’. Two years later I’m back with a committed group, including Andrew [Wong] and Brian [Quirk] of OpenHouse ... I love KL, I love Malaysia and Malaysians, and I believe in this city,” he says.

What was initially going to be David Rocco’s La Dolce Vita will now open as David Rocco KL. While he didn’t reveal the new location, the chef did let slip that the eatery will be in downtown KL and assures us that there’s going to be amazing views.

Slated to open towards the end of this year, David Rocco KL will serve Italian and Mediterranean cuisine in a family-friendly environment, which is equally suited for drinks after work too, and which will double as an events space. And in keeping with his newly discovered appreciation of family time, he is not only bringing his wife and children to celebrate the launch of the restaurant, but also his parents. “For me, this restaurant represents us as a family, and it’s important that they enjoy the fruits of our success,” he says.

“It’s all come full circle, and I’m definitely excited to be here again,” Rocco says of returning to Malaysia. “There’s something really special about KL—there’s an openness, it’s cosmopolitan, some nice Western influence, and just a real love for the city—the perfect balance, I believe, for a restaurant like ours to operate.”

For the full story, pick up a copy of the July 2022 issue at newsstands or get your digital copy here

  • PhotographyEric Chow
  • StylingErvin Tan
  • GroomingRae Sok/Plika Makeup
  • LocationDusun by OpenHouse
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