Rocco DiSpirito, Author, Henry Leutwyler, Photographer . Hyperion $35 (350p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6856-8

Before he was a television star (not just on the Food Network, but as the central character in the NBC reality show The Restaurant), DiSpirito was a rising star chef in New York with his high-end restaurant, Union Pacific. As Tom Colicchio did so ably in Think Like a Chef, here DiSpirito details the theory behind his cooking. In a nutshell, he seeks to balance sweet, sour, salty and bitter tastes in savory dishes such as Ceviche of Tuna, Sweet Onions and Lime, and Pomegranate and Cinnamon-Lacquered Duck. Each recipe has colored dots to indicate which ingredients provide which flavors; they also bear prep times, level of difficulty, yield and a brief wine suggestion: e.g., Black Sea Bass with Chestnuts and Blood Oranges is paired with a "medium-bodied Chardonnay with no oak." As at Union Pacific, DiSpirito works magic with seafood in particular, with such dishes as Charred Spanish Mackerel with Pear and Sweet Spice, and Calamari with Coconut Curry and Green Papaya. DiSpirito translates a few restaurant techniques for the home cook, as with a suggestion for using plastic wrap instead of the vacuum-sealed packaging used for sous vide cooking when making Chicken with Eggplant Carpaccio and Turmeric Marmalade. Desserts such as Mango and Papaya Carpaccio with Cilantro Candy are in the same lively spirit as the rest of the book, and photographs are also energetic. DiSpirito has considerately cordoned off the more advanced recipes in their own chapter, and a guide to ingredients helpfully includes photographs. Some stars can still relate to the little people. (Oct.)

Forecast:By October, DiSpirito will have burst onto the national scene via the reality show about the creation of his new Manhattan restaurant, Rocco's. He should be as visible and familiar by then as chefs like Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse. Expect this book, interesting in its own right, to sell on that star power alone.

Reviewed on: 09/01/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
Paperback - 978-0-7868-8737-8
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