Q: When did you decide you liked cooking?
Chef Rocco Carbonara: It started with my Grandma. My brother and I were in her kitchen all the time. She was an old school cook, like cooking a pile of fava beans in old crates, that sort of thing. Both my brother and I got the bug – he went to culinary school first and has traveled all over the world as a chef. And, I’ve pretty much followed the same path.
Q: Where have you worked prior to the good ol’ O.C.?
Chef Rocco: I went to culinary school in southern Italy, so I started there, but I really wanted to learn how to cook international cuisine. So, I went to South America first, and I’d spend two months working in someplace like Columbia or Brazil, and then I’d take two months’ vacation there so I’d get to know the culture around the culinary. I had a great time traveling the world and cooking as I’d go.
When I landed in the states about nine years ago, I came to Orange County first because I had family here. I helped a friend open her restaurant in Telluride, Colorado, but for the most part, I’ve stayed here – meeting my wife was a big part of that decision!
Q: When did Rocco’s (the restaurant) come into play?
Chef Rocco: I was opening and operating restaurants for my family, but after I got married, my wife and I decided to branch out and that’s when Rocco’s was born. At one point just a couple years ago, I was operating three restaurants (including my Uncle’s restaurant, Carbonara’s after he passed away) and our family’s catering business, but I was never home. So, now it’s Rocco’s and the catering side, and it’s perfect for us.
Q: So, Rocco’s isn’t just Italian food …
Chef Rocco: No, I couldn’t let all that good travel and training go to waste! So, the menu is a real mix of international flavors. Although we loosely call it “latin cuisine,” it’s all over the board, from French to Venezuelan to Spanish to Mexican and Italian. We have a lot of fun in the kitchen.
Q: This is your third year at OC Chef’s Table. Why do you keep returning?
Chef Rocco: It’s such a great experience! It’s by far the most emotional event I’ve ever cooked in – all these stories of redemption and lives saved – really amazing. I can still remember the first year I attended – they awarded two sisters scholarships – they had been homeless for years with their Mom. It was really touching. As a chef, you just can’t walk away from that and say it didn’t change you. That’s why we’re back!___________________
The top chefs in Orange County (along with a few surprise visiting chefs) are getting together again for the renowned OC Chef’s Table at Disneyland® Resort on March 1, 2020 to provide permanent housing and services for homeless adults and children. With OC’s most imaginative chefs creating one-of-a-kind magical menus, it’s no wonder OC Chef’s Table is one of the most coveted gala tickets of the year.
See all 40+ chefs participating and secure your ticket at OCChefsTable.com. And, get to know this year’s phenomenal chefs as Diane Armitage sits down with each, asking 5 questions in just 5 minutes …