Chef Rocco DiSpirito’s Recipe for Relief
Relentless back pain almost sidelined the celebrity chef's career. That was until he lost 30 pounds and began turning "downfall dishes" like lasagna into a dieter's dream.
If you spend a day with Chef Rocco DiSpirito, you'd better wear running gear. At any moment, you might find him perfecting recipes for a new cookbook, filming segments for The Dr. Oz Show or Now Eat This! With Rocco DiSpirito, or volunteering to cook and deliver meals for charities like the Food Bank For New York City. And when he isn't putting his culinary skills to work, the Queens, NY, native can usually be found biking up to 40 miles around Manhattan's west side.
But there was a time when the 46-year-old chef struggled to simply get up in the morning. In his mid-30s, just as Rocco's career started sizzling—he had opened two acclaimed New York City restaurants and been voted "Most Exciting Young Chef" by Gourmet magazine—his on-and-off lower back pain intensified. Although Rocco was no stranger to back problems (he had been dealing with scoliosis for decades), this bout was nearly unbearable. It involved occasional spasms of "shocking, radiating, take-your-breath-away kind of pain where all you can do is crawl around."
"I just didn't know how I could function as a chef," he recalls. "Without a lot of painkillers or a miracle, I wouldn't be able to stand at the stove anymore—or stand anywhere, period. I was working at Union Pacific [his restaurant] at the time, so taking muscle relaxers didn't seem plausible, either—they'd put me to sleep!"