Only in Jersey: 3/9/12

TGIF! Time for another edition of Only in Jersey!

If it’s filming in Jersey, takes place in Jersey, or is about celebs from Jersey, you will find it here.

Chaz Brown: Hope he's good at juggling.

Jerseyans and reality shows go together like, well, peas and carrots. Case in point: A “Top Chef: Texas” contestant (who was eliminated in the qualifying rounds) from Voorhees will compete in Bravo’s latest food-based competition, “Around the World in 80 Plates,” beginning Wednesday, May 9. Chaz Brown, the chef de cuisine at New York’s Fatty Crab, will battle against 11 experienced cooks in culinary challenges across the globe. The show, which is hosted by Curtis Stone and Cat Cora, sounds like a combination of “Top Chef” and CBS’ “The Amazing Race.” Here’s hoping the French Culinary Institute grad never hears the unfortunate words, “I’m sorry to tell you, but you’ve been eliminated from the race.”

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Only in Jersey: 2/2/12

Welcome to the third edition of Only in Jersey!

If it’s filming in Jersey, takes place in Jersey, or is about celebs from Jersey, you will find it here.

Tom Colicchio: Now THAT'S a knife!/Photo credit Parade Magazine

Paula Deen may be in the news these days for simultaneously revealing she has Type 2 diabetes and announcing her partnership with a diabetes drug company, but it’s the decadent chef’s business relationship with Smithfield Foods that has “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio shaking his head. On the Bravo talk show “Watch What Happens Live” Wednesday night, the Elizabeth-born Colicchio said he has a bigger problem with Deen’s association with a company that has questionable hog-farming practices. “I think the bigger issue is Smithfield and their practices, the mass production of pigs,” Colicchio told host Andy Cohen. “There was an expose done on Smithfield in Rolling Stone a couple years back – just go read it. I think that’s worse off than hawking the (diabetes) drug thing. That’s my opinion.” Well, thanks for the suggestion, Tom, don’t mind if I do. But alas, the Rolling Stone article(s) in question have curiously been removed from its site. However, I was able to find locate this reference to said expose (I pray you have a strong constitution because this link includes some gut-churning photos). Smithfield, for its part, tweeted me this response in regard to Tom’s statement: “The Rolling Stone article you referenced contains misinformation” and “While we certainly made some mistakes 15 yrs ago, we’ve changed dramatically since then.”

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Rocco DiSpirito says “Now Eat This!”

Celebrity chef and television personality Rocco DiSpirito is one gregarious, funny guy.

Rocco takes a moment to sign my copy of his new book, "Now Eat This," during an appearance at Barnes & Noble in Princeton, NJ./All photos by Ava Gacser

I found that out firsthand last night when I attended his appearance/book signing at the Princeton Barnes & Noble.

“Am I allowed to curse in Princeton?” the Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., native asked the audience moments into his highly interactive, amusing talk to promote the release of  “Now Eat This,” his latest cookbook which focuses on healthful ways to make many of America’s favorite comfort dishes.

Rocco should be familiar to anyone who watches a decent amount of TV. He’s been featured on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and his very own reality series, “The Restaurant,” which aired on NBC in 2003/2004.

Rocco took the time to sign every book the audience asked him to.

The seasoned cookbook author said he makes a point of creating recipes that require a small amount of ingredients and don’t take a lot of preparation time. The most important thing to remember, he said, is that cooking just about anything is better than relying on prepackaged, processed, preservative-laden food.

“If you cook it for yourself, you are so far ahead of the game,” he said, adding that his favorite recipe in the book is brownies (which surprisingly include black beans).

Rocco believes that preparing food for others is a wonderful gesture.

“Cooking for someone is the nicest thing you can do,” he said.

He was inspired to write his latest book for several reasons: His experience cooking for contestants of the weight-loss show “The Biggest Loser,” his concern with the morbid-obesity rates in the United States, and his own experience of trying to eat more healthily. One of his most humbling moments, he said, came during his first attempt at a triathlon.

“78-year-old women swam past me like I was standing,” he said with a laugh – adding that he’d even had a 40-minute head start. He wound up finishing next-to-last, followed only by his trainer, of all people. “They should have just used me as a flotation device.”

Over the course of Rocco’s talk, no one was off-limits – including shoppers who just happened by. When the chef addressed a man standing in an aisle watching the proceedings, the man admitted he had no idea who Rocco was.

“You and 99.9% of the rest of the world,” Rocco quipped.  “At 43, I barely know who am I either.”

When another audience member told Rocco he was surprised how funny Rocco was, the chef replied, “I thought this was a comedy show.”

You can follow Rocco via his website and Facebook and Twitter pages.

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