Volume 4 | Issue 1 | Year 2008

Should you, as a chef, find yourself out of work because the quality of frozen foods can now rival that just-cooked kitchen freshness, take heart that not all is lost. One can work side by side with frozen foods and enjoy them … and even extol their benefits.

With its new line of Mediterranean Style pasta dishes, Bertolli wants to inspire people to reconnect with loved ones over a simply delicious, lighter-tasting Italian dinner at home. Of course, this means they’d be eating at home – and not at a restaurant – and to give attention to this fact, the company drew together chefs in Manhattan to rally in Times Square in mock protest of Bertolli’s culinary slap in the face. Leading the charge was Chef Rocco Dispirito, who was asked by Bertolli to participate, lamenting the fact that the company’s products are “unfairly good.“ The relationship has since evolved to the point at which today Dispirito is the spotlight in a Web-based promotion of Bertolli‘s Mediterrenean dishes.

The whole point is to highlight Bertolli’s frozen cuisine which, says Dispirito, is every bit as good as restaurant fare. “The world is not so down on frozen foods as it once was – certainly not the culinary world,” Dispirito says, noting the psychology involved in cooking good food. “Cooking must be empowering. We entertain to enjoy the company of people, not to show off new cookware. We want to laugh and have fun. If you’re anxious about entertaining you won’t enjoy it as much. My goal is to get the home cook empowered and for that convenience foods (including frozen foods) are the focus.”

Dispirito adds that he trawls grocery stores “looking for great products to use in dishes. Bertolli is a great example of a brand to provide

an alternative to dining out. People with no time to entertain need options and my responsibility is to point people in the right direction. Bertolli’s Mediterranean pasta dinners are lighter, based on the Mediterranean diet of olive oil, vegetable oil – no butter, and no cream – with delicious flavors and vibrant color.”

At Whatsyourmedstyle.com, Dispirito shot six Webisodes highlighting the important points of cooking Mediterranean style. Here, Web site guests were invited to submit cooking videos for a chance to become Dispirito’s online cooking show co-host, all courtesy of Bertolli.

Med-style delicious

To help get the word out about Bertolli’s new Mediterranean-style frozen products, Dispirito worked with Bertolli Executive Chef Michael Christiansen. In his a recent blog, Dispirito lauds Christiansen for his talents in bringing the product to life. “He designed this product like a real chef would. He uses real ingredients like extra virgin olive oil, parmigiano-reggiano, semolina pasta, peak of ripeness vegetables, fresh garlic and chicken broth. There is nothing out there that is this good.”

Notes Christiansen: “The concept behind Mediterranean food is that you don’t want to do a lot of manipulation with salt for taste. An easy way to get flavor is with fat and salt. It’s more challenging to leave salt out and flavor with just herbs and wine reductions. We achieved that with these products.”

When dealing with Mediterranean vegetables, he adds, “you’re already dealing with the best vegetables in the world. It’s all about freezing them at their peak and intelligently mixing them together so when you cook, everything cooks fully at the same exact time; in 10 minutes it can heat perfectly.” At Bertolli, the chef adds, the foods that comprise the frozen meals are cooked to a certain point and then blast frozen to seal in taste.

Says Dispirito, Bertolli certainly knows its stuff when it comes to making the taste of food come alive. “The first product we tried together was Bertolli pasta and I was blown away by the quality of the pasta. I’ve tried to cook pasta and freeze it; it’s not the same result. Some genius at Bertolli has figured out how to do it and every bag is consistent.”

For more information visit www.bertolli.com.

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