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This Is David Rocco’s Most Inspiring Travel Experience

The Toronto chef talks about a recent safari and why he’d love to travel Canada for his TV show

David Rocco with a stunning view of a coast and small buildings in the background

A former model turned TV host and cookbook author, 48-year-old David Rocco makes food and lifestyle shows that air around the world, encouraging home cooks to embrace simple pleasures.

We spoke with the Toronto native, whose new series, David Rocco’s Dolce Africa, starts this fall, about moving beyond his Italian roots and why he’d like to do a Canadian-themed series.

CAA: Your show started with Italy; you’ve since travelled to India, and now Africa. What was the inspiration for venturing further afield?

DR: About five years ago, we saw the direction of food television [going toward] a lot of competition shows, which really weren’t inspiring us. We decided to get out of our comfort zone, starting with our India series. We saw a huge opportunity to become global ambassadors—travelling to meet new people, sharing a meal and doing a fusion of recipes and cultures.

CAA: Do you think food travel is having a moment because of shows like yours and Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown?

DR: Many of these shows are host- or character-driven, but we try to bring the human experience to the scenes and the people I’m meeting. It’s all done through food. What we seek out are the human stories—what makes people tick—and sharing that story over a meal.

CAA: To film Dolce Africa, you travelled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. What were some of the most inspiring experiences?

DR: My children came to Kenya with us, and we went on safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. We were also invited to [visit] the Maasai tribe. They allowed me to take part in their daily rituals, one of which was drinking cow’s blood, which wasn’t overly pleasant.

My kids were also in that episode, and there’s an amazing scene where my nine-year-old daughter is sitting with a young Maasai boy about her age, and they’re eating together. It was just an amazing moment of children from two different worlds.

We were lucky enough to witness all the Big Five—lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants and Cape buffalo. The last night we saw these lions start mating! It was really graphic and kind of awkward trying to explain that to my daughter.

CAA: Sounds like you really embrace each culture when you travel.

DR: I love people. What drives this show is this sincere love of connecting with people and being immersed in a culture. Our work is very intense, and because of the intensity of that short period in a city or a country, we end up with a [fuller] experience because we’re really entrenched in the culture.

CAA: Are there any places you’d still like to cover?

DR: People often ask me about Canada, and I would love to do it. We have such an incredible landscape. I don’t think it’s been covered the way it should be on a global scale. It really offers so much, and the food scene is incredible.

CAA: When you’re at home in Canada, how do you and your three children get around?

DR: We drive a Mercedes-Benz ML400, and I am a CAA Member. I ended up getting CAA because as soon as we had children, there were two things: I knew I had to replace my convertible, and because of my travel, I didn’t want to worry about my wife being stranded. I just wanted that peace of mind a phone call away.

Dive into more Canadian personalities, from comedians to chefs

Learn how funny guy Russell Peters came to be an avid traveller, why chef Ricardo Larrivée called his hit Canadian web series We Are the Best, and what the authors of the cookbook Feast ate on their trip across Canada.

Image credit: Francesco Lastrucci