Chef Rocco DiSpirito is opening up about a personal story for a good cause.
The chef, known worldwide for his Italian-American cuisine and fusion cooking, spoke with the USA TODAY Network for the Storytellers Project’s “LIVE, in Your Home,” a virtual storytelling show benefiting Feeding America.
During the interview, the celeb chef dished about how his mother’s kindness once helped him bridge the divide with a school bully.
DiSpirito began his story by recalling how his mother had an “absurd generosity” and would give strangers crumbles of Parmigiano-Reggiano from her purse.
“It was crushingly embarrassing to me,” recalled DiSpirito, who grew up in New York. “I cringed every time she did this.”
But this simple act of kindness, DiSpirito added, was a way to “break through all the barriers” and connect with other people.
“What I didn’t realize was that my mom was giving away the possession that she valued the most,” he continued. “Parmigiano-Reggiano to this day is very expensive and back then it was very expensive, and to give it away was like giving away all the tea in China. It was the most generous gesture you could make.”
One day, DiSpirito’s sixth grade class welcomed a new classmate, Jimmy, who quickly started bullying DiSpirito.
“It was crushing my psyche,” the chef said. “I wasn’t able to perform at the levels I was able to perform.”
The bullying lasted for years, until one day Jimmy “laid siege” to DiSpirito’s Queens home, trying to break into his backyard and smash windows.
“I was terrified. … The bully who was plaguing me for years had followed me home. He knew where I lived.”
His mother, who worked in a public school cafeteria, finally arrived home. And to both kids’ surprise, the bully recognized DiSpirito’s mother. She had been slipping the boy food on their shared bus rides, not realizing who he was.
“At this moment, I realized there was a connection here I didn’t know about and that she had been using this absurd generosity scheme of hers to make friends with my bully, but we didn’t know about each other.”
DiSpirito continued, saying that after seeing the woman who generously shared her cheese and salami, Jimmy “was immediately defused, looked to me and said ‘It’s cool,’ gave her a hug and walked home. And every day after that we were friends.”
The two “still talk to each other to this day. Turns how, he did have a lot of problems that he had to deal with every day just to get to school, and the acts of kindness that my mom showed him on his way to school were enough to defuse the entire situation. So the absurd generosity that my mom showed every day of her life that I was embarrassed about, that I made fun of, ended up saving me from at least a couple of bruises or something even worse.”
Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization. To help get food to people in need, the organization is working with farmers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers and food service companies. It’s also raising awareness of food insecurity, advocating and conducting research around the topic to strategically break the cycle of poverty and hunger.
Contributing: Michelle Rogers, USA TODAY Network
Published at Tue, 19 May 2020 16:44:00 +0000