Rocco DiSpirito

The former star chef Rocco DiSpirito doesn't have a kitchen to cook in these days, but Rocco fans need not despair: The fame-hungry chef will probably turn up somewhere any moment now.

Queens native Rocco headed off to culinary school at the CIA when he was 16 and trained in Paris and New York, before moving to Boston to attend college at BU. He stayed in Boston after graduation, working briefly at the Four Seasons and then as a high-end personal chef. But he didn't really arrive on the food scene until he launched Union Pacific in 1997. After raves from the Times Rocco soon developed a reputation as one of the city's most promising young chefs, winning the coveted "Best New Chef" award in 1999 from Food & Wine.

Given the buzz surrounding DiSpirito in the early 2000s-not to mention his general foxiness-it wasn't altogether surprising when NBC picked him to star in a food-centric reality TV show. Debuting in 2003, The Restaurant followed DiSpirito as he launched an Italian eatery Rocco's. Alas, DiSpirito's restaurant almost immediately wilted under the klieg lights. Since the demise of his show, he hasn't exactly been hurting for cash. Thanks to a line of cookware, books, product endorsements, his mama's stupid meatballs, a short-lived stint on Dancing with the Stars, an Rocco's Dinner Party on Bravo, the Rocco empire soldiers on. [Image via Getty]