Spicy Italian sausage, no dressing

Aptly named gay cook Adrian De Berardinis’ hirsute pursuit of culinary creativity landed him on the sexy new webseries ‘The Bear Naked Chef’

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NAKED LUNCH | Adrian De Berardinis made a name with his focaccia in New York City, but his buns get a lot of attention on his new webseries, ‘The Bear Naked Chef.’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Adrian De Berardinis puts the “bear” in “bare.”

On his new webseries, The Bear Naked Chef, the out-and-proud, hairy, muscular, tatted-up, New York-trained chef combines his passion for food with his nudist tendencies so that his audience not only learns the ins-and-outs of fine cuisine, but gets some eye-candy in the process. After barely a month online, and just two episodes released (so far), The Bear Naked Chef is stirring more than a stock pot with his largely (but not exclusively) gay fans. (He identified his age as “prime” … and he’s single.)

Once a Dallas resident — he’s an alumnus of Southern Methodist University, who now calls Los Angeles home — De Berardinis took time away from his slickly-produced series to talk to us about his culinary credentials, his hopes for the future of naked cooking and how it’s still possible (but a little risky!) to deep-fry in your birthday suit.

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Dallas Voice: Where did your culinary interests originate?  De Berardinis: Growing up in a foodie household, I began cooking at age 8, cultivating my passion for authentic Italian cuisine. I had the privilege of working in our family-owned pizzerias and restaurants, which honed my kitchen and cooking skills. I worked in restaurants through college at SMU, and when I moved to NYC, worked in the kitchen at the East Village’s famous Frank restaurant, where I was honored with an award for Best Focaccia in New York City in 2000.

So, is Italian food your focus?  I specialize in authentic regional Italian dishes because of [my background], but my exploration doesn’t stop there. I experiment with other tastes from across the globe. I have so many favorite dishes to cook. This is what my web series is: my favorites — my greatest hits, if you will. There are many more delicious things to come. But I started the series with a dish that is near and dear to me, a family favorite: Chicken cacciatore. It’s something that was special to me and my family. But it’s deceptively simple to make, as all my recipes are.

I imagine there are risks to cooking naked — like, “never make bacon!”  I actually cook naked all the time at home, and have for years! It started with an ex of mine; He and I would get up in the morning and make breakfast naked. I continued this after we split. It feels sexy to me. Cooking is truly a sensual process for me. It’s a lot like making love.

Still, the hazards of cooking naked are quite obvious. This is why I use a little apron. I want to protect my junk. I’ve only had a few minor blips happen, with boiling water and hot oil but nothing emergency-room-worthy! (Tip: Open the oven door from one side of it, not in front.) I actually cook a dish with bacon in my third episode — stay tuned, y’all! But I use a pan with high sides. Whoops! There goes a secret.

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Adrian De Berardinis

Other than your own history of being bare-assed in the kitchen, where did the idea come to make it into a show?  I had the idea back in June 2015 and I marinated in it for three months to figure out how I would want to execute it. In September, I ran into an old friend, Brandon Roberts [who would later become executive producer of the show] and pitched the concept to him. He was all over it, and within a week, he had assembled a production team and we shot the first three episodes a week later. It all happened quite quickly. We released the teaser on my YouTube channel on Dec. 15; a week later, we released Episode 1. It garnered a lot of attention. I was beside myself.

The show went viral on both releases, 300K views in the first week for Episode 1. The response was overwhelming and was received very well. I receive tons of messages and e-mails daily how much people love this. Not just because I’m naked though, but because they also love the food. That is the most gratifying part.

Mostly gay men, I suspect!  Interestingly enough, about 20 percent of my subscribers and viewers are female around the world.

Other than the nudity, the production values could easily make you believe it’s airing on the Cooking Channel.  I want watching to be a full sensory experience. The aesthetic, the set, the production is beautiful and I hope add to that with my personality, charm and expertise. Yes, people enjoy watching me cook naked, but truly, the show is about the food I cook. Hence my tag: Nothing Butt Good Food. I want people to try my recipes at home, enjoy the process and maybe try cooking naked themselves and discover something new about it.

What’s you hope for the future of it?  I have many ambitions on where to take the show. I want it to evolve and tell a story. I plan on having quests in the future, travelling to different countries and cooking with other cooks in their kitchens (all naked of course), and a cookbook is in the works. Stay tuned.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 29, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Rocca ages

WAIT, WAIT! DON’T TELL ME! | That nerdy comedian is Mo Rocca!

Need salt? Don’t ask Mo Rocca — but as the Texas vet gets older, he keeps getting better

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

You know that man on CBS Sunday Morning who’s really funny and kind of nerdy? That panelist with the nasally voice on NPR’s Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me quiz show. The guy you can’t quite describe other than from the kinda geeky-gay vibe he puts out, but in the nicest way. That’s Mo Rocca.

He’s the face you might recognize but not be sure where from. Rocca is everywhere, whether he’s reporting newsy features for CBS in his special snarky way or adding to the fun on Wait, Wait (or maybe you recall him from the heyday of The Daily Show when he, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell dominated the reports). Now he’s added to his resume as the host for Cooking Channel’s Food(ography) — perhaps the last show he thought he’d be on.

“I was approached to host this and seemed like an odd fit,” he says. “My only experience with cooking food at all is none. I don’t even have salt in my apartment. My kitchen is totally virgin territory. But I needed the work!”

What he didn’t want was to look a fool on camera — although he admits knowing nothing about cooking, he didn’t want to be put in the position of looking like he knew nothing. Instead, the show allows Rocca to use both his comic and journalistic talents to tell the stories of food and its history and how it becomes something else altogether.

“Food has become more the portal into discussing food and history and life. Getting through to people through the stomach because hopefully we all sit down to eat. This is my long way of saying I like talking about history and I get to do it through food.”

He’d dare to call it the best show he’s worked for … this coming from the guy with no salt.

“I went in for a paycheck and have fallen in love with it.”

Rocca juggles that gig using his shtick on the as-fun radio show Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me, which covers current topics with a rotating panel of guests (including fellow queermedian Paula Poundstone) as they test their knowledge with hilarious results.

“Oh, it’s both fun and easy,” he says. “I didn’t know the show because I don’t listen to radio, but I’m able to be funny because I don’t have to create the stuff. It’s there already.”

Which means less work for the clever comedian. With his wit, funny would seem to come as second nature. Instead, Rocca makes it sound oh-so-painful.

“Making something funny is hard work,” he says with breathy emphasis on the hard work. “If I do a piece for CBS Sunday Morning, it’s like crapping out a pineapple. It is so hard to get that thing out.  I think President Reagan used that term first.”

With NPR being in such hot water these days, Rocca didn’t pull out the whole pledge plea. He thinks NPR could actually go in a different direction with funding.

“I do feel badly about [the scrutiny] and it is tricky,” he says. “This is a great product, but if it’s so great then why do we need taxpayer money? I am reluctant to say that, but the reality of it is, it sure would be a whole lot more convenient. But if we didn’t have NPR, the void would be filled by more opinion. And that’s just what we need!”

He jests of course.

Rocca will appear in North Texas Monday as part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts and Letters Live series, but he’s no stranger to the area. His first job in television was here, writing and producing for the children’s show Wishbone. The gig was great, but he does have his regrets.

“I used to live in Plano,” he says. “It was such a mistake. I thought I needed to live near work and the studio was in Plano. You know, plano means flat in Spanish, and it was and there were all these McMansions… ugh.”

If only Rocca had gotten the show he really hoped for when he got there.

“Yeah, I didn’t get the gig at co-hosting Plano Tonight.”

He jests again — but who would put that past Plano?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright