Catawba chef gets to showcase talents on Fox show tonight

Chef Dominic DiFrancesco of Catawba will make his national television debut at 9 tonight on Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" reality series.

He'll also welcome fans at a viewing party this evening at The Station Bar and Grill on Oakland Avenue in Rock Hill.

DiFrancesco is one of two chefs with local connections competing in the new season of "Hell's Kitchen," the unscripted television series where culinary guru Gordon Ramsay sears his underlings with a torrent of obscenities.

Louis Petrozza of Charlotte, a Winthrop University chef, also will compete on the show.

The program, which includes Ramsay's trademark personal insults and unmet expectations, will award the winner of the 15-chef field a position as executive chef at Ramsay's new restaurant, "The London West Hollywood."

DiFrancesco, who auditioned at a casting call in Pineville, N.C., last year, considers Ramsay the best chef of the 21st century but admitted he's got a mouth on him.

"He's got his F-word. I came up with my own," says DiFrancesco, who is a stay-at-home dad for his three children, ages 3 to 9. "Faith. Family. Food. Without God and my family, I really don't have anything."

DiFrancesco started cooking young. His family remembers him cooking eggs on his grandmother's radiator in his native Philadelphia, where his father was a police officer.

He's been at it ever since. And, no, he didn't get a lot of kidding from high school buddies about being a "sissy."

"Where would they come after school? My place. My dad always had the freezer stuffed with steaks. And I knew how to throw it on the grill and cook it up. We ate better after school than most people ate for dinner."

Changing gears

DiFrancesco, 43, was an electrician in West Palm Beach, Fla., when he decided to switch careers into culinary arts. When his engineer wife, Debbi, got a job in Rock Hill, they moved north and he took time out from his career to manage the household.

Tonight, the budding reality star will host a viewing party of the series' debut episode on a big screen TV at The Station. The show begins at 9 p.m.

Station owner Debbie Coccia said the viewing party is open to anyone who wants to watch the show and meet DiFrancesco.

"It's pretty exciting to have someone from national TV in our restaurant," she said Monday.

But don't expect to learn any spoilers. Even though the show already has been filmed, DiFrancesco is tight-lipped on Ramsay's reactions to his dishes and details of his experience on camera until after the series finishes airing this summer.

Dominic DiFrancesco of Catawba will be at a viewing party from 8 to 10 tonight for his debut on Fox's reality series "Hell's Kitchen." The party, which is open to the public, will be at The Station Bar and Grill, 122 S. Oakland Ave. The event will begin at 8 p.m., and the show will air at 9 p.m. on Fox (WCCB Channel 18 over the air or Channel 11 on Comporium cable).