Rocco Whalen, if nothing else, is wrapped up in the love of cooking: the idea and vitality of it, the doing of it, the invention and sustainability of it, the day-to-day enrichment of it, and, ultimately and significantly, the memory of learning all about it from his Mother. All combine as convictions he affectionately shares with regulars and first-timers who dine at his remarkable restaurant, Fahrenheit in historic Tremont, a scone’s throw from downtown Cleveland. Rocco opened Fahrenheit in 2002. It is contemporary American cuisine, always in a state of flux and perfection. It was a hit from the get-go. After 13 years, it still is: it never fails to impress.
You may, if you wish, engage Rocco in idle chitchat about stuff totally unrelated to cooking, but not for long. Eventually the chitchat reverts to what he loves to talk about best: his ideas and perceptions about cooking, the world of foodservice, and the business of running restaurants. What else to expect from a chef who says, “I was put on this earth to cook and I plan on doing that with lots of love for many years to come.”
Rocco is pleased at how Fahrenheit has grown, overjoyed at the recognition he has received locally and nationally, all of which has led to an expansion of his brand at Rosie & Rocco’s restaurant—his homage in name and deed to the memory of his Mother—at the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cleveland; at Rocco’s at the Q at Quicken Loans arena where the Cleveland Cavaliers play; and at Great Lakes Cheesesteaks or Rosie & Rocco’s both at FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns. Absent Rocco’s extraordinary work at Fahrenheit there would be no expansion, no invitations to expand.
He’s not quite finished. Nor, it seems, will he ever be.