Tuesdays with Tastemakers – Fabio Viviani
Charismatic and unstoppable, Chef Fabio Viviani is everyone’s favorite—he can charm anyone, from a casual foodie to the toughest of Top Chef judges. Born in Florence, Italy, Fabio worked his way into the restaurant industry from the ground up, from working nights at a local bakery to training under world-class Italian chefs. By age 27, he owned and operated five restaurants in Florence, yet he was ready for a big change. Viviani took the U.S. culinary scene by storm, appearing on Bravo’s hit show “Top Chef” (Fabio was a fan favorite) and subsequently being a guest on a slew of TV shows, such as The Chew, Good Day LA, Good Morning America, Ellen, Rachael Ray and many more. He owns half a dozen restaurants in Chicago and LA, a wine brand, have written three wildly successful cookbooks, has a line of cookware and is a mentor to young aspiring entrepreneurs.
Why did you become a chef?
I have always loved everything that goes into making a meal. I began working in kitchens when I was 11 years old and haven’t ever looked back!
If you weren’t a chef what would you be and why?
I’ve had phases of things I wanted to do. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. For a short weekend, I thought I wanted to be a porno star. But, at the end of the day, if I wasn’t a chef, I don’t know what I would be doing with my life.
What is your greatest strength as a chef?
Very adaptive to the time of year and very flexible on people’s requests, which makes me more of a creative chef.
What is your biggest weakness as a chef?
No patience for stupidity.
What’s the one mistake you made in the kitchen that you would never repeat?
About 25 years ago, I dropped a wedding cake at a 600 person wedding right before the cutting ceremony!
What is your proudest achievement?
I came here to the U.S. with no money and did not know English; and now I have a business with over 1000 employees…and being a father.
What was your scariest kitchen experience to date?
I was locked in a cooler from 4-7 A.M. Normally, the freezer door has a setting on the side that allows you to clean and get out of the freezer. For some reason this particular night, because something fell behind the door, I was stuck. I ripped out the electric cord so it wasn’t as cold. Still freezing but I survived.
What is your most prized possession?
My family. My son especially.
What is your favorite memory?
The day I held my son for the first time.
Which of the five senses is your strongest?
The sixth: my gut.
What food would you choose to be stranded with on a deserted island?
Fresh Pasta. Homemade. Or Nutella!
Name three individuals you would like to have dinner with.
Sylvester Stallone, Pope John Paul the 2nd (he’s passed away), and my late grandma.
Who is your kitchen hero or mentor?
Simone Mugnaini, a renowned and celebrated chef in Florence. Everything I do well and do wrong I owe to him.
What does the concept of “balanced flavors” mean to you?
It means that someone has done their homework and that they know how the flavors should be balanced…they know fundamentals of cooking.
What is the one thing you want people to remember about your food?
I want to them to forget about it so they will have to come back for more!
Best comment made about your food? Was it by a loved one, guest or media?
A woman once told me, “Listen, last night I had a great night with my boyfriend, but I would give it all up for one more of this ravioli.”