Trends, Tradition and Top Chef – An Interview with Chef Fabio Viviani


Hailing from Florence, Chef Fabio Viviani. At age 11, he worked nights at a local bakery (since he was too young to officially join the staff) and during his teenage years, he held several positions in the restaurant industry, even serving under the mentorship of Simone Mugnaini, an iconic figure in the Italian restaurant industry.

Between his training in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine at IPSSAR Saffi and working with culinary luminaries such as Alessandro Panzani and Saverio Carmagini, Viviani owned and operated five restaurants in Florence, a farmhouse, and two nightclubs by the time he was 27. Although a well-respected businessman in Italy, he was ready for a change and in 2005, Viviani moved to Ventura County, CA, where he opened Café Firenze in Moorpark, CA.

He has since appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef, where he was voted fan favourite in Season 5; and continues to make guest appearances in the media, releasing numerous cookbooks and smartphone apps to fully engage with the market. Fast forward to 2017, and Fabio has just launched his sixteenth restaurant, Portico at the Del Lago Resort and Casino at Waterloo, NY.

Fabio will be hosting a Masterclass for Bellavita Expo Chicago on the 23rd May 2017, where he will be looking to help his audience discover and understand the peculiarities of the Italian cuisine. Bellavita caught up with him for a few questions:

With a clear passion for all things food, what was it about your family roots in Florence that inspired you to cook? And would you say that Florence-based cuisine continues to influence your work?

I didn’t go to work because I was passionate about food. I went to work in the restaurant business because I found a job in the restaurant business, and my family needed the money. Then, of course, I got passionate about food when I figured out during a very early stage in my life that I was actually good at it. My origin in Florence has taught me that less is more—you don’t have to overdo it to put really good food on the table.

Moving anywhere can be a challenge, based on your early successes back in Italy, what made you decide to move to America and what do you love about Chicago?

I came to America because I needed a vacation after working for 17 years, 365 days a year. I wasn’t planning to come here and work! However, circumstances made me realise that I needed to get back on track, and I found myself rebuilding everything from scratch. But Chicago is a beautiful city! It has the culinary scene of New York; it’s clean, and the people are nice. It’s very livable. It’s actually one of the nicest cities I’ve ever been to!

You gained rapid exposure on Season 5 of Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’, run a successful bi-weekly e-newsletter ‘Fabio’s Magazine’ have recently released a range of food emojis on the App Store aptly named ‘Food Porn’, do you feel that technology is important to encourage the next generation of chefs? And what advice would you give to them?

Technology is only important if you care to reach people where people are. If you don’t care to reach people, then technology is not for you. For everybody else in the world with a business, however, technology is essential. My suggestion for everybody is that you have to do it—there is no shortcut.

We know that Americans already love pasta and pizza, but what inspires you about Artisan Italian food that you feel makes the Bellavita Expo part of the NRA show worth a visit? And what excited you about being involved?

The whole Italian culture—the way we approach food, the way we think about food, the way we eat food, the time we spend at the table, and the conversation we have in the kitchen—is not just about the food itself. It’s about the actual experience. And you’ll definitely get that by visiting the Expo. I’m excited to share this part of Italian culture with everyone at the expo.

What do you feel is next for Italian cuisine and what top 10 trends should we expect in food for the next year? What recipes do you recommend for generation Y?

I’m not a trend guy. I don’t create trends, which by definition eventually fade away at some point. The food I do is there to stay, and it has been there for centuries. It makes it a perfect business opportunity because people continually like it. People like good food with culture, with passion, with history—and Italian food is right up there! For generation Y, I recommend trying to make their own fresh pasta. It’s easy, it’s quick—it’s a game-changer.

Fabio Vivani’s Linguine alle Vongole (Clam Linguine)
Serves 4

Ingredients :

Homemade pasta dough rolled and cut into ½ inch ribbons
4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fish broth or clam juice
2 lbs fresh or small clams in shells
5 cloves of Garlic crushed
1 tbsp of butter
½ cup fresh parsley chopped
10 small leaf of basil
1 cup dry white wine

Directions :

In 3-quart saucepan cook with 2 tbsp of olive oil, garlic on medium fire, Add the wine, deglaze and completely reduce

Add the broth and the clams and bring the fire on medium/low
Add the butter and boil gently, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until sauce is desired consistency, stirring occasionally.

Boil the linguini in salted water for only 2 minutes, drain them and add them to the pasta sauce, bring fire on high

Heat through, till the sauce is reduced and the pasta is coated
Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and top with fresh chopped parsley.