Monthly Industry Insights
Hear from industry leaders about their guilty pleasures, the oddest thing in their refrigerator, their inspirations and take on new trends. Learn more about the people behind the foods and dishes you know and love - and others you SHOULD know and love. We've asked all of questions and have the answers for you here.
July 2018 Edition
Fabio Viviani, Chef/ Culinary Personality/ Restauranteaur/ Cookbook Author
Born in Florence, Italy, Chef Fabio Viviani has had a passion for food since childhood, growing to own several concepts by age 27. In 2005, Viviani brought his talents across the Atlantic, where he opened Café Firenze in Moorpark, CA. Today, he is based in Chicago, IL and operates 15+ restaurants across the US, with more opening in 2018 in Tampa, Detroit, and D.C.. Best known for his television debut on Bravo’s Top Chef, he continues to have recurring appearances on national shows such as Good Morning America and The Rachael Ray Show. In February 2017, Viviani released an online cooking series, “Fabio’s Kitchen,” now in its second season. Off-screen, he is a regular headliner at food events and festivals. He has authored four successful cookbooks: Café Firenze Cookbook, New York Times Best-Seller Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, Fabio’s American Home Kitchen, and Fabio’s 30Minute Italian.
You grew up in Italy, would you say that was a big influence on choosing a career in food & hospitality?
Yes, of course. Italy is a great country with amazing food and people, it is a wonderful inspiration. These people spend most of their day eating and cooking, so that has had a great impact in my career. I went to work at an early age because of the surroundings and found great passion for my every day work because of where I came from.
How much of your culinary style comes from your background and where you grew up?
Being from Italy, I naturally cook a lot of Italian food so it influences what I do every day but being a world class traveler and being in the US for over a decade I have picked up some things that aren’t exactly Italian and I infuse those techniques with my roots, but 70 percent of what I do is still Italian.
Who had been your most impactful mentor in your culinary career and what has set them apart from everyone else you’ve worked with?
I started to work on my own in restaurants at 18, and I didn’t really have anyone mentoring me in the culinary field. I learned a lot of what I know from books and following other people that I admire but I didn’t have anyone mentoring me.
After becoming a well-established restaurant owner in Italy, what were you most excited about when you decided to move to the US and start establishing yourself here?
I really came to the US for a vacation. I sold some businesses in Italy, I saved some money and came for a year-long vacation in the US. I hadn’t planned on being a restaurateur. It wasn’t what I expected, it was incidental.
As we all know, hindsight is 20/20, is there anything that you would’ve done differently from opening your first concept to where you are now?
I wouldn’t do anything different, the mistakes I’ve made taught me a lot, so although some were painful, I would do them all again.
What is one piece of advice you have to those who currently are in the process of opening their own restaurant or bar?
Think about it again, put the money in the bank at 6% interest and never think about it again, hahaha.
You’ve been on multiple television shows with some very talented chefs, just as you are. What was it like to be surrounded by the innovative generation of chefs we have today?
Its always nice because no matter how many times you spin the wheel, you learn something new every day. So the more people you surround yourself with the more knowledge you’ll acquire. It’s all about sharing experiences and learning new things from people who have done them a different way.
If you had to go to a deserted island and could only bring 3 things to eat, what would they be?
I would bring a few rabbits, tomatoes and potatoes. That way you let the rabbits live for a year and they multiply and you have rabbits forever, you can eat the tomatoes and plant the seeds to grow more and then the potatoes you can plant some and they’ll grow even more.
What can attendees expect from you and your demonstration at the 2018 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo?
They will all be standing and jumping on tables! Hahahaha
We see you have a lot of things planned for the rest of 2018, including opening multiple new locations. What location are you most excited about opening in?
I think Tampa and Oklahoma are both locations I’m excited about opening. I think that every other concept I’ve had I’m excited to open but these two are ones I’m even more excited about. Tampa and Oklahoma will both be rustic Italian style restaurants.
Bonus question: If you could be any item in the kitchen what would you be and why?
I would be a wooden spoon, they are perfect for stirring sauces, tasting food and they can be good motivators for the staff in the kitchen! Hahaha.
May 2018 Chef Insight - Interview with Michelle Bernstein, Chef and Owner, Crumb on Parchment and Michelle Bernstein Catering
April 2018 Chef Insights - Interview with Claire M. Marin, CEO, Catskill Provisions
March 2018 Chef Insights - Interview with Chef Elizabeth Falkner
February 2018 Chef Insights - Interview with Chef Maneet Chauhan
January 2018 Chef Insights - Interview with Chef Reinhold Paul Teuscher