Fabio – The Chef who set his Grandma’s kitchen on fire

Re-posting this interview I did with Celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani.

This charismatic celebrity chef hates cilantro.

At seven-years-old, he set fire to his grandmother’s kitchen.

He explains why he reviewed his own cook book on Amazon. Bravo to  him, I say.

He gives us insight into reality television.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Fabio Viviani (Top Chef Contestant) on the phone. I wish I could have taped our conversation so you could all appreciate his wit, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, infectious laughter, and warm personality all wrapped up with a delightful accent.

Here is a transcript of our conversation, (excluding all the laughter we both shared) plus a delicious easy-to-follow risotto recipe.

Selena: Fabio, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to to talk to me today. If you hear clicking, it’s because I’m typing at the same time we are chatting.

FABIO: Thank you, Selena. If you hear barking, that’s my dog. Please excuse the other noise too. My friends are here as we are making a Christmas breakfast American style. Hash browns, sausages, eggs, truffles, quiche.

Selena: You were one of my favorites on Top Chef. You were funny, easy going and your food looked scrumptious. I was disappointed when you left as I’m sure a lot of your fans were. It was a hamburger that sent you and your knives packing, have you made another hamburger since?

FABIO: Sure. I don’t know what those judges were talking about, my burger was delicious. Since that infamous hamburger episode, I have created another recipe to make the perfect Hamburger, not like the one i did on Top Chef. 

(The link to the hamburger recipe is at the end of the interview.)

Selena: Do the chefs have a feeling that they will have to face the judge’s table with the possibility of being told “pack your knives and go?”

FABIO: They don’t really know. We know if our dish is good or not. The quick fire and the elimination contest on Top Chef, well, you know, it’s not what I do for a living, I didn’t freak out during the show. Now, if I had to do Dancing With the Stars, then I would freak out.

Selena: How does it feel to stand in front of the esteemed judges as they either praise or tear down your culinary creation?

FABIO: I take critique as an opinion, I don’t take it personal. If someone comes into my restaurant and says they don’t like this dish, they want it made a different way, well, I just tell them; that’s how we make this dish. It’s their opinion and they are all entitled, but I’m not going to change how a dish is made. Hey, I say, how about you don’t order it and get something else instead.

Selena: (As I said, above, it’s really too bad this wasn’t tape recorded, because in saying this, he did not have any hint of arrogance, it was all tongue in cheek and said in a warm manner. I would bet, the customers love him even when he tells them he’s not about to change anything on his menu.)

Selena: I’m Italian as well, however there are two things that are common to Italians that I absolutely do not like. One is oregano and the other is coffee. Do you have any  food that you dislike?

FABIO: Not sure if you’re Italian, Selena. Cilantro. I hate Cilantro. I hate it so much that I would like to hang the person who invented it. If you don’t add enough or put one extra leaf of Cilantro it ruins your whole dish. I’m not a big fan of Peanut Butter. Otherwise, I eat pretty much eat anything.

Selena: What advice would you give someone who is going to be on a reality show?

FABIO: First piece of advice: Please, don’t cry on national television. No, don’t do it. Ever.

Keep your mouth shut and don’t say what you’re thinking out loud all the time.  My filter is medium to large mesh—not a good idea sometimes. Okay, most times. Good thing they edited a lot of our disagreements, because what you saw was only a small clip of what really goes on when we disagree with a judge or a guest judge.

Being on Top Chef was a great experience. A lot of positive came out of meeting everyone on the show, networking with different people and making new friends.

Selena: Do all the contestants get along?

FABIO: Yes. They’re all good people, good chefs. We don’t hang out as we are all very busy but when they come to town we get together.

Selena: When did your love affair with cooking start?

FABIO:  When I was seven years old, I set my grandma’s kitchen on fire by mistake. She said she better teach me to handle fire on the stove before I burn the whole town down. My grandmother taught me how to have a passion for food, cooking with simple ingredients.

Selena: As you know, I’m a romance author, sexy hero’s are part of the romance genre. What do you think about a hero who is a chef? Are chefs sexy?

FABIO: Well, I think I’m beautiful. My Mamma thinks I’m the best chef and the most gorgeous. But this is a tricky question. Let’s see, chefs sexy? They are passionate and that could  be sexy. They make delicious food and that’s sexy. 

Selena: Speaking of your Mamma, what does your family in Italy think of you being on Top Chef?

FABIO: They didn’t really understand the concept of the show. The show doesn’t air in Italy so they didn’t see it. When they visited me here I had taped some episodes and showed them. They were proud of me, you know, money, glory and as long as I’m happy in what I’m doing then they’re happy.

Selena: I got a smile at your Amazon page, where you give yourself a five star review. Good for you. Most fiction writers hesitate to even go to Amazon and look at reviews let alone give ourselves a pat on the back, which I think is admirable.

FABIO:  Well did you not think my book deserved 5 stars? 

Selena: Absolutely, I love your cook books. I share a lot of recipes on this blog so I know first hand how hard and challenging it is to write down the correct ingredients and instructions so that readers will find them easy to follow.

FABIO: Thank you for the compliment. See,  that’s why I gave myself 5 stars. Don’t worry about what people put on Amazon, it’s an opinion and every one has one and you can’t please them all anyway. 

Selena: Totally agree with you. No matter what you write in a book, it’s so subjective that it’s virtually impossible to please every single reader – or cook in your case.

So much fun talking to you, Fabio, I wish we had more time, and it’s too bad I don’t have the technology to have this conversation on audio for my readers, I think they would have enjoyed your wit and especially your infectious laugh.



4 oz of fresh or frozen cranberries

2 tbsp of butter

4oz of diced pancetta

half onion diced till caramelized

2 handfuls of rice

4 cups of stock

1 tbsp of cranberry sauce

salt and pepper

shaved parmesan


Cook 4oz of fresh or frozen cranberry in 2 tbsp of butter with 4oz of diced pancetta and half onion diced till caramelized, sauté 2 handfuls of rice in it and add little by little about 4 cups of stock, add also 1 tbsp of cranberry sauce towards the end and a pinch of salt and pepper, top with shaved parmesan. Enjoy!


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