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'Top Chef': Fabio Viviani goes Italian and exits laughing

Stefan_and_fabioWe're really going to miss that broken English.

But last night's eliminated "Top Chef" contestant, Fabio Viviani, is nothing but pumped for what's to come.

The SoCal chef who runs Moorpark, Calif.'s Cafe Firenze reveals what really happened at his final judges table, weighs in on Leah, explains the Mohawk and talks about the show's "real" behind-the-scenes competition.

How are you feeling today?
I am absolutely great. I had a good night last night. I laughed a lot -- maybe I was the only one laughing? There was a viewing party at [head judge Tom Colicchio's restaurant] CraftSteak. You know, I got kicked off, so that wasn't good, but I was happy. I’m very happy with how it ended. I’m a happy person.

Bring us back to that final judges table. Did it feel like Stefan was going to get the boot?
Like Emeril said, I made one of the best maque choux he ever had. Colicchio told me I had a lot of balls to make fresh pasta and bread from scratch. Yeah, they criticized Stefan's food more than mine, but what pulled him through was that he did two dishes from that region. I did one Italian-influenced, and one Creole. But it's fine. Tom told me that night that he was sorry and that I'd been a strong competitor. He did say they couldn't consider the bread I made because [the judges] didn't ask for it.

Why didn't you cook two straight Creole dishes when you saw everyone else doing that? I know the judges only asked for one, but...
[Italian] is what I do for a living. You can't hide where you’re coming from. I gave the other dish a Creole profile with the crawfish and Cajun seasoning, but Italian food is what I do for a living. And I stick with the rules. I did muffuletta, which is typical New Orleans, but it's also a bread [Italy had been doing] 300 years before them. I did way more than all the other [contestants]. But, you know, I’m not used to being upset.

So no hard feelings?
No, I’m very happy! I was in the top three a lot [Note: Fabio won three challenges.] and I had so much fun. From the morning show, to restaurant wars, to the last episode to the finale, I know what I’m doing. And you know, my restaurant is doing better than ever. It's doing 40% more business than it did in 2007. I feel great about it!

Do you think there was some conspiracy against both members of Team Europe getting through to the finals?
Team Europe came about because Stefan has over 20 [years'] kitchen experience; I have almost that much. Between the two of us, we probably had more than all the other chefs added up together. The other chefs, some of them have two or three years at most. That’s why he and I bonded together at the very beginning. So ... maybe?

Why do you think you bonded so quickly?
We’re European so we have the same sense of humor. Also, I don't think he's that cocky. Of course, he's very confident. I can understand why other people would be bothered by that, but it doesn't get on my nerves like it did everyone else. It motivates me.

Right. He's also not the only cocky one.
Amore, you have to understand that chefs are like rock stars. I’m like that too! The difference is that  I’m Italian. I’m personable because I'm Italian. If I was American, it’d be different. You'd think the same way about me. Look, when I left Italy to move here, I had to sell my three restaurants to do it. If I was not confident I couldn’t have done that. You have to be confident in this business.

Why’d you get a Mohawk?
I change my hair cut every other day. I’m very extravagant in certain things. I never have matching socks. Chefs are like rock stars. They have to do something to wow and create buzz. It’s not good hair to have in the U.S. but quite frankly I don’t care. I got my pink scarf, pink socks, pink shoes...

What was the living situation like? Were all the contestants good housemates?
Now that was the true competition. People drink and they get nutty they don’t behave too much. Me? I don’t need three beers to tell you what I think. The best and worst came out of people out of the kitchen. And, you know, when you share a bathroom with someone not as clean as you are, it’s not fun. It’s an experience for sure. I learned how to be very patient.

Who was the most difficult to live with?
Danny, I love him. He was one of the people I loved to hang out with. But I would prefer to live with a pig. He’s very messy. Leaves [his stuff] on the floor, he’d be very annoying for someone who is OCD about cleaning. I like to be clean, I work with food!

Who were you the saddest to see get eliminated?
I did love Jamie. She’s a great chef. I would’ve been sad about Stefan, but he didn't get cut! Leah was good to me. Eugene is a great guy and he's talented guy. The rest I didn’t bond with. You can’t bond with someone that doesn’t think or act like you do. Nothing to share with someone with just a little kitchen experience.

So did Leah get a fair shake?
It’s a show and I get it. They can copy and paste things here and there, but they can’t put words in your mouth. Leah is a very talented chef but when you get alcohol in people, especially men and women together, they can get naughty. Hosea got Leah and I got Stefan. So ... no kisses between us!

What are you up to now?
All kind of things. I'm going be everywhere. For sure a little more TV. We have something in the making. There are lots of food companies who want to license my image. And my book, "The Café Firenze Cookbook," comes out on April 15th. You can write that I'm not going away at all. I will come back bigger!

-- Denise Martin

'Top Chef': Too close for comfort, Stefan edges past Fabio

Photo: Stefan Richter, left and Fabio Viviani. Credit: NBC Universal

Comments () | Archives (11)

I wish Fabio was in the top 3 instead of Hosea!!

I think Carla should have been cut long ago. I would love to have seen Stefan, Fabio and Jamie in the final 3. I'm rooting for Stefan, even tho I really do like Hosea!

How mean, Kim. If Carla continues on the roll she's been on, she'll beat Stefan, and I won't lose any sleep over that. Yes, I miss Jamie too, but since Absinthe is still in operation, I'll just have to go up to the Bay Area more often.

Denise, have you read any of Poppy Z. Brite's books on the restaurant scene in New Orleans? Beside the fact that they're very funny, she gives you an entirely different take on Emeril, and the Emeril we saw Wednesday night is the one she describes in her books.

I don't understand how people can say that Carla doesn't belong there or that she isn’t a “Top Chef”. She has only been in the bottom 3 times and only twice of her own accord. And she has won three challenges. Stefan has been in the bottom three times as well, completely of his own accord, and has won 4. Hosea has only won twice and has been in the bottom 4 times.
Each of them has gotten lucky that they didn't get kicked off at least once, so it seems like they're pretty evenly matched. AND in the last four episodes, she has consistently been in the top when she is allowed to create her own food without constraints and having to make dessert because nobody else could. And her figuring out Ripert's sauce was a stroke of genius.
Fabio will be fine. He is funny and charming (although arrogant, but I guess a good accent can cover that) and was pretty successful before he got on the show. He will probably get some major deals out of this so I won't shed too many tears over him.

i was really sad to see Fabio being eliminated :( ( he is sooooooooo hot) but is all good!!.. i want Carla to win, so she can prove herself, i think she is a great chef!!!

I really wished that Fabio had beaten Stefan. Stefan's wayyyy too cocky for me and Fabio is fun, charming, and an excellent chef. I really thought he'd go all the way. New Orleans just wasn't his element. I can't wait to see what he'll be up to soon. Yay Fabio!!

Now that he's gone, I'm 100% Team Carla. Somebody needs to wipe the floor with Stefan. He's been pissing me off since he became Jamie's stalker.

My Top 3:

Stefan is GOING DOWN! =)

Love him or hate him, Stephan can cook. Carla is also a great cook, she can just be annoying with her "love" stuff. But that doesn't take away the fact that she is a very talented chef.

I liked Jamie and really wish she were there over Hosea.

And Fabio, that guy has a career in TV cooking shows, his repartee during the Super Bowl Challenge was great. He's funny and charming with just the right amount of ego.

I want Stephan to win, but wouldn't be disappointed if Carla does.

Actually I have no problem with Carla's "love" vibes. She's flakey but endearing. Don't forget that to just make it on the show you have to be a great chef. But to make it as far as the final three have requires a lot of depth in their skills. Carla definitely deserves to be there.

damn fabio is sexy, i hope he means that more tv thing cuz i will tune into whatever!

The amazing thing is he's doing this in a shopping center in Moorpark with a Big Lots store in the same center....

Check out this Fun with Fabio video. http://bit.ly/3szsKL Enjoy!


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