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Ousted 'Top Chef' contestant Fabio Viviani: 'I'm like a hamburger on crack'

February 11, 2011 |  1:12 pm


 It was the elimination that had turtles everywhere hiding in their shells.

“Late Night” funnyman (and "Top Chef" fanatic) Jimmy Fallon was the guest judge on Wednesday night’s episode, and the chefs were given the challenge of preparing Fallon’s favorite dishes for his birthday lunch. Foods included ramen, beef tongue, chicken pot pie and chicken dumplings.

“Top Chef” favorite Fabio Viviani, whose accent first charmed fans on Season 5, managed to screw up what seemed the easiest of all: a burger (or “boorgur” as he calls it). But he’s not upset. It’s Fabio, after all! Plus, he's kind of busy as the owner and executive chef of two California restaurants: Firenze Osteria in Toluca Lake and Café Firenze Italian Restaurant and Martini Bar in Moorpark. (Though he does find time to blog about the show on his website ... and tweet about it.)

He took time out of his busy schedule — on this day he was en route to the Los Angeles Convention Center to discuss his brand at a social networking event — to speak with us. And he didn't let getting pulled over by a cop stop him: "I got a cop right behind my butt because I'm talking with you. He pulled me over. But he don’t give me the ticket.  I’m very nice.”

We discuss his blog recap of Wednesday's episode — read it, if you haven't; otherwise Angelo's supposed crotch problems and Fabio's gripes with Martha Stewart and Ina Garten will seem slightly out of nowhere.

Have you made a burger since this tragic elimination?

Of course. They are on my menu. They are really good now. Is it going to be a conventional boorgur that you think it’s going to be? Absolutely not.There’s a little pork in it. It’s going to be twice as flavorful as a normal boorgur.

So what did you think when they eliminated you?  Were you upset with Jimmy, Padma …

I don’t think that Padma counts really much over there. She’s pretty and she’s wonderful, but I don’t think her say matters much in the final say. I believe that [Tom] Colicchio was the most influential person there that decided for me to go home. And I respect his opinion. Now, do I think that he doesn’t know what a good Italian boorgur really is? Absolutely. No, I’m kidding. I understand. It wasn’t a typical boorgur. It wasn’t 100% beef.

Who do you think really should have packed up his or her knives?


For my belief, Tiffany. Sure, I did a boorgur that was not great — I get it. I agree. End of story. It was not a traditional boorgur. Done. Done deal. I’m home already. I’m not a sore loser; I don’t care. But Tiffany was asked to do a chicken and dumpling, but she did a ... tortilla soup. I could have made a risotto and had a better chance than her.

Do you think if one of the foods in the challenge had been gnocchi, you’d still be in the competition?

Well, come on. Wouldn’t you think that? Of course. But it doesn’t really matter anymore because, at this point, we’re just talking.

I read your blog about Wednesday’s episode …

I will keep to writing blog; I will keep to tweet. I cannot let all my followers down.

And we thank you dearly for that. Let’s discuss some of what you mention in the blog. Are you not a fan of Martha Stewart or Ina Garten ("The Barefoot Contessa")?? What if they make amazing burgers and can help you?

There is nothing wrong with Martha Stewart and Barefoot Contessa. Although, I am not their prototype of follower. I don’t buy cookie cutters, and I don’t do feasts for 30 people in my backyard in Napa. I’m not like either one of them. I mean, I buy Martha Stewart Living because she has some useful tips — not that she writes them.


Oh, come on, you know I’m right. But what I’m saying is that it’s unbelievable to me how she can claim that there are 7,000 different cookies out there. Every time I buy her magazine there’s like 30 new recipes for cookies. I don’t know how the hell she comes up with this stuff. There should only be three or five different cookies, but she’s come up with 7,000? It’s amazing.

That’s why I said I was glad to have been eliminated by Jimmy Fallon and not them. He’s the nicest guy in the world. He’s a good man; he’s good husband to his wife. He’s a funny guy; everybody loves him. It’s a pleasure getting kicked out by such a nice person. Tom, yeah, he kicked me out too. Great. He’s a really good chef. If he kicks me out, so be it. I’m happy. Come on, though, if Barefoot Contessa kicked me out — psh! I mean, I love her, but come on. She could be on the show “Let’s Cook, Then Cuddle” and I would watch that. She’s very sweet, but I can’t help but fall asleep when I watch her show for more than 20 minutes. She’s very calm, and she’s very monotone, but I’m like a hamboorgur on crack. I’m very hyper, I’m all over … I’m very passionate, so for me, watching “Barefoot Contessa” is like being at a stop light. I’m just sitting there. I want her to do something: yell, scream, laugh … do something.

Another person you jokingly mentioned might have been on crack on Wednesday’s episode was Carla Hall.

Listen, you write article. I cook for a living. Don’t put words in my mouth. Yes, I said that. But you gotta team up with me on this, right? She does does look on crack on TV. Come on, Yvonne. Agree with me.

She was very, um, hy…

She was very hyper.

Well, she was making chicken pot pie!

Come on. It was just chicken pot pie. If she’s making pot roast, what is she going to do?  Back flip for an hour? It freaked out everybody. Even Dale was freaked out. He didn’t want her near his sandwiches.

So what did you think of her statement that winning a third challenge would make her a force to be reckoned with?

Listen, Carla won with chicken pot pie. Come on. I’d be more threatened if Richard Blais won because he was dipping frozen goat marinated in liquid nitrogen — I would recognize that as a threat. She won with chicken pot pie. I mean, my grandma does chicken pot pie; she’s not a threat for any Top Chef. You see what I mean? That’s why I didn’t win. I don’t do fancy food. I don’t do the food that puts me as a threat for everybody. Plus, we’re not comparing apple to apple. If you have a good day, you move on. If you have a bad day, you go home.

Well, let’s talk about good days … for others. You didn’t seem quite pleased that Antonia won with her mussels dish a couple of weeks ago.

Can we reverse the role here for a minute? Can I ask you a question?

I’m nervous … sure.

You gotta write it down that I did ask you a question.


What did you think about the ... mussels challenge?

Uh …

Come on! She walked in and was like, “Hahaha. I won.” Everybody thought she was joking. It couldn’t be true. But she said it again: “I won.” I was like “OK …” I mean, it was steamed mussels!

With fennel!

With fennel … but that’s not Italian. What the hell is that about? I respect the Italian American challenge. I loved it. I’m sure her family has been feeding off mussels and fennel … but I’ve never heard that in Italy. I am as Italian as it gets.

I believe you.

I spend there most of my Sundays. I know what I’m talking about. Hello, even in China, they do ribeye, but ribeye is not considered Chinese food. It doesn’t make any sense.

But she won, so she’s allowed to brag about it. I just give her advice from a very humble position: Just don’t brag about it. I couldn’t brag about the fact that on my season ["Top Chef: New York"], I won a challenge making a roasted chicken. It was ... roasted chicken. If you’re missing the whole brain in your head, you could still pull off a roasted chicken. Did it taste like my grandma’s? Maybe not. But it’s still a ... roasted chicken. Steamed mussels is steamed mussels. It doesn’t require "Top Chef" skills just like breading chicken doesn’t. What do I care, though? I didn’t win anyways.

What was your least favorite challenge?

To cook French-Vietnamese fusion chellenge with David Chang. I would love to see David Chang struggle in my grandma’s kitchen making fried rice bowls and lasagna just to tell him, “Hey, dude, you know what? You’re in the bottom three … I love you."

Which did you enjoy the most?

I liked very much "Restaurant Wars." But that’s my bread and butter, so that wasn’t even fair. I knew I was going to win just walking in.

Yeah, you were pretty charming in that episode. Kissing hands and …

Yeah, I’m not bragging, I’m just saying that I know what I’m doing in front of the house.

OK. Wait. I need to ask this before your cellphone cuts off or something, because it is that important. What is this about Angelo and the camel toe that you mention on your blog?

Did you see the video?

No! It wouldn’t play on my laptop. I was bummed. Was it good?

Angelo wears very very very tight pants. Extremely tight. And he’s really tall. His crotch — can we say crotch or is that a bad word?

You can say it.

His crotch is right by Dale’s shoulder. Everybody noticed that. And Angelo loves it. He brags about it. He wears tight pants and, I mean … yeah. Don’t ask me about camel toe, it’s something you Americans came up with, no? I honestly don’t go around looking at people’s crotches, believe me, Yvonne. You believe me, right? I swear. We noticed it in the house. And I brought it up with Angelo. I said, “Angelo, you may want to wear regular pants because they’re a little tight on your junk.”

So on your blog you say you think the final two will be Richard and Mike.

Let me tell you who I don’t think is going to win. I don’t think Antonia is going to win. I don’t think Tiffany is going to win. I don’t think Carla is going to win. All the rest, I believe they have a good shot. And it’s not because I don’t think the three girls are good chefs. They are amazing. I have respect for all three of them. But they’re not well-rounded like the others. I just don’t believe they’ll get the title. And it's for the same reason I didn’t. It’s not our cup of tea. My top three are Mike, Angelo and Richard. But anything can happen. There could be a double elmination and we’ll see Richard and Angelo go home. Or Richard can get a heart attack. Anything could happen. It’s “Top Chef.” 

— Yvonne Villarreal 

Photo: Fabio Viviani gets judged on "Top Chef All Stars." Credit: David Giesbrecht/Bravo.