VINO4: Cool People. 4 Questions. 1 Bottle of Wine.
We thought we knew Chef Fabio Viviani. We clearly didn't. Sure, he's the charismatic, talented, handsome Italian Chef that came in 4th place on Top Chef, and was voted Fan Favorite. But he's also a beast of an entrepreneur who is passionate about leadership and branding that has gone beyond restaurants. The man has drive.
He amassed a nice stack of dough for himself before coming to the States in 2005 - owner and operator of 7 restaurants and 2 nightclubs in Italy by the time he was 27 - all of which he sold and then a turn of events had his supporting his parents to the tune of six-figures on the eve of his move to America. He came to the States broke, not knowing anyone, not having a job, and not speaking English. You think you know Chef Fabio Viviani - but you don't. Enjoy the following from our conversation with Chef and check out a link to a longer interview with him below.
How has media and entertainment affected young chefs? Are young chefs looking to be great chefs or great celebrity chefs?
Celebrity chefs like to be celebrities, not Chefs.
The realities and problems with chefs who just want to be celebrity chefs is that they don't go through the hardship that many Chefs have gone through. In that world the word "chef" is diluted because they don't know the craft - they are TV personalities that cook once in awhile, not Chefs. They lack craft, work ethic, art behind the craft and technique. They want to, and are in some cases, overnight successes, but they don't know how to be a Chef, they don’t know how to run a kitchen, they have people prepping ingredients for the shows and they don’t do much work.
I turned down Top Chef several times in the beginning because in Italy if you're on TV you're either an actor or you're wanted by the police. I was neither! I began working at the age of 11 in a bakery to help support my family and I haven't stopped working in the business since. I'm a Chef.
You’re wildly ambitious and work very hard - what’s the next 5 years look like for Fabio Viviani?
An entrepreneurship/leadership academy to bring clarity in the big clusterfuck of entrepreneurship. A new cookbook in 2017 and an additional 5-6 restaurants next 2 years. I see success as a tough path, and I sometimes think of myself as a tank in that lots of negative or bad things could be happening around me but I will stay on a path and not be affected by the environment and not make excuses. I've been hospitalized 3 times for exhaustion - that's when you work so hard that your body just gives in! My ambition and work ethic are from passion. I love what I do!
We believe both music and wine should be paired, we call this VINOMUSIC, what song would we pair with your Red Blend?
Ha! If you’re drinking my bold red blend… alright, you are listening to a song by the Italian Vasco Rossi - the song's name is "Eh Gia". The artist talks about how everyone thought he (the artist) just got lucky with success in his early career - but in this song, many decades into his career he's saying "I'm still here".
Where was the last romantic meal you and Ashley had, and if you had wine, what wine did you pair with it?
Last night, small unpretentious restaurant in Chicago, we held hands, had a good meal and drank wine. Of course I brought a bottle of my Cabernet!
You have a love for entrepreneurship, leadership, and ‘doing' - is there someone you'd like to be like?
I don't want to be like anyone and I think that's a downfall in entrepreneurs. You should be the best you. I appreciate Gordon Ramsay and I'm not there yet. But I just learned English less than 7 years ago, owned multiple restaurants in less time than that so I'm just getting started!
Video Interview with Chef [Video]
That time actor/comedian Maz Jobrani's character Jimmy Vestvood thought Fabio Viviani made shoes. [Video]