I have been a fan of Fabio’s and have been following him on twitter for over 5 years now, we’ve been to several of his events, cooking classes and can I just say that before I met him I could not even boil water. I have made several of his recipes and they are always a huge hit when I have company over. I am in the process of learning how to start a business baking cookies for my favorite charity – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. So Fabio has really been an inspiration and business mentor for me.
In the short time he has been here in this country, he has begun to create an incredible legacy, owning several restaurants – 2 in California, 1 in Chicago and 1 in Miami and many more planned to open in the next few years, he’s the author of 2 cookbooks, an online magazine, a cookware line and now his very own Wine collection.
I recently got the chance to go to California to visit one of his restaurants called Cafe Firenze – it was the grand prize in the Bauli Bake off contest that I won for dressing up a Bauli Pandoro cake.
It was an amazing experience to not only be at his restaurant but to have Fabio pull up a chair to join us and select the appropriate wine for our dinner. We dined on shrimp stuffed with gorgonzola cheese, wrapped in panchetta on a bed of parmesan polenta. This was heaven on a plate and that was just the appetizer. Our main course was fresh pasta with seafood and we also tried the short rib ravioli. There was no room for dessert but we still had to order the nutella bread pudding. This will be one of those experiences that will flash before my eyes before I leave this earth – it was that perfect.
Bauli USA had asked me to interview Fabio during my trip to California but we didn’t really get a chance to speak until today. Here is our conversation, it is quite funny.
Hi Fabio, Thank you so much for doing this. Bauli sent me a few questions, they wanted me to do a little interview with you and I just wanted to ask you if its ok for me to put it in my blog – I want to do a piece on you being a mentor – is that ok with you if I do that?
FV: Yes, lets do it.
If you could dine with anyone in history who would it be?
FV: If I could dine, like eating food together – I would love to do at the same table at the same time, with my former grandmother, Sylvester Stallone, Vin Diesel and John Paul the II, the former Pope.
Wow, that’s quite a dinner party. (I am laughing)
FV: That’s a good table.
(I am still laughing) This is going to be fun, I can tell.
What are some of most favorable memories as a chef?
FV: What’s a good memory, the memories of making an apple cake for the Pope, when I opened my first restaurant was a fantastic memory and when I closed my first restaurant was a another fantastic memory because I have mastered the recipe for disaster from no longer doing that. As well as catering and getting to know all the people that I would normally get to see in movies while in Italy. Because having a restaurant in Los Angels and North Hollywood its very easy to get invited to cook for big movie stars, while I’m not affected by, I don’t get star struck, its just that its fun to see how they live and what they like to eat. And on top of that being a good friend with William Shatner, is pretty rad.
What would you order of your own menu?
FV: What would I order from my own menu, everything. Because if it is on the menu it is something I would love to eat. But if I had to pick anything – fresh pasta and pizza’s. I live for carbohydrates. For me it is very important.
Welcome to the club! Listen that Shrimp dish at Cafe Firenze that had the gorgonzola cheese and was wrapped in panchetta was so amazing. I’ve never had panchetta and the parmesan polenta – I don’t even like polenta and I loved that. It’s like art. I like how when you make your recipes you put a little spin on it, it’s simple but it’s so delicious. I can not wait to get to go back again. It was the best experience I have ever had. We had such a great time.
FV: Thank you, it was fun to hang out with you guys.
If you could cook with anyone in history who would it be and what would you prepare?
FV: I would love to have a sit down meal with Napoleon, I heard he was a short guy but he can drink. I would love to have dinner with Leonardo DaVinci just to ask him a few questions about some stuff that I still do not understand. And I would love to have dinner with Michelangelo and try to understand how the f*** did he paint the Sistine Chapel up in there that good, 500 years ago.
That is passion. That’s just amazing.
FV: How do you hang 300 feet from the ground, painting at the same time and keep it cool. I just don’t get it.
I have never even seen it so I couldn’t even answer that for you. I have no idea, one of these days I will get to go to Italy. One of these days.
What would be your advice to someone who is aspiring to become a chef? FV: If you are aspiring to become a chef, be ready to give up everything you have to start your career. There is no family, there is no holiday, there is no fiancée, there is no dog, cat, or headache that can prevent you from going to work. If you don’t work for the first 10 year about 130 hours a week and give a s*** about nothing but your business, you will never make it. It’s either get real or get out.
Wow, it sounds pretty similar to owning a martial arts studio to be totally honest with you.
I have just a few more questions, who inspires you as a business owner?
FV: Well I just got myself into it, very early as a chef, and then I just got the opportunity to own my own business when I was 19 years old, and I never looked back since. I think it was a combination of fate but I hated every day of my life working as an employee for somebody else telling me what to do, even if I only did that until I was 18. After that I opened my own business and I have always been a business owner since then. So I just loved the idea of being the person responsible in charge of my own success or failure. Normally I figure when you are an employee you have a lot of people you could blame, I just like to be the one who gets blamed if something goes wrong.
Wow. Now tell me a little bit about how did you create your wine line?
FV: Growing up in Italy, used to drink fantastic wine and not pay a lot of money for it. I simply try to team up with good vineyard, good winery and as a wine merchant just deliver good juice in a bottle for a fair price. And we create a good marketing behind it. I’ve been in business of wine my whole life, drinking it at first and then selling it and now we are making it.
That’s fantastic. I love your Cabernet, I never liked red wine and it’s phenomenal. It’s very smooth. Now what will be the next one that comes out? FV: We’re probably going to do red blend and a white blend first then Pinot Grigio, Chianti maybe Prosecco.
Will you do a Port? My husband loves Port.
FV: I’m not a big fan of Port, so unless there is a market need for it you’re not going to see a port with my name on it anytime soon.
My last question for you Fabio, what can we expect in the future from you and will have a cooking show again?
FV: Well you know I spent a lot of time on TV, last year I did over 100 appearances, there is shows in the making but I’m not meant to be a tv personality. Now I do enjoy the TV aspect of it, and hey if it comes I will get it, you can expect 30 more restaurants in the next 5 years and maybe there will be a show. We are looking at it, we are evaluating it but unless I get to do what I want and when I want, there wont be any show with me on it on camera.
I don’t blame you, why should you compromise – you earned it.
FV: Right. Thank you very much Rita, I hope I see you again very soon.
Thank you so much, you take care Fabio.
This was really fun to interview Fabio – Thank you again to Bauli USA for the amazing accommodations that you provided to me and my husband. Thank you to Fabio Viviani for his generosity and having dinner with us. It was a great experience and we had a blast.