Fabio Viviani on Life After Top Chef + Why "Success Is Personal"
See also: Top Chef Tour: Richard Blais vs. Fabio Viviani at Hollywood & Highland
Via NBCUniversal Fabio Viviani, wheelin' and dealin'
See also: Top Chef Masters Recap: "Do You Want to Be Comforted, or Do You Want to Be Thrilled?"
It's 10:00 a.m., and chef Fabio Viviani is eating cereal with chocolate milk. "Whole grain Cheerios, because fiber is good," he tells us through a charming Italian accent, "but I also have chocolate milk, because fiber doesn't taste so good."
In a certain sense, this fits his culinary style. If you saw last week's finale of Top Chef Masters, you may think Viviani, local restaurateur and Top Chef alum, is more the Kerry Heffernan type -- striving solely to create a delicious plate of food for the customer. But surprisingly, he says he's more the Chris Cosentino "challenge the diner" type, though he's learned to put his agenda in check. "Twenty years ago Fabio would have said, 'Screw you guys, tripe and intestines is what I love to eat, take it or leave it'" he tells us, "but now, Fabio is a businessman before he is a stubborn freaking kid. So what I do, staying true to who I am, I find the right balance between my tradition and what pleases my customer ... I'm in the people business. I want to make people happy."
Viviani is a busy man. Between his two restaurants in the L.A. area -- Firenze Osteria and Café Firenze -- and more on the way, he does appearances and cooking classes, and makes zany YouTube videos in which he teaches viewers how to cook while basically goofing around. He also tweets incessantly. You'll all this, he says, in Life After Top Chef, Bravo's new series that follows alums Viviani, Richard Blais, Jen Carroll and Spike Mendelsohn to see what happens when the Top Chef limelight fades. (Except, now they're kind of getting a new limelight but ... well, it's a metaphor, you get it.)
The most real thing about this reality show, it seems, is that it illuminates the varying levels of fame and success chefs can achieve in this post-Food Network era. According to Viviani, these days there are three categories one could fall into: real world chef, celebrity chef, or, as Viviani says, "fantastic chef in real restaurant life, who also do television appearance." All four stars of Life After Top Chef seem to fall somewhere on that spectrum.
Via NBCUniversal From left, Fabio Viviani, Jen Carroll, Richard Blais and Spike Mendelsohn
On the show, Richard Blais is gearing up to open a new fine dining restaurant. He did this once before and it failed -- something he's determined not to have happen again. It's a time-consuming endeavor he must also balance with being a husband and father, which is the plight of chefs everywhere.
Somewhat similarly, Jen Carroll is experiencing what can only be described as a chef's rock bottom: once chef de cuisine under Eric Ripert, her most recent endeavor, Concrete Blonde, fell through when she parted ways with her investors. Despite her culinary street cred, she's now restaurant-less -- a status that leaves her feeling like a jilted lover.
These two play the role of "real world chef" on the show, and in many ways, it's refreshing. Finally a show with a food enthusiast audience is breaking through the glamorous exterior of fame and fortune so frequently associated with chefs on food TV. For many, it's actually a grueling career. You neglect your family, your health and your sanity. You risk everything and you fail sometimes. That's life for everyone, including chefs.