Fabio Viviani, Chef/Culinary Personality/Restaurateur/Cookbook Author, Siena Tavern Miami
You know him and love him from Bravo’s Top Chef, but Fabio Viviani is more than just a sexy Italian accent, killer smile, and charming personality. Yes, he appeared on two seasons of the hit culinary competition show, was named “Fan Favorite,” and even starred in his own spinoff show, Life After Top Chef, but Chef Fabio has possessed a passion for food since his childhood, growing up in Florence, Italy.
At age 11, he started working nights at a local bakery (since he was too young to officially join the staff) and, over his teenage years, held several positions in the restaurant industry, even serving under the mentorship of Simone Mugnaini, an iconic figure in the Italian restaurant scene. Between his training in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine at IPSSAR Saffi and working with culinary luminaries such as Simone Mugnaini, Alessandro Panzani and Saverio Carmagini, Viviani owned and operated 5 restaurants in Florence, a Farm House and 2 nightclubs by the time he was 27. Although a well-respected business man in Italy, he was ready for a change and moved to Ventura County, CA where he opened Café Firenze and, soon after, Los Angeles Italian eatery Firenze Osteria. For his next restaurant Viviani moved east, opening up Siena Tavern in Chicago in February 2013 and will soon be opening a second Siena Tavern here in Miami later this fall.
In addition to his restaurant and TV ventures, Viviani also has his own wine collection, line of ceramics cookware, and has authored two successful cookbooks: Café Firenze Cookbook and Fabio’s Italian Kitchen. Chef Fabio has another cookbook in the works, Fabio’s American Home Kitchen, due in late 2014 that will showcase his passion for food made simple.
We met Fabio at the OBIEs a couple of months back and are extremely honored that he took the time out of his busy schedule to not only participate in our Chef’s Corner series, but to answer our questions over the phone. Imagine the fun we had when it came time to transcribe this interview! 😉
What is your all time favorite dish to eat?
Pasta. Fresh pasta. Anything made from scratch, I’m on.
Same kind of scenario, anything that I can make from scratch and doesn’t take too much time. Maybe a roasted chicken, some potatoes. I’m kind of a simple guy when it comes to food.
If you had to pick one food item to best describe yourself, what would it be and why?
Eggs. Eggs are very versatile, they’re cheap, but yes you can make them refined. And, everybody loves eggs! Who doesn’t love eggs?
Who is your biggest culinary influence?
I had the luck to work in Italy with several very well-known chefs and restaurateurs, but nobody that Americans would ever hear about. So I’m not gonna drop a name just for the sake of it because nobody will know who they are anyway.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I’ve had phases of things I wanted to do. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. For a short weekend, I thought I wanted to be a porno start. But, at the end of the day, if I wasn’t a chef, I don’t know what I would be doing with my life.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned from your Top Chef experiences?
Keep it simple, stupid.
Would you ever do another season?
Why not? Maybe the third time’s the charm!
Being a celebrity chef with successful restaurants across the country, you’re constantly on the road and must have the opportunity to taste some great food from great chefs. How does the Miami food scene compare?
Miami is making an imprint in the world dining scene. It’s a fun city. The people like to have fun, they like to eat. Although it’s hot and humid and eating is probably the last thing you think about, there’s still tons of restaurants that are doing fantastic jobs. There are staple restaurants that are always extremely busy, extremely packed, and they do combine the dining experience with an entertainment component. And I think Miami is responding to that.
Why did you decide to bring Siena Tavern to Miami?
You know, Miami used to be a very seasonal market, but there is a huge local scene now that is making Miami very appealing to restaurateurs who are coming in and elevating the dining experience and we’re excited to come in and be a part of that. We’re definitely not pioneers, but I think we’re coming to Miami at a good time. We have a concept that can attract the people that live there – the residents, the people that live and breathe and spend 12 months out of the year in Miami, not just those people that come for a weekend or a big vacation. We are looking to establish our business where locals are present. We want to meet the neighbors, we want to be a part of the community.
Describe the Siena Tavern Miami menu in three words.
Well, I have four words: from scratch, fresh, local, and cravers.
What are some of your favorite Miami restaurants?
There are a lot of restaurants that I really like in Miami for a bunch of different reasons. I love Prime 112. I love Sir Pizza. I love Zuma. I love Casa Tua. I love places where I know people, where I can go there and trust somebody. I’m all about relationships and you’ll hardly see me in a restaurant where I don’t already know somebody.
What’s your favorite thing about visiting Miami?
That I can get up in the morning and my sinuses are doing amazing. So in Miami, the humidity is actually amazing for that.
Mitch & Mel