Make us your home page

Chef Fabio Viviani cooking at MOSI's Einstein on Food and Wine

Fabio Viviani will appear at Einstein on Food & Wine.

Bread & Butter Public Relations

Fabio Viviani will appear at Einstein on Food & Wine.

It was 6:30 p.m. in California and chef Fabio Viviani hadn't eaten yet. Instead, as he spoke by phone from his Ventura County home, he stood in his kitchen, dipping two fingers in a jar of Nutella. Ladies, we can hear you sighing at that image.

The Top Chef Season 5 fan favorite, Viviani's hunky Italian looks and vivacious personality made him one of television's sexiest chefs until, alas, he was ousted from Top Chef over a hamburger (the judges condemning it as "more like a meatball"). So, are hamburgers forever freighted for this Italian-born dynamo who will offer a dinner and culinary demonstrations at MOSI's 18th Einstein on Food & Wine festival?

"I serve a hamburger in my restaurant all the time — and they are better than they ever were," he said, adding that despite the burger defeat, his experience on Top Chef was a good one.

"I feel very blessed. I don't know about the sex appeal stuff. For me really it was more like I was the Italian guy. I can't even speak English. But Top Chef changed everything for me. I was taken by storm."

Since being a Top Chef All-Star and a big presence on Life After Top Chef, Viviani, 35, has stayed busy. With one cookbook in print and seven digital books, he has two restaurants in California (Cafe Firenze and Osteria Firenze) with another on the way, and four restaurants in Illinois. He hosts "Chow Ciao!" on Yahoo, has a line of martinis and is working on a website about healthy dining for kids.

About what advice he'd give to aspiring chefs versus aspiring television chefs, he had this to say.

"My thought is, a $100,000 culinary education will not guarantee you to be a chef. Ninety-five percent of people are not living the dream right out of culinary school. If you really want to do something, you have to translate it into action. I'm all about pursuing your dream. If you do, you get my deepest respect. If you are waiting around holding your socks in your hand, you are going to die miserable."

Socks in hand? Must be an Italian thing. But what about how to become a celebrity chef on television?

"You think Mario Batali or Michael Symon give a crap about being on television? No, because they are fantastic restaurateurs. I have been blessed being on TV, but if you get tired of me, I'm still making a living. A study asked kids whether they'd like to be a reality television star or win a Nobel Prize and most kids said reality TV," Viviani said, punctuating what he thinks of that with an expletive. "Go get a life, and then if you have the personality, then you can try out for TV."

A passionate position, for sure. (Almost as passionate as his stance on cilantro: "It's not that I don't like it, I hate it, I wish I could go back in time and kill the person who discovered it.") Doubtless he will bring some of this passion to his Einstein on Food & Wine festival dinner on Friday, which he will cook in a private home on Bayshore Boulevard. When asked about the details, he said only, "Fun is guaranteed. Bring your party pants."

Party pants, no socks in hand — check. But really, what will he be cooking at the festival dinner?

"We're going to rock the house. When the kitchen is rocking, don't bother knocking, come on in."

That leaves the menu a little mysterious. But it probably doesn't involve cilantro.

Laura Reiley can be reached at or (727) 892-2293. Follow her on Twitter at @lreiley.

. If you go

Einstein on Food & Wine

The main event starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, with wine, beer garden, samples from restaurants, a restaurant competition and live entertainment. Tickets are $80, with a discount for members. Guests must be 21 years or older to attend. VIP tickets are $125, which include valet service and early access to Einstein on Food & Wine at 6 p.m. and the opportunity to rub elbows with Viviani in the VIP lounge. All at Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.

The inaugural Annus Mirabilis dinner, which includes an intimate dinner, culinary demonstrations and a customized menu by Viviani, is Friday at a private home. Tickets are $200 per person or $350 per couple.

To get more information or to purchase tickets, call (813) 987-6000 or visit

Chef Fabio Viviani cooking at MOSI's Einstein on Food and Wine 01/30/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 4:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 20 local museums are offering free admission or deals Saturday for Free Museum Day

    Visual Arts

    For all the community's support of the arts in the bay area, it's nice to be rewarded with free admission once in a while. And that's exactly what many area museums are offering on Saturday.

    The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is among the museums participating in the Smithsonian's Museum Day Live, offering free admission. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to the Times)
  2. Saturday festival will celebrate the sweet potato


    NEW PORT RICHEY — It's harvest time for the sweet potato.

    MICHELE MILLER |  TIMESMore than 300 pounds of sweet potatoes have been harvested from local organic gardens for the inaugural Sweet Potato Round-Up and Fall Farming Festival set for this weekend in New Port  Richey. Those who go will be able to purchase sweet potatoes and get some hints on what to grow during the hot summer months, said Sylvia Spencer, shown here, manager if the Habitat garden as well as the Grand Garden Community Plot on Grand Boulevard.
  3. We Tried That: Can you throw a cocktail party for less than $25?


    Power drills scream. Rain drops fleck my skin, small pinpricks of cold. I hurry my 9-month-old puppy down the street as my neighbors screw plywood to their windows, preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma.

    Today is a good day for a party.

    This Old Fashioned, made with Angostura orange bitters, is garnished with a maraschino cherry and a clementine twist.
  4. Musical impressionist headlines benefit comedy show in Riverview


    RIVERVIEW — The Regent, 6437 Watson Road in Riverview, will host the fifth annual Clean Comedy Night from 6-9:30 p.m. on Friday (Sept. 29).

    Kier is set to perform at the Clean Comedy Night at The Regent in Riverview. Luis Rivera is the opening act and Brian Kleinschmidt hosts the event.
  5. Philanthropists give storm-damaged Freefall Theatre a boost


    ST. PETERSBURG — The sun has come out for Freefall Theatre.

    The roof peeled back at Freefall Theatre due to winds from Hurricane Irma at 6099 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD   |   Times