Fabio Viviani Dishes on His Wild New Cookbook
The Cheftestant reveals his mom's surprising inspiration—and why he hates the science of cooking.
Top Chef's proudest Italian Ambassador has already published a collection of recipes inspired by the savory and sumptuous cuisine of his life in Florence. This time around, Fabio Viviani is combining his favorite flavors from his old and new homes in one mouthwatering Italian/American cookbook.
Fabio's American Home Kitchen: More Than 125 Recipes With an Italian Accent is set for an October 21st release date, and it may be the Top Chef Fan Favorite's most personal endeavor yet.
"I've been in this country for ten years, almost," the Cheftestant tells the Dish. "So now, I'm cooking American. I'm not losing my Italian accent, but I'm picking up American." Fabio's mom was a key inspiration behind the book—but not in the way you would expect. In fact, the chef admits that his mom was weirded out by his fusion of Italian classics with American cooking trends and flavors.
"When my mom would come here, she'd do all the fresh pasta, and I'd start to do things like add burrata to it," Fabio says. "I'd start to add a touch of cream to something with fish in it, or I'd sprinkle some parmesan cheese on a lobster dish, and my mom is like, 'What are you doing?!' I'm like, 'Well, Mom, it actually tastes good, you should try it—it’s what America does!' I put burrata cheese in the ravioli, and she's like 'Are you crazy?! Ravioli has to be potatoes and sausage!' I'm like, 'I understand, Mama, why you don't try burrata?' And then she tries it, and she's like, 'That's actually pretty good. I will never do that, but it's not bad.'"
Fabio's American Kitchen reflects these adventurous tastes of his, and each one of the recipes he crafted embraces this mix of Italian seasoning with American standards. "If you think about it, right, good food has no flag," he says. "Good food is good food. It doesn't matter what spices you're using. It doesn't matter what ingredients you need. It doesn't matter where you got the recipe from: Good food is good food!"
Covering everything from mac and cheese to hearty stews to Boston crème pie, Fabio delivers plates for every palate, though it wasn't easy. It turns out Fabio isn't a huge fan of the precision required in cooking—measurements, cooking times, etc‚—and he totally hated working out the specifications for his recipes. (Some doughnuts wound up exploding during the recipe testing phase, but hey, he attributes that to wonky measurements, too.)
"I'm Italian!" he says. "I cook with my heart and with my hands. I don't cook with recipes; I cook with common sense! Everybody likes measuring units. You guys are wasting more time measuring s--t than you're wasting time cooking it! For me, it's unbelievably bothersome, and I hated it every step of the way. I love the cookbook idea: I love recipes, I love food, I love sharing, I love people. I hate measuring units. I think they're such a waste of time. That's why I'm not too good at baking, honestly. 'Fabio, how many ounces is three tomatoes?' I don't know! Three tomatoes is three tomatoes!"
Despite his hang-ups with measuring cups, the recipes Fabio created are so much more than tweaked dishes and an extra helping of Parmigiano Reggiano. "I'm living the American dream," he says. With a cookbook, a handful of restaurants opening up in the coming months (more on that later!) and some exciting collaborations on the horizon, it's easy to take him at his word. "I really am. If you think about it, I'm living the American dream, which means I'm doing everything that a lot of America talks about. Why would I want to do another Italian cookbook when I live, breathe and dream America?"
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