Top Chef Season Five

Top Chef Exit Interview: Episode Thirteen

The remaining cheftestants parted ways with New York and headed to the exotic enclaves of New Orleans for last night’s penultimate episode, in which Fabio showed off a new Mohawk and Jeff got a second chance to win the competition. It seemed like a good omen that Emeril Lagasse had shown up, promising an authentic New Orleans–cuisine challenge, but things headed south when it was revealed that it was just another catering challenge, which is highly inappropriate at this stage in the game. Predictably, some made gumbos, while others made stews. Nobody flat-out failed, but Stefan probably did the worst, receiving criticism for his off-the-mark gumbo and obnoxious attitude. Yet this time the dismissal was handed to Fabio Viviani, who made the dubious decision of trying to make a Creole dish with handmade pasta. We caught up with him today to discuss why he’s a good lover and his goal of being the next Tom Colicchio.

Fabio and his beads of glory.

I hear you’ve been checking out the nightlife in New York lately. Are you having a good time?
I went out. I had some New York business going on, a book-publishing deal, so I’m going out.

Did you have a good time watching the show at Craftsteak?
I had a great time. I was laughing my ass off, everybody was crying at the end when they kicked me out. Everyone was, ‘Boo!’ I’m not whatsoever upset. I think the guys are good. They all deserve to be in the top three. I have fourteen people behind and three in front of me, so I’m happy.

So you have a cookbook deal?
Yes, I have a cookbook that is coming out in April, a food and mixology book. One of my colleagues at the restaurant is a great mixologist. It will be at Wal-Mart, it will be everywhere. And what it talks about is how to do easy, stress-free Italian food, pairing with martini instead of wine.

Are you disappointed you didn’t win the entire competition?
I wanted, yes, but I get whatever I want to do no matter the competition or not. I am so focused and so motivated about what I’m doing that winning Top Chef for me would be a shortcut for what I want to do. I’ll get there anyway.

Which is?
My goal is to be a massive restaurateur, like Colicchio or, you name it.

Batali is Italian but not a true one so, you know. I see myself more like Colicchio. Less TV show, more cooking, more restaurant. It’s really about the chef, it’s not about stuff. Mario Batali I see more like a businessman. Collichio is more chef to me. I have a huge respect for both, but if I have to pick, I pick Collichio. Collichio is still there, busting his ass off, he cooks every week. He has the TV show, has book deal everywhere, he has a good life in the business that he wants. That’s my goal. I don’t want to be average. I didn’t leave my country to be average.

Did you think your food in New Orleans was better than your competitors’?
Absolutely. So it was just, at the end it’s all about the judges. It is what it is. It doesn’t matter what you think of the food. I thought my food was very good. I didn’t like too much, Carla’s oyster stew, but it was very good. It was not my flavor profile. It is what it is, again.

You said you needed the prize money to take care of your mother. Is she going to be okay without this money?
The fact of my mom has been a little bit misunderstood. She’s not dying, she has this problem in her hand. She’s very young, she’s 47, and she has this problem [with] the bone and the cartilage in her wrist, they’re falling apart because there’s something wrong with her blood. She’s not going to die, but she had to quit the job that she was doing. I support my family every month.

A lot of viewers think you’re “the cute one.” What makes you cute?
I think an accent does its good part. And then, you know, my mom is telling me all the time that I’m the cutest person ever, so I guess my mom is right.

And you’re charming. Did that help on the show?
I did well because I made good food. It doesn’t matter how charming you are. If you don’t do good food you go home. It’s a food competition, it’s not a popularity contest.

Do chefs make good lovers?
Chefs make great lovers, ‘cause if you don’t please them while you’re having sex, you please them while you’re making dinner. I please them in both cases.

Do you think that Jeff deserved another shot, or do you think it should have gone to Jamie or Leah?
Jeff had the best dish out of the three at the Quickfire. Do I think he deserved to be there? No. Because he did two competitions less than everybody else. So he got a kick right into the finale. So it wasn’t fair for me that he was there.

What about your Mohawk?
I’m a chef. I never wear matching socks. I felt that that was the right haircut for that particular week. And I’ve done it. Now I don’t have it anymore. Maybe next week I’ll have it again. Sometimes I dye my hair blond. You can’t put a limit to human creativity.

Did you ever feel like it was the Europeans versus the Americans this season?
That’s what they made it look like. It was everybody against everybody

What was your personal highlight this season?
Every competition that really mattered — Craft, Restaurant War, Le Bernardin, Last Meal — I either won them all, or I was in top three. So I lost the oatmeal challenge, big deal. I don’t eat oatmeal. I never cook with them. I didn’t like the canned-food challenge. Big deal. I don’t have canned food in my pantry. So every challenge that really mattered, I was either in the top three or the winner.

Top Chef Exit Interview: Episode Thirteen