Fabio Viviani’s Cooking Demo and Cookbook Review
Jun20

Fabio Viviani’s Cooking Demo and Cookbook Review

This past Saturday I dragged Sam to Top Chef Fan Favorite, Fabio Viviani’s Cooking Demo and Book Signing—well, it wasn’t the kicking-and-screaming kind of dragging, since Cafe Firenze is one of our favorite restaurants. (Click here for my restaurant review >>) This time I had the foresight to let them know I’d be coming, and smart business man that he is, Fabio personally responded, guaranteeing me a good seat. Despite the aggravation of having had a flat tire between his morning Cooking Demo at Firenze Osteria, and this second session at Cafe Firenze, he greeted us warmly. He wasn’t phased by the slightly unstable setup, in their first time using the light and spacious patio—this time only turning away fifty, instead of the usual one hundred fans. He jokingly removed item by item as they jiggled while he pounded the poor pork on the vibrating table! The general tone, as he passionately shared memories and family traditions, was very laid back—more like hanging out with him over good eats and drinks, than watching him sweat over a hot stove, attempting to teach us how to cook. He enjoyed circling the fire pit!   Mama’s Boy…? His mother, Renza, refused to give up the family’s precious recipes unless he agreed to publicly share what he put her through as a boy. (Payback!) He still had to coax details out of her, since “sausage. and. beans.”—her typical recipe instructions—just wouldn’t cut it for a cookbook. Sign up for info on Fabio and Mamma’s upcoming cooking class >> Should be very entertaining! When he was five, after unintentionally setting her on fire, his 87-year-old great-grandma, Maria, kept little “Fabiolino” by her side in the kitchen, to keep him out of trouble, and contain his abundant energy and penchant for mischief! Stirring polenta and apple cake for hours on end, he learned from her to “do it right, or do it twice.” Already displaying character, to help feed his family, he took a night job when he was eleven (ELEVEN!), when his mom had to quit her job because of a problem with her hands. He would unload fifty-pound bags of flour and carry pies from the 120 degree basement to the 10 degree pie store from 1 – 7am—causing him to be sick and miss school, and get suspended. No wonder he hates baking! “It’s not about how bad I had it but about how good I want it from now on.” He Keeps it Simple As a child, he only had one pair of shoes, slept on a folding chair in the kitchen, and lived on eggs from their forty chickens, fruits and veggies from his...

Read More

Meeting Alex Guarnaschelli: Iron Chef, Chopped Judge

I’ve enjoyed watching Alex Guarnaschelli—on Chopped, The Best Thing I Ever Made, and then beating out 9 other super-chefs to earn the coveted title of Iron Chef on Next Iron Chef. She’s always seemed very real to me, and her cooking demo and book signing this past Sunday at Let’s Get Cookin’ in Westlake Village, California, proved this to be true. I was ecstatic to get the tickets—a whopping $110 for the demo and signed cookbook—since celebrity chef demos usually get sold out on release. (Didn’t make it past the waiting list for Fabio Viviani of Top Chef fame.) Old School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook Released on April 9, 2013 Available on Amazon.com for $20.85 It was definitely worth every penny. By the time fellow-foodie, cousin Becca, and I got there—45 minutes early—the only empty seats were in the last and second-from-last rows. We were in the company of some serious foodies and Alex fans—although the lady sitting right next to me didn’t even know who she was! Me and Becca with our cute plastic food trays. The line was out the door for the open book signing, in the hour preceding the Cooking Demo. No wonder Alex already looked a little wiped when she got to us, but still managed to be charming and very entertaining. She has a cute, devilish smile and wicked sense of humor, and wasn’t phased by anything; not even the sometimes spotty camera work of LCG’s owner, Phyllis Vaccarelli—chasing the camera with the food very playfully. She’s clearly used to being surrounded by big fancy cameras; requesting that we not take pics or record the demo, because she can’t resist playing to the camera. Most impressive was the way she handled the self-admitted ADD sufferer in the front row—the rest of us were getting way more annoyed than she let on, until about the twentieth comment/question prompted her to snap (just a little), but she immediately recovered with a sweet smile and quip. A band of chefs hustled to prepare the four selections from Old-School Comfort Food for us to try, while Alex demonstrated how to make them. I loved how nonchalant and relaxed she was with her cooking, ironically instructing us to “carefully place the meatballs in the sauce,” while cheekily dumping them in. Good lesson for me—control freak that I am! I was amazed at her ability to multi-task: preparing all four dishes below, while answering questions and sharing lovely anecdotes of her experiences as an only child in a foodie family, and being mom to an almost-six-year-old daughter—who chooses to watch Ina Garten over Mom. And all with...

Read More