Fabio Viviani fielded his share of TV show pitches the last few years — including one with Bravo that never came to fruition — but the endlessly quotable Top Chef alum finally joined forces with Yahoo!, not a network, to launch his Italian-cooking series Chow Ciao. "[With the previous TV pitches] I was kind of put on the spot for doing content for the network rather than be myself," Viviani tells TVGuide.com. "Once Yahoo! approached me, they just asked me to be me." The 3-to-5 minute episodes, part of Yahoo!'s new slate of online shows, go live every Monday and features Viviani demonstrating his favorite dishes, which, of course do not include burgers (or "boor-gers"). Find out what else you can expect from the series, if Viviani will pop on Top Chef again, and how his beloved turtle is doing.
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How did this all come about?
Fabio Viviani: Yahoo! asked me. They said they had the viewership and the means and the creative side to help [me] be at [my] best. When I heard that there was somebody who was willing to showcase who I am and what I am about, that's when I decided to team up. Honestly, the outcome, I could not be happier. I think it's great. That's me there.
Did you like that it was online, especially with social media so big right now and you're an avid tweeter yourself?
Viviani: Yes. Besides [Yahoo!'s viewership], the thing I like the most about this is that the Internet is there — 24/7/365. Whenever you want, whenever you're ready. TV is what's been a big deal so far, but a platform like Yahoo! is going to be what's ahead. That's the future and we're starting the right way. People are busy and not everybody can sit in front of a television from 8 to 9 or from 2 to 3 in the afternoon. So this way, we create content that is honest, quick and easy to get hold of. You can watch on your iPhone while you're riding a bus to go to work. So you get the best of both worlds because the show is really well shot — it's the quality you would find on any network or TV show with the advantage of being on the Internet.
How involved are you with each episode?
Viviani: I pick the recipe, I pick the content, I decide what to say. The phenomenal crew and production company show up with camera and they make sure to maximize whatever is me and show to you in the best way possible. We work together. I decide 95 percent of what to go on, which is one of the reasons why I decided to be here. Everything I say and everything I do is because I want to and because I believe it, not because I have to say that to be on TV. It's very truthful content driven by whoever is doing each show. ... I decide what to do, but in what step, we decide that together. So it's not scripted [in that] "this is what you have to say," but it's scripted as far as how it's going to run down, like "we first need to see you chop this." That's where the help of the producer come in play. They tell me how to organize my idea in my head and how to make it look good on camera.
How did you pick the recipes?
Viviani: Well, they came to me and said, "What would you like to do?" I said, "I want to do something back to basics, super sexy, easy to do, few ingredients that you can do any given time." They said, "Great! Give us 40 recipes and we will pick 26, and 26 episodes is what's ahead of us for now." We did something with fish, fresh pasta, basic sauces. You know how they say Cooking 101? I would say this is Cooking 105. It's a little more than 101, but it's really back to basics.
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Are you cooking burgers? They were your Achilles' heel on Top Chef.
Viviani: [Laughs] You know? Maybe we will towards the end, maybe a bonus clip. But I still cannot pronounce it. Look, if I knew how to pronounce it, probably I would already be doing them. I can make a Panini and blow your socks off, but a burger, I will stick with White Castle and Five Guys.
You're close with your grandma. How much did she influence these recipes?
Viviani: 100 percent of the recipes I will do come from my family history, technique or passion. The first episode had eggs [for a frittata] because eggs were the first thing I mastered in life. I grew up with my family way below the poverty level to be happy and to have a good piece of meat on the table. So we used to have eggs every day because that was the cheapest thing we could afford to buy and that was one of the most nutritious things you find. ... That was not a happy time in my life. Every day you eat eggs because there's nothing else? You want to get out of that situation as soon as you can. So it made sense to make that [the focus of] the first episode.
You have two restaurants, a cookbook, a series, and now you're doing Domino's commercials too.
Viviani: Yes, well, I'm Italian and I eat pizza! That's all there is to it. They asked me [for] advice on flavor and craft and I gave it to them, and I eat it! I wouldn't team up with somebody if I didn't like what they do or I didn't eat [their product] myself ... As long as I like what I do, that's all that matters to me.
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Top Chef: Texas is premiering soon. Are you involved in this season at all?
Viviani: I'm not. You won't see me on Season 9. I didn't come back to judge or anything. I lost twice, so I think I'm done with Top Chef, maybe. I don't know. But you never know with Bravo. I love Bravo. It's a great cable [network]. I wish them the best for the upcoming season. They deserve it. It's a great show. Now I'm on Chow Ciao. The good news about this one is that A) I'm not going to get kicked out because I will never kick myself out and B) whatever I do, I'll be the judge of it. Not Tom [Colicchio], not Padma [Lakshmi]. I love you, guys, but sorry, no more tasting my food! [Laughs] I'll be top chef every day here!
How's your turtle doing?
Viviani: She is fantastic! As we're speaking, I have workers at my house building, like, a 3,000-gallon pond in the backyard. I have a lot of commitments for next year, so she cannot stay in the aquarium anymore. I'm doing an outside pond with live fish and plants and waterfall. It's a little turtle paradise. It's going to be done by spring. Now it's too cold to put the turtle out and I don't want to give her the flu. It's probably 12 feet long and 6- or 7-feet wide, and 4- or 5-feet deep. It's beautiful.
Will she make a cameo on Chow Ciao?
Viviani: She may. You never know. She made a cameo on Top Chef already when I was walking her out with a leash, but now it's too cold. I can't walk her out right now. ... The aquarium is, like, 400 gallons; it's big. It can't be in the background. If you have a kitchen that can put in the background a 400-gallon aquarium, you made it already! You don't need a TV show! [Laughs]