After being challenged to create classic American comfort food for Late Nighthost Jimmy Fallon on this week's Top Chef, fan favorite Fabio Viviani was sent packing for a burger (or as he pronounces it, a "boor-ger") that wasn't juicy enough for the judges.
Find out why the Italian-born chef says he was "laughing his a-- off" during his elimination, how he really feels about judge Anthony Bourdain, and why he's still can't get over the fact that Antonia won the Italian challenge with what he considers a French mussels dish.
(Note: To make this Q&A an easier read, some liberties were taken with dropped words and verb tenses. But if you imagine Fabio's accent while reading it, it'll make it much more entertaining.)
What was it like walking on to the set of Jimmy Fallon's show?
I absolutely loved it. I was laughing my a-- off. I love that guy. I think he's a very good entertainer and is very spontaneous — that's what I like. I do watch his show whenever I can, but I work 18 hours a day, so I don't really watch any one's show. I'm working like a beaver. He's a great guy. Come on, who do you want to get kicked off by, Martha Stewart? Jimmy Fallon is the man, that's the way to go.
What were you thinking when you found out your challenge was to make a hamburger?
I'm thinking, "Oh, I'll make a good burger. A classic burger? Absolutely not. Am I a classic American?" I'm not American, so I don't do American burgers. I don't think White Castle does classic burgers in New York, but they're delicious. So it's about taste, not tradition.
Were you surprised you went home?
Fabio: I believe my dish should have been in the bottom, but do I think I should have gone home? Absolutely not. Colicchio said one thing to me that, of course, didn't make it on TV. He complimented my burger. One thing they said to Tiffany was her soup was good, but they asked for chicken and dumplings and she made like a tortilla soup. So, that was a completely different dish. But do I accept it? Yes. What other choice do I have? Do you want me to be a sore loser? Of course, everybody's a sore loser, but I'd rather keep bi------ about Antonia winning the Italian challenge with a freakin' bowl of French mussels.
You're really hung up on that dish, huh?
Fabio: Yes, course I'm still hung up on them, are you kidding me?! I think Antonia is a great chef. But she walked into the freakin' stew room with ten other chefs and she says, "Oh, I just won the Italian challenge with a bowl of steamed mussels." Why did everybody have [the expression] like, "Are you kidding me?" A) It's not even an Italian dish. And B) Tell me what you're doing on Top Chef steaming mussels. It's like Jamie — she opened a clam for the [Quickfire]. I'm sorry, Antonia got a freebie there.
You said you left the show exactly the way you wanted to. What did you mean?
Fabio: I was laughing my a-- off. I was thinking: A) They got it all wrong, and B) I am very happy at the position I am in life. And getting kicked off of Top Chef? Big deal. I've got stuff to do; I love to get it all done. If you're asking me, I should have won the dim sum challenge and the Italian as well, but it is what it is. I was happy, it was fun, and now I'm home.
Back at the beginning of the season, you weren't too happy about Anthony Bourdain's critique of your dish. What do you think of him as a judge?
Fabio: I love Bourdain, don't get me wrong. We talk into Twitter. I don't have a problem with him. What I have a problem with is people who are a smart a-- with me. It is what it is; that's what he does for a living. He makes fun of people on a television show. Can he? Absolutely. He's one of the most knowledgeable people in the food world. But you got to realize we're here cooking our faces off, so don't be a d--- about it.
What are you up to right now?
Fabio: Right now, I'm packing my bag to go to San Francisco because I have a dinner to do for the Ronald McDonald foundation.
Who's going to watch your turtle?
Fabio: The turtle can stay two days in the tank without me. The tank is full of live fish — like sushi — and it will just eat once in a while. A turtle is good pet!