Friday, July 20, 2012

Fabio Viviani Proves Why He's a Top Chef Fan Favorite

I expected to have a lovely Sunday afternoon with John watching Fabio Viviani lead a cooking demonstration at his restaurant.   And for the most part we did.  What neither of us expected was being witness to a boastful, jealous chef trying to steal his show.

If you've watched Bravo's Top Chef, then you are already familiar with Fabio from season 5.  A charismatic devil, he had and has no trouble winning over fans.

Fabio closed his Universal City restaurant, Firenze, for an afternoon opening it to those who wanted the opportunity to watch him in action prepare summer appetizers.  With tables set for us and glasses of wine poured, he began his demonstration.  Let the memories begin.

Starting with a very easy breakfast appetizer of a baked egg in marinara sauce, Fabio had us won over especially when he suggested that the men in the audience take advantage of all that time it takes us women to get ready in the mornings.  Why not make this simple dish and be the hero?

Just as he was moving onto the best way to cook meatballs (that would be in the sauce), he was interrupted by a a rather loud party from the bar which overlooked the dining room.

Using any one's first instinct in such a situation, our ringmaster Fabio did a shout out to him introducing the man he recognized hoping to quell the attention seeker.  The fellow chef  took the opportunity of introduction to announce he was personal chef to a "star."  The star will go unnamed because I would assume she would be none to pleased with him; but be assured you would recognize her given her fame in music and films over the decades. But if you are so curious, there are clues buried within the lines of this story.

I will dub the personal chef,  Mr. Name Dropper.  Unfortunately, in L.A., this irritating trait is all to common.  Mr. ND clearly lacked the ability to read a social cue to know when his time on the stage had come to an end because he just kept talking.

Fabio did then, what anyone else would do, ignored him to carry on with the demonstration.

Continuing on, Fabio in classic humorous form, relayed his observations on cooking as he prepped the next appetizer of popcorn shrimp accompanied by a handmade chipotle mayonnaise.  He quipped  he was not a recipe follower.  Following rules doesn't necessarily make one happy.  More important to be happy than be right he advised while whipping his mayo into form.  Then, Mr. ND reared his head and decided to challenge Fabio on the best way to make handmade mayo along with instigating a discussion on the difference between mayo and aoli sauce.

No challenge was too much for Fabio.  In his exquisite Italian accent and a miss or two on the English language, he easily charmed the audience with his answers.  What a fool believes is he is embarrassing his targeted victim.  Quite the opposite.

Our demonstration ended with a savory shrimp wrapped in bacon over a small bed of polenta.  While the audience ooed and awed over the sampling, Mr. ND couldn't leave well enough alone but went in for the personal attack criticizing Fabio's language skills. 

Like Phoenix rising from the ashes, Fabio told an inspiring tale of how he moved to this country a mere 5 years ago not knowing the language at all.  He started with very little and now has come so far.  We all applauded and were clearly moved by his success.

No more words came out of Mr. ND.  We all settled back into the way we were.  Guilty was he for being a heckler with no appreciative audience.

All in all, we did have a lovely afternoon albeit with a lesson or two in something other than making appetizers.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Burned Beast

Guest Blogger - Barbara Schwartz

How many beer can chickens have you made since this wonderful invention?  I would guess my number to be at least in the dozens. Flawlessly reliable; moist, tender, incredible flavors. And no clean-up required. It’s the best! I can do a beer can chicken with my eyes closed. Which apparently is what happened when I prepared the last one.

An unbelievable 45 minutes had passed before I realized I had not checked on the chicken. And since when do I not turn down the temperature at any point whatsoever? Pegged at 550 degrees, I opened the barbecue to witness the extraordinary sight of dinner in flames, which of course had been ongoing for quite some time. I did what any good chef would do and closed the lid, turned off the gas, closed my eyes and left the black beast to smolder into ashes. I didn’t even consider the obvious next thought: What was I going to now prepare for dinner? And the more important question: What excuse was I going to give for this aberration of my cooking?

Truly humbled, I went with the truth. Explaining it to my husband and children, my voice sounded like I had been through a major trauma; low, subdued, tragic. I admitted I had ignored the chicken. I had not cooked with love. I had decided to multi-task. Certainly I could negotiate new car insurance while preparing dinner.

This former main course beauty had been bestowed with a new rub. The usual coating of olive oil and one-quarter cup each of sweet paprika, brown sugar, salt and one-eighth cup black pepper was getting a bit ho-hum. So it was rosemary, thyme, basil, pepper, salt, garlic. Oh my it was going to be good. And my son was inviting his girlfriend (I think she is a girlfriend; mothers are last to know) for the very first time to dinner.

I am blessed with a husband who chose to laugh. Laugh! Oh my I am lucky. And vow from now on to be ever vigilant, cook with love, over-monitor my birds (but not over-opening up the barbecue as that is a sin).

One must never let up, never rest on the past success of a good meal.
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