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Top chef Fabio Viviani shares olive oil secrets

by jmaloni
Fri, May 10th 2013 11:45 pm
Chef Fabio Viviani, left, will make a special appearance in Amherst next weekend. In the group photo, pictured from left, he is shown with his `Life After Top Chef` co-stars Spike Mendelson, Jen Carroll and Richard Blais. (Bravo photo by Peter Kramer)
Chef Fabio Viviani, left, will make a special appearance in Amherst next weekend. In the group photo, pictured from left, he is shown with his "Life After Top Chef" co-stars Spike Mendelson, Jen Carroll and Richard Blais. (Bravo photo by Peter Kramer)

Italian star to make Amherst appearance next weekend

Preview by Joshua Maloni

In his travels around the world, Fabio Viviani has visited many places. But he's only passed through Western New York. That will change next week when he makes a special appearance in Amherst.

The Italian cuisinier and "Top Chef" fan favorite will participate in the grand opening celebration at BJ's Wholesale Club.

"I look forward to be at BJ's; we're going to be there for the event for the opening at the Amherst store. It's going to be great," he said Thursday. "We're going to raffle some cookbook, we're going to have some Q-and-As. It'll be a nice event."

Fabio will meet fans, sign copies of his new cookbook, "Fabio's Italian Kitchen," and, hopefully, have enough time left over to visit Niagara Falls.

"That's one of my top five wish list place to visit in the United States when I have time off," he said.

Of course, those who watched Fabio on Bravo's "Life After Top Chef" know time off is not something he's known for these days.

"I do rest - sometime," he said. "It's just not fun to see me rest. It's more fun to see me stressed and see me not resting. So that's what the TV is going to show."

Fabio actually had two days off this week and planned to spend some time with his girlfriend. Following that, it's back to business as he continues his cookbook tour, works on a new television project, a Web show, and the opening of his fifth restaurant in Chicago.

Fabio rose to fame through a high-stakes, pressure-packed cooking competition. At home and in his restaurant, however, he likes to keep it simple.

"I think America became a little bit too about being complicated and trying to impress and do something more than the person that's done it before," he said. "Who cares about that? Food is about sharing; moment; passion; family; eating. It's not about impressing."

Fabio said too many chefs are trying to show off and top their competitors.

"I could care less about that," he said. "All I care is to feed people, and to make them understand how easy it is to prep food."

Fabio's cookbook reflects that goal.

"I have always had passion for sharing recipes and making simple food good," he said.

Fabio doesn't agree with professional chefs asking home cooks to use hard-to-find or region-specific ingredients. This, he said, makes meal preparation unnecessarily difficult.

"How you gonna find that if you live in the other side of the country?" he asked. "Being accessible and being available, it's very important for all my ingredient selection."

"The ingredients that I try to have people get familiar with, they have to be widely available, and they have to be good," he added.

To that end, Fabio is working with the Bertolli brand of olive oils. Those planning to attend his meet-and-greet at BJ's can download a coupon for olive oil and find cooking tips from Fabio at http://bertolliatbjs.com/.

"There's a lot of knowledge that is missing about olive oil," Fabio said. He's working with Bertolli to help educate consumers on the proper way to use the cooking oil.

"Olive oil is perceived as an Italian ingredient, but olive oil is everywhere," he said. "Olive oil is an ingredient, period. Now, Italy and the Mediterranean area, where the Bertolli company took the olives from, has the best olives. And with that said, the Bertolli brand is ... No. 1 as far as consistency and quality throughout the planet."

Bertolli olive oils include classic, extra virgin and extra light.

"I always tell people, 'Look, you've got to have few kinds of olive oil in your house,' " Fabio said. "You've got to have something that is always consistent - in this case, Bertolli comes in very handy; good quality. ... There's different oils for different uses."

There's value in locally made product, too, he noted.

"We also always suggest to support your local people," Fabio said. "If you have a local grower of olive oil, like if you're in Napa, if you take a trip to Italy and you buy something specific from that region, we're happy with it. Because you have to understand also the difference in the regionality of it."

Fabio uses his grandfather's olive oil, but only during the two months it's available each year. Otherwise, he's a Bertolli man.

"Whenever I have to guarantee the consistency, flavor and the quality, that's who I work with, and who I use for my cooking," he said. "I use it in my restaurant. I use it in my house."

Fabio fans can meet him next Saturday, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at BJ's. In addition, they can learn more about his upcoming projects at www.fabioviviani.com. There, they can subscribe to his free magazine, which comes complete with recipes, and food and wine tips.

Fabio's appearance at the Amherst BJ's Wholesale Club is free and open to the public. The store is located at 3056 Sheridan Drive.

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