The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Grazie mille!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fabio Viviani and "Chow Ciao"

For somebody who gets around as much as I sometimes do, eating in Italian restaurants all over the place and writing about food and travel, it still seems as if I don't get out much. That was my first thought when I heard that Yahoo! was launching Chow Ciao!, an online Italian cooking series featuring Chef Fabio Viviani. Who?

At first glance, Fabio's résumé would seem to indicate that he has made a career of losing. Let's see......according to Wikipedia, he's William Shatner's personal chef. For that, I offer him both my admiration and my condolences. Wiki also says he shills for San Pelligrino water, among other companies. But he lost when he competed on Top Chef, he lost again on Top Chef: All Stars, and after Bravo announced it was going to give him his own show, the network did a sudden about-face and dropped the project before it even started.

But to be fair, Fabio did make the final four and he was voted a fan favorite when he competed on Top Chef and after watching his cooking demos on Yahoo!, it's easy to see why. The guy is fun, informative, and very likeable. He packs more into five or six minutes online than many of his peers accomplish on their thirty-minute TV shows. And he's really Italian. Although a naturalized US citizen, he retains an accent that firmly establishes his Florentine roots. You know, the letter “y” does not exist in the Italian alphabet, and it doesn't exist in Fabio's pronunciation of “yeast,” either. But his presentation is so infectiously high-spirited and fun that you just don't care! The producers of his segments throw in little “translation balloons” when needed. After you watch him for five minutes, you just want to go out and cook something Italian.

Content-wise, Fabio sticks closely to the basics of Italian cooking – fresh, simple, uncomplicated food that tastes delicious. Generally good information, good technique, and entertaining presentations. What more could you want?

As of this writing, he's done five segments of Chow Ciao! for Yahoo! Through demos on olive oil and Caprese salad, Italian meatballs, pasta, tomatoes, and pizza, I can only find one thing with which I significantly disagree and that's his information on olive oil. Probably because he's on Bertolli's payroll, Fabio promotes “light” olive oil. Folks, so-called “light” olive oil barely qualifies as olive oil. There's no actual classification for it and it's largely a marketing gimmick. Made from the leftovers of extra-virgin and virgin olive oil production, it has to be mechanically, thermally, and/or chemically refined to even be deemed fit for consumption. Colorless and tasteless, it is usually blended with vegetable and/or canola oil. Its only value is as a frying oil because of its relatively higher smoke point. You could make your own “light” olive oil by putting a drop of extra-virgin oil in a quart of canola. Tastewise, the effect would be about the same. But, as noted, Fabio represents Bertolli and Bertolli makes “light” olive oil for the American market, so......

Like any modern force of nature, Fabio also has his own website, blog, and even an iPhone app. He has an e-book that he promotes on his site and cookbooks are in the works.

Yahoo! introduces new episodes of Chow Ciao! every Monday morning. You can find them at And, BTW, Yahoo!, I'm a little offended by the apparent relegation of Fabio's content to the “women's interest” section. But that's a fight for another day.

Check out past episodes at the link I've provided and stay tuned for more next Monday. Fabio Viviani and Chow Ciao! are easy addictions to acquire.

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