Some of the most fun that fans of Bravo’s Top Chef have had in recent years is watching star chefs— and buddies— Richard Blais and Fabio Viviani banter over recipes and rib each other about their techniques. Both chefs have recently published new cookbooks—Blais’ Try This at Home and Viviani’s Fabio’s Italian Kitchen—so we took the opportunity ask them what they really think of each other’s recipes. Read on to discover which of Viviani’s recipes has Blais saying, “it broke my circuits,” which of Blais’ has Viviani saying, “It’s not even like cheffing, it’s playing God” and what each has to say about their favorite on-screen moments from Top Chef.
Bookish: Richard, which of Fabio’s recipes could you never do as well, and why?
Richard Blais: It’s Fabio’s gnocchi. The technique goes against everything I’ve ever learned in three-star Michelin restaurants. Let the potatoes cool? It broke my circuits the first time we talked about his technique. Guess what? It works brilliantly.
Bookish: Fabio, which of Richard’s recipes could you never do as well as he could?
Fabio Viviani: The Salisbury Steak—that’s very Richard. To me, the concept of getting a piece of meat off the bone, chopping it, making a hamburger out of it, and putting it back on the bone with transglutaminase—this powder that he loves to use—it’s unheard of. It’s not even like cheffing, it’s playing God. Because what I’ve also seen Richard do is get a bone out of a lamb rib and attach a pork chop to it with transglutaminase. I would never be able to do that—and I’m going to leave it to him! And the outcome actually is delicious. It’s really, really good. That’s totally Richard.
Bookish: Richard, which of Fabio’s recipes do you wish you had come up with yourself?
RB: It’s his momma’s meatballs. The ricotta gives the meat the most amazing texture, and he eschews a lot of classic technique most chefs use for meatball making. And yeah, I wish I came up with it because it’s just so ridiculously delicious!
Bookish: And how about you, Fabio—which of Richard’s recipes do you wish you had come up with yourself?
FV: The recipe I wish I had come up with in Richard’s book is the Cheese Wizard. It’s brilliant. I love melting cheese and I hate when, on a burger or anywhere else, as the plate gets cold, the cheese coagulates and gets hard again. I hate that. He’s met that [challenge] by mixing the cheese with cream and foaming it out of a siphon—and that’s amazing. I really wish I could have come up with that. Maybe I will steal it. I will reuse it and claim that it’s mine (but between us, we all know that Richard came up with this first).
Bookish: Let’s talk Top Chef: Richard, what’s the recipe that you had the most fun watching Fabio prepare on the show, and why?
RB: Well, although it wasn’t a great day for him, watching Fabio struggle with a “hambooger” was pretty fun to watch… I’m sure he says the same anytime I try my hand at traditional Italian cooking.
Bookish: Fabio, which of Richard’s recipes did you have the most fun watching him prepare on Top Chef?
FV: The one he prepared for the Italian challenge. For the first time in our relationship, he was asking me for advice. He was saying, “Hey Fabio, how do I do this? Is that Italian enough for you?” What he did: He pretty much sousvide’d a whole pancetta, braised it, sliced it, breaded it, and fried it. It was amazing to see him struggling through the making of Italian food, “Richard-style,” but actually it was very good. The outcome was good, and the judges loved the dish.
Richard Blais soared to popularity as the winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he trained at the French Laundry, Daniel, and El Bulli. He is the owner and creative force behind Trail Blais, a forward-thinking culinary company that consults, designs and operates outposts of Flip Burger Boutique and HD1, and he is the chef-owner of the Spence in Atlanta. He has been on Today, Good Morning America, Live with Kelly, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and the live Super Bowl pregame show, and he is starring in the Bravo show Life After Top Chef. He has been featured in the New York Times, Food & Wine, and InStyle, among other major publications.
Chef Fabio Viviani has possessed a passion for food since his childhood growing up in Florence, Italy. By the time he was 27, Viviani owned and operated five restaurants in Florence. After moving to California, he opened Café Firenze in Moorpark and, soon after, Firenze Osteria in North Hollywood. Viviani opened a third restaurant called Siena Tavern in Chicago in February 2013. Viviani is perhaps best known for his appearance on season five of Bravo’s hit reality series Top Chef in 2008, earning the “Fan Favorite” title. Viviani returned to Bravo in 2010 to compete in their Top Chef All Starsedition and a spinoff culinary reality show, Life After Top Chef. Viviani is a recurring guest on television shows such as Good Morning America, The Talk, The Chew, Ellen, Good Day LA, and Access Hollywood. He is also the host of the award-winning web series Chow Ciao! on Yahoo!, the #1 lifestyle and food show on the internet.