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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top Chef's Fabio Viviani Hates Cilantro, Exclusive Interview

Fabio Viviani, incontrovertibly the most charming of Top Chef contestants, ever, hates cilantro.

He doesn't just casually hate it--as if that were possible--he really loathes the stuff: His secret dream is to "be filthy rich, grow 20 acre of cilantro, and drop a bomb on it." He kids. I asked Fabio how hating cilantro has affected his life, he laughs in characteristic Fabio manner and says it hasn't affected his life of course but then admits "People are having fun with me when I say I hate cilantro… [It's] something fun."

Hating cilantro is so fun that he has banned the herb in his restaurant Cafe Firenze (though he is sure the Latino cooks (cilantro is popular in Mexican, Central and South American cuisine) prepare family meal with it in his absence as he finds it in the walk-in when he returns from a short vacation). Hating cilantro is so fun that he refused to help co-competitor and European compatriot Stefan Richter prepare his (losing) dish of salads and meat for the "Super Bowl Chef Showdown" episode. Come to think of it, not helping Stefan cook does sound sort of fun.

Fabio feels like he's the only member of a club. "No way" I assured him. Please read the Wall Street Journal or check out or Facebook or anything--you aren't alone! He feels the herb tastes like soap, and there is a lot of support out there for that opinion.

I'm not the only one who has noticed that cilantro is everywhere. Fabio agrees and is not happy about its growing prevalence. While would-be fancy chefs find cilantro sophisticated, new and exciting--Fabio says it just wouldn't happen in Italy: "It's outlawed in Italy," he jokes.

Once he and his (Italian) mother prepared meatballs and accidentally purchased cilantro (in the U.S.) instead of parsley--they look similar. Neither noticed the mistake until they tried them--they were both repulsed.

Erin: Does your mother not like cilantro either?
Fabio: No, she's Italian.

While I have often argued that cilantro has no place anywhere, it certainly has no place in Italian cuisine: cilantro in pasta sauce? Please. I can imagine those meatballs must have been very terrible indeed.

Some people think we cilantro haters are just a winy group of crazies, or that we must just hate everything. Fabio admits he isn't crazy about artificial cherry flavor, (clearly a man of good taste) but quickly goes for typically less-desired foods like rooster neck or bull's testicles. Not a finicky eater, just a man who knows what he likes, and what he really fucking hates. (Fabio likes to use the word "fuck" by the way--this cilantro hater approves--am I gushing, how embarrassing. I'll admit the company is nice).

So, what's next for Fabio (he was robbed and told to "pack his knives and go" last week)? He's cooking me an 8 course cilantro tasting menu at his restaurant Cafe Firenze, of course.


ascholl said...

I'm (sorry) a big fan of cilantro, but it'd be just godawful pretty much any place where parsley is normally used. Cilantro in meatballs is horrifying.

lawnguylander said...

Andrew said...

Favorite fabio quote. "This guy micah. He is like big pain in my assholes"

also ... ur crazy. Cilantro is the official smell of "fresh". it's intoxicating

The Artist said...

Cilantro is one of the greatest Herbs there is, and if you don't like it, I'm glad i don't have to eat your cooking.

Manuel said...

if you ask me the name gives away his obvious doucheness.....he's a super douche and cilantro/coriander rocks.....

Anonymous said...

Cilantro is awesome, Fabio didn't even win top chef so who cares about what bullshit that lame ass likes?

sean said...

Dislike of Cilantro is actually a chemical reaction some people, very small group have. Like the chef said it makes cilantro taste like soap to them, so they really can't help it. It is a genetic trait that is often passed down, just like he said his mother hates it as well. Feel pity not anger for the man, he can't taste the wonderful cilantro the way most of us can, it is sad really...

Il Doctore said...

A true group of cullinary savants here...

Havnt had cilantro at any of the good to great places... Its a mexican heb, used to hop up the dull flavor of refried beans and tripe. Great for mexican food, but shoudl stay away from real cooking!

Death to cilantro!

Anonymous said...

Cilantro is the most popular herb in the world. You stated it's a staple in Mexico, Central and South America but don't forget India, Thailand and China. It's prevalence will never go away.

On a side note, Julia Childs hated cilantro. She once said she would throw it on the floor if she ever saw it. lol

Erin Hollingsworth said...

I know cilantro seems to be everywhere, all over the world, but is it really the most popular in the world? How would an herb earn that designation? Most consumed in weight? Used daily in the most countries' cuisines? I would think parsley or basil could at least give it a run for the money...will look into this further.

RE Julia Child, totally

Anonymous said...

..."People are having fun with me when I say I hate cilantro… [It's] something fun."

Why would someone hate something because it is "fun"? Hate something because you don't like it, it repulses you, etc., etc.

There is an Indian saying that seems apt here..."Bandar kya janne adrak ka swaad!" (How would a monkey know/appreciate the flavor of ginger!)

Erin Hollingsworth said...


To your point

"Why would someone hate something because it is "fun"? Hate something because you don't like it, it repulses you, etc., etc."

It seems you confuse correlation with causation. Chickens with eggs. Fabio, if I can speak for him, doesn't hate cilantro because it is fun to hate it, but rather, he hates because he doesn't like it and as an incidental after effect of this hate, he happens to have some fun with the hating of something benign.

So hating cilantro can be both fun and terrible, but I think you do genuine haters a disservice to confuse their very real hate for something as superfluous as the need for fun ;)

As for monkeys and ginger, I don't know TOO much about that, but it's beyond my cognitive powers to empirically suggest that monkeys don't appreciate ginger. All I know is monkeys are awesome and ginger is awesome. But that too is a correlation, not a causal relationship.