|Fabio Viviani and Richard Blais autograph ProStart student's chef whites|
Several ProStart students were at the NRA Show performing cooking demos. Between demos, like Justin Bieber descending on a pack of pre-teens, chefs Fabio Viviani and Richard Blais met with the young chefs. After the autographs, photo ops and slight hysteria subsided; we caught up with Viviani to talk about young talent in the industry and his plans for a new restaurant opening at the end of the year in Chicago.
Zagat: Why is a program like ProStart important?
Fabio Viviani: I’m tired, we’re getting old, we need a new breed of culinary rock stars. A program like ProStart helps kids harness their passion and convey their energy towards something that is a great career. Anything we can do to help support, promote, enhance that, we're here to do it in full force.
Zagat: Do you encourage students to pursue a career in the culinary field despite the challenges?
FV: I advise to follow your dream no matter what it is. The reality is that 95% of people trying to get into the culinary field drop out within three years. So I consider myself blessed to be among the five percent left over. With that said, there is drop off in every business, and the culinary one has a lot because it is hard work and long hours. It’s not easy. If people want to do it they have the tools and the means. It’s up to them. The students are going to be the only shadows in their own sunshine, so if they want to get in their own way they will. If they want to lead that path and make it successful, they can. There is a way to get there.
Zagat: What is one piece of advice you would give to students?
FV: Shut up and listen. Don’t think you have all the answers, shut up and listen to those who have been there before you and you will learn faster.
Zagat: With three restaurants in California, why did you choose Chicago as your next destination?
FV: Chicago has one of the highest food industries in the country. I think I can learn so much form the chefs in this town. The chefs and restaurants that I adore the most are in this town from Tony Mantuano, Rick Bayless, Tramonto and Stephanie. I am very young to this country, but I am willing to learn and try to leave a mark in the industry.
Zagat: What do you have planned for the Chicago concept?
FV: I love Chicago and am teaming up with a phenomenal restaurant group here that has a few restaurants already. It’s going to be great, we are really going to work hard to make a timeless, affordable, young concept that I think could work.