Celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani Whips Up Holiday Treats With Bauli

Bauli brand ambassador Fabio Viviani gives a demo at the Bauli NYC launch party.
Bauli brand ambassador Fabio Viviani gives a demo at the Bauli NYC launch party.

Many foodies know Fabio Viviani as a contestant from season five of Bravo’s “Top Chef” (where he earned the title of “Fan Favorite)–his vivacious personality and charming accent made him instantly likeable while his culinary know-how brought him far in the competition. And what’s Fabio up to now? In addition to running several successful restaurant ventures in LA, Chicago, and Miami and having just released a new cookbook, Fabio recently became the brand ambassador for Bauli.

For those unfamiliar, Bauli–which is an 80-year-old family business–is the creator of authentic, Italian confectionery goods–some of their most popular offerings include the Pandoro and Panettone cakes, which are long-time holiday favorite (along with specialty cakes, croissants, cupcakes, and more). The Panettone is a sweet bread, loaded with candy citron, lemon zest, and raisins. The bread is baked in a cylindrical mold, giving it a beautiful, distinctive look. Traditionally prepared for Christmas and New Year in Italy. The Pandoro is a traditional Christmas bread from Verona. The name Pandoro is attributed to its golden yellow color, which comes from the egg yolks that are baked in the bread. High-quality butter and very fresh eggs give this traditional cake an unmistakable inviting aroma.

Perfectly timed to the upcoming holiday season, Bauli recently held a New York launch event at Cipriani Wall Street–where new Bauli brand ambassador Fabio Viviani gave guests the inside scoop on concocting delicious desserts using the Pandoro and Panettone cakes from Bauli. We also had the chance to catch up with Fabio–read on to get the dish on why he loves Bauli, his holiday entertaining tips, eating healthy, and more!

Plus, scroll to the end of this post for some yummy Bauli recipes!

Fabio strikes a pose with one of the Bauli holiday cakes.
Fabio strikes a pose with Bauli Pandoro cake.

How did you get involved with Bauli?

It’s a funny scenario. Because, moving to American and trying to create a restaurant brand lead to the opportunity to get into the TV end of the business spectrum. I’d never thought about it, but that end of the spectrum not only enhanced the restaurant aspect of it, but gave me the opportunity to meet people and brands that I recognize from my background in Italy and from my childhood. I grew up with stuff like the Pandoro and the Panettone. Though I’m not from the region where the Panettone originally [came from], the Pandoro and these cakes are what you do for the holidays in Italy. Then this company approached me and said: “We have this product. And the product reflects the principles that you have in your food—fresh ingredients, old-school technique, nothing fake, nothing artificial, long preparation—it’s 40 hours to make one.” And said: “Okay, what are we talking about?” “Bauli!” And I’m like: “It’s a pleasure! A pleasure and an honor, of course!” Because, when you think about it, the most important thing for me is—business is important, of course it is, because I moved to this country for that reason—the ability to work with companies that I not only appreciate and respect, but also that have the same philosophy in creating food.

Do you have a favorite Bauli cake?

You know, Pandoro is my favorite—but I think that the Panettone is everyone else’s favorite—for the simple reason that I’m a purist. I open the box, I get a slice, and I have it with my milk. The only thing is, raison [like in the Panettone] with milk is not the best match, but if you like the raisins and dried fruit, than I guess you’re a Panettone fan. But if you like a more clean, lean kind of flavor, the Pandoro is the one for you. Plus, I enjoy very much the shaking of the box. The way it works is that you open the box, and there’s a plastic wrap and there’s a bag of sugar. You open the bag of sugar and you shake it up and it coats the cake with powdered sugar—because it’s made with real butter.

Do you have any tips for families with children who are entertaining big groups around the holidays?

It’s all a matter of headache-free to me. That’s one of the simplest things we do with the [Bauli cakes]—for the holiday, you really want to be able to enjoy the party as well. If celebrating for the holiday means that you have work two days before prepping and three days after for cleaning, eating just isn’t fun. So, pick a crowd-pleaser and make it simple. It’s all about family and staying together—it’s not a showoff contest about who does the biggest celebration. It’s a matter of getting together with the people you like, having some good food on the table, a bottle of wine—lots of wine, you gotta have wine—and just celebrating. I always say: “Keep it simple, you don’t have to go overboard!” Because the people at your house for the holidays are your family!

15 - Il Panettone di Milano
The Bauli Panettone cake.

You written a lot on your blog and website about health and nutrition. How can people balance the line between indulging for the holidays but still keeping things healthy?

Here’s the truth: I come from a country where low-fat, no-sugar, lean-stuff doesn’t exist. In my country, everything is real butter, all-sugar, everything. We have one thing, that America is getting into too, and that’s moderation. Moderation is the key—it’s not substitution. You don’t want to get rid of the pleasure—a slice of cake at the end of a meal isn’t the problem. The problem is the continuity of the behavior that lead to aspects of nutrition that are very unbalanced. If everyday, you would prepare your meal, rather than eat something with processed chemicals and artificial ingredients, you’ll be better off. The problem isn’t a glass of wine, it’s three bottles of wine. It’s not a plate of pasta, the problem is 2 lb of pasta when you eat pasta. The problem is not a cake, the problem is whole cake versus a slice of cake. I think for health and consciousness, moderation is better than substitution. Because when you deprive your body of something, it’s going to miss it—the moment you bring it back, it goes twice as hard on you. Moderation is really the key for a healthier lifestyle.

What’s new with you right now?

We just opened Siena Tavern in South Beach—one of my new restaurant locations. I just launched my new wine collection, Fabio Viviani Wines. We have a Cabernet, a Chardonay, and we’re implementing the line now with Chianti, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir. It’s a busy end of the year—we have a new show coming up and I just released a new cookbook, Fabio’s American Kitchen…you can read it, and if you don’t like it, gift it! Next year we have five more restaurants coming, we have a lot of stuff going on. It’s good. It’s been a great year and it will be a better one next year!

Visit bauliusa.com for more info on their yummy treats & visit fabioviviani.com for more on Bauli brand ambassador Fabio Viviani!