Recently, the Palm Beach food scene experienced a major shift, as Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, a AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five-Star resort, appointed David Viviano Executive Chef. A seasoned culinarian with more than 20 years’ experience that spans independent fine dining restaurants and luxury hotels, Chef Viviano oversees all culinary operations of the oceanfront property including fine dining room Angle, alfresco eatery Breeze Ocean Kitchen, Temple Orange Mediterranean Bistro, Stir Bar & Lounge, in-room dining and social events.
Palm Beach Happening had the opportunity to sit down with Chef Viviano to discuss his culinary point of view, and find out what he has in store for the amazing restaurants located at Eau Palm Beach.
How did you get started in the food industry?
Rumor has it my first sentence was “Momma makes the pasta.” This Italian toddler made his parents proud with that remark. I guess I was destined to become a chef.
I had many culinary influences growing up. My father was a strong Sicilian, proud of his heritage and he loved to eat. He enjoyed life and savored everything it had to offer.
My grandmother was a tremendous cook whose specialty was breaded veal – it melted in your mouth. And my grandfather made his own sausage that he shared with the neighborhood.
I was drawn to the restaurant industry at a young age and by the time I was 13 I worked as a busser. From there I had a string of positions from dishwasher to prep cook to server.
I eventually went to college at Miami University (Ohio). While I studied Journalism I took a job as a prep cook at a local Italian restaurant. I moved quickly to pantry, grill and saute. By the time I was a senior I was the Sous Chef and skipped class to work in the kitchen. I was hooked.
Upon graduation, instead of heading into the world of print journalism I began to pursue my passion of culinary arts.
My first achievement was landing a tryout with Chef Takashi Yagahashi of Tribute restaurant in Detroit. He was on his way to winning a James Beard award and had already earned the reputation as the best restaurant in the city. I with no formal culinary training had just been given an opportunity that would define my career.
Can you tell us a little more about your restaurant(s)?
Temple Orange Mediterranean Bistro is a modern bistro that highlights the bounty of the region. We pull from Italy, France, Israel, Greece and Spain to define our menu. From our diverse dishes to our signature Mediterranean brunch to al fresco dining, visiting Temple Orange is a must when visiting Palm Beach.
Breeze Ocean Kitchen naturally celebrates the ocean as guests dine within steps of the Atlantic Ocean. The seaside atmosphere and views are beyond memorable. From a menu standpoint Breeze focuses on the freshest seafood. Signature dishes are ceviche, mahi mahi tacos, lobster roll and tuna poke bowl.
Stir takes a global approach to bar fare with a vast selection of premium wines and craft cocktails. The menu boasts lobster corn dogs, prosciutto flatbread, falafel and even dim sum.
Chef de Cuisine Manlee Siu sources the finest local ingredients to drive our signature restaurant Angle. The seasonally driven concept relies on Florida’s farmers to dictate the constantly evolving menu.
What is your philosophy on cooking?
Less is more. Great cooking starts with great ingredients. Don’t overcomplicate dishes and use proper technique. Cook with passion and love. You will feel it in the food.
Of all the dishes on the current menu, which is your favorite?
I adore the simply grilled whole fish on the Temple Orange menu. It is a pure dish that highlights the finest of the Atlantic Ocean. This dish is nostalgic to me because I fondly remember eating whole fish at the dinner table with my father. He always said it was the best way to enjoy fish and I agree.
Are you enjoying your time in South Florida?
After relocating from Maui, it was important to my family to be close to the ocean. We have decided to put down roots in Jupiter. We are enjoying days off at the Juno Beach Pier surfing, building sand castles and enjoying the South Florida sun.
In addition, my last two positions have been in remote areas – Hawaii and Aspen. My wife and I are thrilled to have so many dining options available. Like any chef, dining out is important and Palm Beach County has so much to offer.
Finally, moving to Florida has given us great proximity to my family. My mother is in Naples and the rest of my family is in the Midwest. We are now in the position for my sons – Dean (3) and Leo (5 months) – to grow up with family nearby.
So, yes, we are thrilled to be in South Florida and plan to stay here for some time.
Can you tell us a little bit about your previous experience in fine dining?
I earned my stripes at the acclaimed restaurant Jardiniere in San Francisco. We received 3 ½ Stars from the San Francisco Chronicle and a James Beard nomination while I worked there as a cook. I truly gained an appreciation for high volume fine dining at this Bay Area institution. Award winning Chef Traci de Jardins headed the kitchen. Her affinity for sourcing the finest local ingredients and business savvy played an important role in my career development. We ran a multi-course tasting menu daily and I was always enamored by our vast cheese “cave.”
Working in San Francisco I was surrounded by some of the greatest restaurants in the country. I would often save enough money to modestly dine at the hottest spots in town. Being in this culinary mecca would define how I looked at food. Gary Danko, Hubert Keller, Judy Rodgers, Nancy Oakes, Roland Passat, Thomas Keller, Daniel Humm and many others were my heroes. I staged at as many great San Francisco restaurants as I could while I was there.
Later in my career I went on to run The Grill at the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn as Chef de Cuisine. From there I held a series of hotel positions, but always reflect on my time in fine dining with everything I do.
What is the funniest thing to happen to you in your cooking career?
I was working in Arizona running a hotel with a Latin American restaurant concept. I was asked to appear on a local television station to lead a cooking segment. Upon arrival I was told that the day’s segment had changed slightly and I would now have a co-star. It was NSYNC star Joey Fatone. I honestly had no clue who he was and texted my wife to gain clarification. She was immediately enamored with the idea of her husband being on TV with this boyband icon. Joey was actually promoting a new Food Network show he was hosting, so this segment was a perfect fit. The cooking segment was a success and my legacy with Joey Fatone will still live on through YouTube clips.
I know that many restaurants in South Florida now focus on using more local cuisine. What foods are you planning on highlighting this season?
I am a strong advocate of cooking with the seasons. Every locale I go to has different growing seasons so I quickly need to relearn seasonality for the region. I believe deeply in building strong relationships with local farmers to assist with defining the menu. With summer upon us the growing season has slowed in South Florida, but as crops once again flourish I am excited to highlight the local abundance of ingredients.
More and more chefs in the Palm Beaches have become involved in cooking contests featured on the Food Network. Do you have any interest in that?
I didn’t start cooking to become famous. I cook because I love food and the industry. If acclaim and accolades follow it is still secondary to providing for my guests. I’m more interested in assisting my team with personal growth and putting them on a platform to be successful.
What new and exciting plans do you have for your restaurant(s)?
Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa will continue to be a culinary leader in the Palm Beach area, Florida and beyond. We will be innovative and provide a dynamic food and beverage product to our guests.
In Temple Orange, I plan to reimagine our already successful brunch. In Breeze Ocean Kitchen, we will highlight the prized seafood from the Atlantic Ocean. In Stir, we will take a global approach to luxury bar snacks. In Angle, we will continue to embrace Florida’s finest local products. Ultimately, we will continue to evolve to the top dining destination in the area.
We’d like to thank Heather Graulich for helping to arrange this interview, and Chef Viviano for taking the time to share some of his culinary experience with us.
If you’re a local chef whose cuisine matches up to the best out there, we’d love to talk to you. Contact us and perhaps you can be the next celebrity chef!