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Chef Fabio Viviani adds dash of zest to new ESPN cafeteria’s housewarming

ESPN’s cafeterias are central to the company’s culture, so much so that they have served as the settings for various “This Is SportsCenter” campaigns.

The Main Campus cafeteria for ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. headquarters has undergone an expansion and opened today. ESPN invited Fabio Viviani, star of television’s “Top Chef,” to visit for the opening and interact with employees. He also met SportsCenter anchor Jaymee Sire, a noted “foodie” herself.

Front Row recently spoke with Viviani to learn more about his passion for food, his favorite ESPN talents and why he was looking forward to visiting ESPN.

What was it about coming to ESPN headquarters to help open our new cafeteria that most appealed to you?
I’m not the best athlete but I’m a hardcore ESPN fan. For me, getting to be there and meet and interact with your employees is something pretty cool. I come from Italy. Eight years ago, I didn’t speak a word of English so for me, being involved with the company somehow or anything affiliated with it, is a goal I can check off my bucket list.

If you could have a cook-off with any of our ESPN talent, who would you like to compete against and why?
I’m going with two people who are phenomenal entertainers as well as personal favorites. One is [ESPN college football analyst] Desmond Howard. I met him in Miami and he attended a cooking class of mine. He’s a foodie and a great guy. I’d love to see him again and cook a meal with him. The other one, since I’m a big fan of soccer, is [ESPN analyst] Steve McManaman. Steve was one of my favorites playing for Real Madrid and Manchester City. To shake his hand and have a meal with him would be another thing to check off my bucket list.

If you were going to host a cooking show on ESPN, what would you call it and what would be the premise?
That actually would be a good series. I would be the host of it and the premise would be to have the biggest and best athletes try not to crack under the pressure of a cooking competition. The show could be called Super Bowl – “bowl” meaning a bowl of food. Athletes would need to cook a full meal in 30 minutes that could be served in one single bowl. That way, you have a full meal that’s easy to eat, in one bowl, while you’re watching a game.

What does it say to you that ESPN made a commitment to build a brand new cafeteria for employees and guests?
Besides showcasing the fact that the company cares very much about the people who work there, ESPN also understands that if people are not feeding themselves well, they are not performing their best. Most athletes use food as fuel to perform better and stay energetic and they know that if you feed your body crap, it doesn’t perform as well as it should. You have a lot of employees responsible for many different functions and if you want them to perform well from a business standpoint, you’ve got to offer good food options and give them a space to enjoy it. It’s great to see that a company cares so much for its employees to make sure they are fueling their bodies to do their jobs well. Kudos to ESPN!

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