Chef Fabio Viviani with Nick and Ryan, who had just given him a Cancer Stinks teddy bear. Credits: Guy Kass
Nick and Ryan making Green Eggs and Ham with Chef Viviani. Credits: Guy Kass
Nick and Ryan work on making the eggs while Chef Viviani supervises. Credits: Guy Kass
Chef Viviani jokes around with the boys while they're cooking breakfast. Credits: Guy Kass
Ryan and Nick with Chef Viviani Credits: Guy Kass
Berkeley Heights Brothers Become Sous Chefs for 'Top Chef' Favorite Viviani as Part of Children's Hospital Anniversary Celebration
Friday, October 26, 2012 • 7:18am
MORRISTOWN, NJ – Nicholas and Ryan Tarabokia are businessmen, motivational speakers, and now they can add “professional sous chefs” to their resume. More impressive still? Nick is 10, Ryan is 7.
The brothers, residents of Berkeley Heights, cooked Thursday morning with Chef Fabio Viviani, contestant on season five of “Top Chef,” where he was voted fan favorite, and now on Bravo’s “Life After Top Chef.” He also does commercials for Domino’s artisan pizza. But on Thursday morning, he was being upstaged by two smiling little boys who helped crack eggs and puree basil for “Green Eggs and Ham.”
Viviani and the Tarabokia brothers were the featured speakers during the 10th anniversary celebration of Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown. Nick was diagnosed with cancer when he was three, and after more than four years of treatment, was sick and tired of being sick and tired. He sat down with a piece of paper, wrote the word “cancer” on it, then asked his mother how to spell “stinks.” He added a flower, and “Cancer Stinks” was born.
Now cancer-free, Nick, with Ryan beside him, visits other cancer-stricken children in hospitals to give them a pep talk, and take them a box of goodies he says makes them feel more at home. The box includes a teddy bear in a Cancer Stinks t-shirt, a nightlight, a picture frame so they can keep photos of their loved ones nearby, and a letter from Nick that tells them not only that he understands how they feel, but that he’s pulling for them.
Cancer Stinks has evolved into a foundation, which the Tarabokias run out of their Berkeley Heights home. Nick is the president and CEO, and Ryan is the vice president.
“They run it,” mom Amy said. “I work for them.”
Meanwhile, the boys and Viviani were on a raised platform in front of the room, preparing to whip up Green Eggs and Ham.
“I am confused about Dr. Seuss,” said Viviani, who was born and raised in Italy. “Is Dr. Seuss a person, or is Dr. Seuss the cat with the hat?”
Reassured that he had it right and that Dr. Seuss was the writer and the Cat in the Hat one of his most popular characters, Viviani got to work on the breakfast, while telling the audience about his committment to healthy food for kids, and his website, www.kidshealthcafe.com.
“Can you crack eggs?” he asked Nick.
“I think so,” Nick responded.
“What do you mean, you think so?” Viviani teased him “You’re the CEO! Say it like a CEO!”
Nick responded that he could indeed crack eggs and got busy putting four of them into the blender.
“Yesterday I rang the bell at the close of NASDAQ, but being here is a bigger honor for me,” Viviani said, wearing a Cancer Stinks t-shirt over his sweater.
“Grab some basil,” Viviani instructed Ryan. “Basil is aromatic, and very Italian.”
While the boys worked, Viviani gave the parents who were watching a couple of quick tips on getting more green vegetables into their picky eaters. The first is to blend fresh spinach, a little honey and two heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder and make lollipops. He said the cocoa taste is strong enough to mask the spinach. He also suggested pureeing an avocado with lemon juice, a little brown sugar and some cocoa powder to make a chocolate mousse that kids love.
When the egg mixture was ready, Viviani showed the boys how to pour it into the skillet and how to stir it with a spatula around the edges before adding a little milk to make them fluffy and moist.
When the eggs were ready, Viviani plated them up and added big slices of mozzarella cheese, then sprinkled pancetta over the top.
“This is the Italian answer to bacon,” he said. “It’s what bacon wants to become when it dies and goes to heaven. Tell your mom that bacon is overrated and you need some pancetta around here.”
The Green Eggs and Ham were a hit. Ryan finished his plate and started on his brother’s while Nick was talking about Cancer Stinks, although he paused long enough to protest.
“I wanted to make the boxes to give to other kids who have cancer and are in the hospital so they feel more like they are at home,” Nick explained.
“This is a great event, but this is not a celebration of food,” Viviani said. “It’s a celebration of life. Nick and these other kids have gone through hell to get healthy and stay healthy, and we have to support them. How humbled I am to be here.”
After breakfast, Viviani visited some of the sick kids in the hospital who were unable to come down for the cooking demonstration.
For more information on Cancer Stinks, visit www.cancer-stinks.com.