Legendary butcher Dario Cecchini nearly stole the Top Chef finale with his passion, emotions, and joy.
Between the crowning of a new Top Chef champion and the magnificent Tuscan setting, one would think that the season 17 finale needed little more to sate viewers’ appetites. One would be wrong, as a guest at the final meal nearly stole the show in the best possible way.
I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that 8th generation butcher Dario Cecchini is a national treasure in Italy. And if that’s too great a leap for some, then it’d definitely be safe calling him royalty in his native Tuscany.
For the second consecutive season, Dario’s zeal was on full display on Top Chef. Whether effusively chanting “Carne! Carne!” while demonstrating his art during his season 16 appearance in Kentucky or shedding tears of elation upon eating Melissa’s interpretation of tiramisu during season 17’s finale, the magnetic butcher’s rhapsodic visits were memorable.
Not only is Dario Cecchini a pleasure to watch, but his larger-than-life personality actually compelled me to reach out to him. Referring to his work as art is no accident, but I quickly learned that referring to him as a poet would be equally as accurate. His words flow like the Arno through Tuscany.
Dario on Melissa’s tiramisu and the reaction in him that it sparked…
“Melissa’s tiramisu was a perfect combination of the Chinese and Italian culinary cultures, a meeting between East and West whose fusion gave birth to something that is even more wonderful than traditional tiramisu, which I love. When I tasted it, I was moved not only by its incomparable flavor, but also because it made me think about the history of the world and how the contamination of cultures, especially due to human emigrations, in which unfortunately many people today see a problem and have fear, is actually a great opportunity that for centuries and centuries has allowed us to develop as a civilization, always creating more complex, unique, and tasty things, just like Melissa’s tiramisu.”
Dario on his Top Chef appearance in Kentucky followed by the show bringing its finale to Tuscany…
“In the previous season of Top Chef, I was a guest for an episode in Louisville, Kentucky. Getting there from my small town of Panzano in Chianti was a long journey, but I felt very proud to have the opportunity to represent “my” Tuscany in front of such an illustrious audience. The fact that the following year it was Top Chef who came to Tuscany makes me very happy because I know that this show, by virtue of its authority for everything related to the world of food, will inspire many people to visit this beautiful region. I really appreciated how they showed a different aspect of Tuscany, showing everything from the high misty hills to the daily market for a large part of the people of the city of Florence. For me Tuscany is like paradise on earth, it is everything, the birthplace of the Renaissance, mother of the contemporary concept of romance, beauty, and good food.”
Dario on the accomplished chefs’ rapt attention to his butchering demonstration during season 16 in Kentucky…
“As an artisan, my roots are deep in the Renaissance culture, according to which the greatest wealth was not to become rich and live in luxury but to have a deep knowledge and a great love for the art that is one’s profession, be that of a sculptor or an embroiderer, a butcher, or a cook. I was very pleased to find this ancient spirit, this respect for work in the chefs I met during the previous season who, even though already successful showed great humility, the ability to listen, and the determination and desire to continue learning.”
Dario on Phil Rosenthal saying “that’s as perfect a bite of meat as I’ve ever had in my whole life” upon eating his food on the Italy episode of “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having”…
“Phil is a friend and one should always be wary of friends’ judgments precisely because they are made from the heart, but Phil is an expert in the culinary field, so I trust him and accept his great compliment. Cooking for him and his family, along with Nancy Silverton was an unforgettable moment.”
Dario on what makes Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, and his hometown of Panzano so unique and special…
“I might be biased, but I think Italy is the spiritual center of the world for poetry, art, and everything related to beauty. Tuscany is at the center of Italy and at its center is the Chianti area, whose geographical center is Panzano, a small village of a little more than a thousand souls, placed on a hilltop at 500m, surrounded by a sea of vineyards and olive groves.
The Cecchini family butcher shop, which has been in business for 8 generations is located in the center of Panzano, and in the center of the shop is the butcher’s block–so the butcher’s block must be the center of the world!
As such, it attracts everything around it. As a matter of fact, great numbers of wandering creative spirits come together in Panzano in search of a place to nurture their imagination: painters, sculptors, performance artists as well as young entrepreneurs, winemakers, architects, and many more.
Even the air is different in this magical, historical place, which is blessed with a serenity and open-mindedness not common to most of the other remote villages of Italy, and is deeply linked to its traditions, but with an eye to the future.”
I couldn’t have said any of this better myself. Seriously, I couldn’t. What might sound like nothing more than flowery prose coming from some people rings true when springing joyfully from Dario Cecchini, a true Renaissance man.
Dario Cecchini is one of Top Chef’s most popular guests. What other guests have you enjoyed on the show?