So how does a kid who grew up speaking Italian in the inner Northern Suburbs of Melbourne become a host on one of the most iconic television brands in the world; travel the globe as the preferred advanced driving instructor for a whole host of prestigious car brands; provide advice and opinion as the expert motoring journalist for the likes of radio station 3AW and Motor magazine; not to mention throwing his leg over an expensive carbon bicycle often enough to call himself an ‘alright’ cyclist? He asks himself the same question every day, but when you look at his story to date, none of it is any great surprise.
Steve was born in Melbourne to Italian parents in 1974 and grew up on a healthy diet of traditional Italian food. At school, Steve remembers being the only kid without vegemite sandwiches in his lunch box (it was olives, prosciutto and a short black for this kid!). As a result, he was the target of plenty of ridicule and quickly developed a thick skin along a penchant for quick come-backs - something he would find quite useful later in life as a host of Top Gear Australia.
Steve also showed a great interest in all things automotive from an early age. He attributes his fascination with motorsport to a single, spell-binding moment: Watching the great Ayrton Senna qualify for the 1985 Australian Grand Prix. The seed for speed was sown much earlier though, when Steve managed to drive his Dad’s MG out of the driveway and across the road when he was just three years old. Ok, he stopped by crashing into a fence, but that’s a perfectly acceptable driving outcome when your legs aren’t long enough to reach the end of the seat, let alone the brake pedal. That experience was enough to get him hooked on driving and luckily for him (and his students), his skill has improved a little since then.
Steve is now a sought-after advanced driving instructor for the likes of Porsche and Audi, charged with the task of training their VIP customers around the world in the art of car control and performance driving with audiences ranging from ten to one-thousand. He initially honed these skills during his first ‘real job’ as a pizza delivery driver for a restaurant in Melbourne’s hub for all-things Italian, Lygon Street. Steve’s job was to make sure that the pizzas were as hot when they were delivered as they were when they came out of the oven, which necessitated a ‘swift’ on-road performance in his first car, a Ford Cortina.
Steve’s introduction to journalism also began early. Upon starting school, he couldn’t actually speak English. Like the food factor, it had been Italian all the way until primary school, but boy could he speak. (His current record is around 278 words per minute). Steve discovered that he could combine his love of driving with his love of talking while getting paid for it, which in a nutshell explains the journalism link.
Although in an already envious job, whizzing around the world driving fast cars and performing in front of large audiences (one memorable trip had Steve perform a ‘car-ballet’ for a Jamiroquoi concert in Korea!), 2008 saw Steve selected from over 4,000 applicants to be a host on the worldwide ratings hit, Top Gear. The franchise’s Australian incarnation first went to air in 2008 and with two series already under his belt, Steve is currently in pre-production for the third series of Top Gear Australia, which will air on the Nine Network in the final quarter of 2010.
After quickly endearing himself to Australian audiences, Steve was also selected to join the hosts of the original show, Top Gear UK’s Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, to host the Australian performances of the wildly successful Top Gear Live stage show in front of a combined audience of almost 100,000 people.
Steve’s not a man to use words sparingly, but when given an allocation of nine and asked to describe himself, Steve says:
“Eat + sleep + incessant travel + seriously cool driving = my life.”
He also admits to constantly trying to remove the first three parts of the equation.