Mario Batali Disusses His New Cookbook, His Potty Mouth and Would Like to Remind You That He Did Not Kill Erica Kane
Melanie Dunea Pam Molto Mario
Mario Batali, with his orange Crocs and even more colorful language, can be a polarizing figure. Love him or loathe him, he is one of the city's -- and, therefore, the country's -- greatest chefs. His new cookbook, Molto Batali: Simple Family Dinners From My Home to Yours, out today, features seasonal recipes for all 12 months of the year. As part of the launch, he has pledged to match $100,000 in donations to his Mario Batali Foundation.
What was the idea behind this new cookbook?
It's about family meals. It's the first book that I've ever tied to my foundation. The Mario Batali Foundation was created to battle the obstacles children face in reaching their greatness on three fronts: hunger relief, research into children's diseases, and literacy. If you buy this book, there's a little sticker on it that says, if you're so inclined, you can donate to the foundation and I'll match it up to $100,000. It's a nice way to be part of the game.
Do you consider yourself a big believer in family meals?
Of course. And that's why it's different than all of my other books. The format in the recipes is eight to 12 people, not two. You can easily cut it down to make it for four. In each chapter, you have one giant centerpiece, a main course -- meat, generally, a bird, fish twice -- then, there are three pastas, one soup, five vegetable dishes, and a dessert. You could make it all at once, or you might just make the pasta and one of the side dishes. It's really about entertaining at home. And that is the foundation of the Foundation itself. It's all about family, children, support, confidence ... and deliciousness.
Do you see your role as a food icon changing, especially with your foundation?
A lot of chefs are going to the White House, getting involved in policy. I'm not as into policy. I'm mad at the government, actually. I prefer to help people in my own way.
Would you say you prefer the TV-chef life to the restaurant-chef life?
Do I miss a dirty station I have to clean up when I'm really tired? I don't miss that part. But one of the greatest parts -- the reason I got into the cooking business even when I was in college -- is when you have a task ahead of you and even if you don't love everyone in the room, you come together and you make dinner. You hammer it, you nail it, you do it just right. ... at the end of the day, that kind of satisfaction, where you just sit back and drink a beer and say fuck yeah. That I miss. Then on Friday, you get a paycheck? I miss getting a paycheck. Now I get distributions. Distributions are not like "woo-hoo!" It's more like, "Yeah, whatever, I know it's in there somewhere."
Some people were surprised about you being cast in The Chew because it's unscripted and, well, you have a bit of a potty mouth. Do you edit yourself?
I know how to talk PG. I can talk PG all day. I'm not worried. There's a lot of haters out there that were soap-opera fans. The demise of the soap opera is a big business. It's not my business, but it didn't go the way they wanted and they're not happy with me. I'm perceived as having chopped off Erica Kane's head and kicking her body around the block. The Chew is a new kind of programming. I find it fascinating how big networks function. I asked, "Can I get a list of all the employees on this show so I can memorize their names?" and they emailed me a document with 290 names. I'm like, "290 NAMES?! Where are they? What are they doing?" They're everywhere. It's an amazing thing. I'm having a blast.