Two key precepts have helped Batali thrive. The first: "I can tell inside five minutes of an interview if this is a person I want to hire," says Batali, who adds that he pays little attention to résumés. "I can train a person to make a good pasta sauce. What I cannot train a person to have is energy and a spark in their eyes. When I see that, I know this is somebody I want on my team."

The other Batali lesson: No matter how big you get, never shy away from grunt work. "When I'm in one of my restaurants and I see a piece of paper or a napkin on the floor, I pick it up. If I stepped over that piece of paper I'd be an idiot. My managers would see me walk by the trash, and they'd start doing the same. Who'd be left to pick it up?"

Go For It!
People thought he was nuts, simple as that.

New York chef Bobby Flay had been asked to compete on "Iron Chef," a hit Japanese TV show where chefs compete in a 60-minute cook-off, while announcers offer commentary as though it were a boxing match. Flay - who owns two successful restaurants in Manhattan, Mesa Grill and Bolo - accepted the challenge.

What about the risk of facing the home team, "Iron Chef Japanese" Masaharu Morimoto (who now owns Morimoto, Philadelphia's trendiest table)? Says Flay: "The worst that could happen is that I'd lose."