Mario Batali is a rock star in the world of food. In his iconic orange Crocs and shorts (no matter what
the weather), Batali puts his unique spin on regional Italian food for a smorgasbord of cookbooks, restaurants, television shows (including Iron Chef America
), and specials. He has legions of adoring foodie fans (indeed, at this year’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, where he was one of the headliners, we half expected the crowd at his seminars to flick their lighters or flash their cell-phone screens after he plated his last dish). But he’s also a celebrity
chef, meaning that even those who can’t boil water know who he is.
Now that Batali is managing 14 restaurants around the world, including his flagship Babbo in New York City, he’s on the road much more, spending three days a month in Las Vegas and Los Angeles and visiting Singapore quarterly. When he’s not traveling, he and his wife and two sons split their time between New York City and Northern Michigan. We caught up with the chef after the Classic in Aspen to find out how this famous foodie travels. — Lori StacyFAVORITE FOODIE CITIES:
New Orleans, London, Barcelona, Bologna [Italy], and New York CityUNDISCOVERED GEMS:
I love the cooking on the island of Mallorca and am a big fan of all food at the hawker stands in Singapore.FAVORITE ON-THE-ROAD RESTAURANTS:
St. John in London, Cal Pep and Inopia in Barcelona, anything José Andrés does in Washington and L.A., Salumi in Seattle, Big Star in Chicago, Osteria Giusti in Modena [Italy], and Diana and Battibecco in BolognaFOODIE FINDS:
I am most interested in geospecific specialties, like sea urchins in Santa Barbara, whitefish near Lake Michigan, cherries on the Leelanau Peninsula [in Michigan], shrimp and oysters in South Carolina, baby eels in Barcelona, and duck products and foie gras in Alsace.WHERE I GO TO UNWIND AND RELAX:
To our house on Lake Michigan, north of Traverse City, or anywhere in Italia
with the family.GOOD DEEDS:
My charity, the Mario Batali Foundation, focuses on raising funds for children’s-disease research, children’s literacy, and children’s hunger relief. The foundation was developed last year to eradicate issues which I believe are the
most important at this moment. I am also on the boards of both the Emeril Lagasse Foundation and the Food Bank for New York City, both of which do work for kids in need of education and/or food security.UP NEXT:
My partners and I plan on opening up Eataly — a 50,000-square- foot marketplace on Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street in New York City — and I am coming out with an iPhone application [August 2010]. The content includes more than 85 cooking videos — pretty groundbreaking!