The product of an Italian-American family tradition that had him pickling vegetables, putting up jams and making sausages from a very young age, Mario Batali found his passion for food constantly reinforced. After his graduation from Rutgers University, he spent six months in the business world before returning to cooking, his true calling.
A brief, unfulfilling stint at Le Cordon Bleu in London was followed by apprenticeships in London and France. He spent three and a half years in Borgo Capanne, a tiny hill town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, cooking with and learning from his Italian host family in their trattoria. Batali then returned to the United States, moved to New York City and opened his first restaurant.
The James Beard Foundation presented Batali with the Best Chef: New York City award in 2002. He is the host of a long-running TV Food Network series, "Molto Mario," and he also starred in the travel series, "Mario Eats Italy."
The flagship of Batali's restaurant empire is Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, which was voted Best New Restaurant for 1998 by the James Beard Foundation. Batali also owns Lupa, a Roman-style osteria, Esca, a southern Italian seafood restaurant, and Italian Wine Merchants, a retail wine store. A fourth restaurant, Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, will open in October 2002.
In his spare time, Batali is a lobbyist for the Coalition of Short Pants Manufacturers, and he is working with the New York City schools to introduce more pork fat (or prosciutto bianco, the preferred moniker) into school lunches.
Batali lives in New York City with his wife, Susi Cahn, and their two sons.
NOTE: This bio appeared in the May 1, 2003 program for our "Forum Food Fest" Forum.
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