Yesterday, we sat down with Mario Batali to discuss his new cookbook, Molto Batali: Simple Family Dinners From My Home to Yours; his new show, The Chew; and his ever-changing role as a food icon. Today, he reveals what he might have done had the whole cooking thing not worked out.
Do you miss cooking in restaurants every day?
In 1993, I was the only cook in my restaurant and there was a dishwasher and there were waiters and a front-of-the-house guy. Now, although I don’t really cook in the restaurants, I can go in there and cook whenever I want. But I’m not responsible for breaking down a station or even setting it up. Now, my job is really to enthuse the staff so that they become better at what they’re doing, thus making us better. They have to come to their own flower. And my job is to remove the obstacles to making them great. In our team, that’s easy to do. We celebrate individuality.
Is it important to you that your staff members go on to do their own projects?
I’m totally satisfied when they go off and open their own restaurants and become famous and rich all by themselves. I love that. I mean, my children are 13 and 15. We were at a Roots concert the other day and my kids were experimenting with dance. They’ve always done dance but not with other people, like, at a concert. So, I’m watching my kids and there’s other kids ahead of them that are a little bit older and they’re going like this [does a dance move]. Then, my kids start going like this [repeats the move]. There’s incredible satisfaction watching them pick it up. It’s the same with cooks when they go their own way.
Do you find that you’re mellowing out as you get older?
Oh, I don’t think I’m mellowing out. Mellow. Yeah, I’ve always been “mellowed out.” I get a little excited now and then, but I get just as excited about ramps as I do about pork chops as I do about an R.E.M. song. It’s the same level of excitement for me.
What are some of your guilty pleasures?
Well, as is quite obvious, there is no guilt in my pleasure. That said, if I’m choosing weird, offbeat snacks, I would say, I really like Doritos. Not just tortilla chips. I like Doritos. They’re really good. And I’m a big fan of ice cream. I don’t eat a lot of it, but when I eat really good ice cream, I really enjoy it. Even Late Night Snack With Jimmy Fallon. It’s delicious. My kids go crazy for it. What I really like to do is take a nice scoop of sorbet and some nice vanilla ice cream and I create an inner-mouth Creamsicle. I loved Creamsicles growing up. I was never the Fudgesicle guy.
What do you think you would have been if not a chef?
I desperately wanted to be a marine biologist until I found out how difficult organic chemistry was. So, I imagine that had I been somehow involved in water, I probably would have become a pool boy in Malibu. And I would’ve had the cleanest little drains, trust me.