Mario Francesco Batali was born in 1960 in Seattle and spent his high school years studying in Madrid before attending Rutgers University. He threw himself headfirst into the culinary world after college, and before long he was head chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, and soon after that he opened his first restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village, Po, got his own show on the newly-created Food Network, Molto Mario, and found himself launched into culinary superstardom. Even if you’ve watched all his shows and eaten at all his restaurants, we bet that there are still some things you didn’t know about this legendary chef. Here are six.
He Studied Spanish Theater and Business Management
At Rutgers, Batali worked at a local pizzeria called Stuff Yer Face, but from an educational standpoint, he didn’t have any official culinary training until heading to Le Cordon Bleu after graduation.
He’s Against Fracking
In 2013, Batali teamed with chef Bill Telepan to write an op-ed for The Daily News against hydraulic fracturing, saying that “Fracking ... could do serious damage to [New York's] agricultural industry and hurt businesses, like ours, that rely on safe, healthy, locally sourced foods.”
He Practices Transcendental Meditation
Batali is a big supporter of the David Lynch Foundation, which supports the practice of transcendental meditation.
He Flubbed His First On-Air Line
According to From Scratch: The Uncensored History of the Food Network, Batali’s first line uttered on television (on Chef du Jour) was “I’m Mario Batali, chef and co-owner of Po Restaurant, and Italian village.” In one of the early episodes of Molto Mario, he badly cut himself and submerged his hand in a bowl of crushed tomatoes until it was time for a commercial break.
Molto Mario was Groundbreaking
Batali spent years traveling through Italy and cooking in small villages, soaking up regional cuisine and traditional Italian fare unheard of in the United States. He used Molto Mario as a platform to spread the gospel, instructing viewers on everything from European history to Italian language lessons, often focusing on the cuisine of one specific region and delving into each dish’s backstory. Without Batali, far more people would still think that the height of Italian cooking is spaghetti and meatballs.
He’ll Never Run Out of Clogs
Those orange clogs have been Batali’s trademark footwear since he first opened Po, but last year the manufacturer, Crocs, decided to discontinue that color. So what did Batali do? He bought 200 pairs of them, to make sure that he never ran out.