& Fortune: TV chef Mario Batali
Business grad swapped
portfolio theory for pasta
Celebrity chef Mario Batali loves Italian cooking,
and it shows.
With his flaming red ponytail,
shorts-for-all-seasons and trademark orange garden clogs, the lively, rotund host
of the Food Network's "Molto Mario" and "Ciao America" brings an operatic flair
to everything he does, whether he's whipping up a frenzied Tuscan fantasy against
the clock on "Iron Chef America," dry-rubbing a rack of ribs for a NASCAR tailgating
party or touring to promote one of his six best-selling cookbooks.
Batali comes by his theatricality naturally. A native
of Seattle, Batali attended high school in Madrid, Spain, and studied
the golden age of Spanish theater at Rutgers University. Following
graduation, he briefly attended the famed Le Cordon Bleu in London,
hated it, and instead embarked on an apprenticeship that included
the Four Seasons in San Francisco and three years of intensive study
in the tiny Italian village of Borgo Capanne under legendary chef
Marco Pierre White.
Passionate about pasta, Batali returned to New York City and turned up
the heat on the foodie circuit by opening a string of wildly successful restaurants
-- including his Greenwich Village flagship Babbo -- Po, Lupa, Esca and his new
baby, Del Posto.
The Food Network was quick to tap Batali, whose larger-than-life persona
is matched only by his dedication to the history and science of great cuisine.
Where other TV chefs strive to entertain, Batali seeks to educate his audience;
little wonder many of his fans are chefs themselves.
Batali's star continues to rise. Last year, the James Beard Foundation
named him "Best Chef in America." This year, he's expanding
his $65 million restaurant empire beyond the boroughs with the opening
of Del Latte on Los Angeles' chic Melrose Avenue and two eateries
at The Venetian in Las Vegas. When he's home, he helps wife Susi
Cahn of Coach Dairy Goat Farm raise their two sons Benno and Leo.
Hard to believe this superchef once had his heart set on a career
in banking. That's just one of the surprises Batali shared with
Did you start out in restaurant work in high school?
No, my first job was in college. I went to high school in Madrid, Spain, so there
was no opportunity for employment, which was nice. I got my college degree in
you envision a life in the arts or academics?
What I really wanted was to be a wealthy banker based in Spain. I had fallen in
love with the expat lifestyle because my father worked for Boeing and we moved
over there. I thought I could go into banking and go back to Spain and live for
a long time, that was kind of the angle I was going to use.