& Fortune: TV chef Mario BataliBusiness grad swapped
portfolio theory for pasta
Bankrate: So you were
a money guy, interested in working in money?
Yeah, I was! I also got a degree in business administration, portfolio theory.
Bankrate: Were you even remotely
interested in cooking at the time?
Not a chance. I was really excited about returning to America and going to a full-on
four-year university, and I'm really glad I did. Even for cooks, to this day when
people ask me what to do, I say get yourself an excellent liberal arts education
and then learn how to cook and you'll be a much better person for it.
The business background must have helped you put together your restaurants and
Batali: Oh, absolutely.
But I would say there is very little in my macroeconomics classes that I apply
to anything that I do in real life. I've never found a marginal revenue curve
in any of my operations!
So how did the cooking factor in?
Batali: Well, it's something
that's really fun to do and it's also immediately satisfying. There
are no long-term projects -- other than curing your own meats and
making wine. You know, within about an hour, whether the customer
or person you were feeding was particularly appreciative of it or
And you can at least feed yourself during the so-called salad years.
Exactly. It beats all the other jobs because you're always going to eat something
good. The family meals are always pretty darn tasty.
Were you immediately drawn to Italian cuisine because of your heritage?
Absolutely. My grandma, my uncles, my aunts, we all ate either Italian or West
Coast food all of my life. Everybody that I knew growing up, my parents, my brother,
my sister, was interested and involved in cooking every day.
You actually spent a few years cooking in an Italian village, right?
Yes. It was the best experience of my life. I was 28. I'd already been
the highest paid sous-chef for the Four Seasons at that time in California. I
worked at The Clift in San Francisco and The Biltmore in Santa Barbara, two great
Bankrate: Did you have
your sights set on becoming a celebrity chef?
Batali: Never. I kind
of fell into it. There had been Graham Kerr, Julia Child, Jacques
Pepin and Martin Yan, and then The Food Network kind of invented
itself in the early 1990s and Emeril Lagasse became the king and
everyone else kind of followed the lead and now there's a lot. It's