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Fame & Fortune: TV chef Mario Batali

Business grad swapped portfolio theory for pasta
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Bankrate: What is it like to compete on "Iron Chef?"

Batali: It's real! (laughs) You really do not want to lose, you really don't know the secret ingredient and you really could lose at any given minute. But it's fun. I love it. The audience demographic is much different than my traditional cooking show. At this point now, I see a lot of 14- to 20-year-old kids who come up to me and give me kind of a half-bow at the waist and say, "Iron Chef Batali." It's pretty funny.

Bankrate: Do the other chefs intimidate you?

Batali: Oh, every one of those guys is as good a cook if not better than me. I'm a fan of most of the people I compete with. When I'm working, I'm not really thinking about what they're doing at all. I'm just focusing on trying to get the food done. I have no idea what's happening on the other side.

Bankrate: How have you managed your money?

Batali: Most of the money I make we reinvest into our restaurants. I started with Po in 1993 which we opened for $45,000 and the last one we opened was Del Posto, which cost $10 million. So you buy and you reinvest and you take the profits and you invest them. I don't have a huge portfolio of holdings other than the investments in the restaurants I've made and property I've bought along the way. We bought 150 acres in Tuscany, a vacation house in Michigan, and we try to own as much of our restaurant real estate as we can get our hands on. We haven't yet harvested anything. We're still planting.

Bankrate: Will you continue with your Food Network shows?

Batali: I'm not sure. Right now, I'm just doing "Iron Chef." I'm not sure if The Food Network and I are necessarily eye-to-eye on what I can do. They have become far more interested in the entertainment value of their programming, and that's not something that intrigues me. I like the study and understanding of basic cooking, and tradition and family and the reasons that people do get together to eat.

Bankrate: Where would you like to be 20 years from now? Sitting in a villa in Tuscany sipping wine from your own vineyard?

Batali: I hope so. I like the idea of having four houses for four seasons, and you travel to each one and bring all your friends and family and have a really nice time. Enjoy the summer in Michigan, the autumn in Tuscany and so on.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: Dec. 12, 2006
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