The 1960s would be a welcome blessing for all newborns. It was the beginning of an era for the new and untried. And for one such future entrepreneur, Mario Batali, the son of French and Italian parents, Marilyn and Armandino, they would be the introduction of a life peppered with fortunate events. Born on September 18, 1960, Mario grew up surrounded by a loving family. His father’s idea of a rainy day event was making 200 pounds of sausages. On other occasions, Mario could be often found watching his grandmother cook and learned as much about the Italian fare from her as he did from his father.
He attended preschool and junior high in Seattle, Washington until Armandino Batali who worked as an engineer at Boeing for 31 years, relocated his family to Spain in 1977. Mario was 17. However he returned to the States three years later and at 22, having attended Rutgers University, graduated with a Bachelors degree in 1982.
He spun pizza bases in tiny restaurants, washed dishes and generally supported himself as he made his way toward his promising future. He later attended Le Cordon Bleu in London where he remained for only a few months. It seemed it did not suit him as his visions became more of a powerful pathway toward something he knew was much bigger. Finally, it was at the Six Bells pub where he took on an apprenticeship with the well known and respected chef, Marco Pierre White. For the following 3 years, Batali learned culinary secrets that would ultimately give his entrepreneurial nature the buoy on which his cuisine focused oceanic mind would surface. As 1985 approached, he became a sous chef at the “Four Seasons Clift” in San Francisco.
With a drive he would always possess, his honed culinary skills were recognised as valuable assets and he was asked to manage the La Marina restaurant in Santa Barbara. But as the youngest chef in the company, although he was paid an enormous salary, his position was stifling. Unable to find liberation to pursue what he innately knew he wanted, he left his job in 1989 to chase another apprenticeship. It was an event meant to punctuate his rise as he trained intensely in the small northern Italian village of Borgo Capanne and it was here he would learn and master the traditional Italian cooking methods at the “La Volta kitchen”.
By 1993 Mario Batali had opened his own restaurant called Po in New York City. It was an instant success. By the time 1998 arrived Batali was opening yet another restaurant with his business partner, Joseph Bastianich. They named it Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca. Manhattan’s, West Village had no idea what had just been launched as the city people were fed there. Shortly after it had been established, it was labelled “Best New Restaurant of 1998” by the James Beard Foundation.
The Food Network show, Molto Mario aired from ’96 until 2004. Thus it was the beginning of an empire as Batali opened another seven establishments throughout New York City. In 1999 he was awarded “Man of the Year” – Chef Category, D’Artagnan Cervena Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America 2001, and was entered into the culinary world’s Hall of Fame and was awarded Best Chef New York in 2002 by the James Beard Foundation. He was half way there.
Unstoppable by now, Batali and Bastianich’s culinary empire began its rapid expansion. With ten restaurants in New York, there were plans for others to follow in Las Vegas. Their sights were on other streets in other countries and whilst his expertise in Italian cooking was being seen all over the globe, Batali was focused on yet more restaurants. Four were later established in Las Vegas as he had foreseen and were duly followed by several more, including in cities like Chicago, states like Missouri, Pennsylvania, and they reached as far as Singapore and Hong Kong.
Mario has authored 11 cookbooks, founded the Mario Batali Foundation that feeds, protects and educates children and remains one of the most recognized and respected chefs throughout the world. And as a side dish, his signature clothing which includes orange Crocs was temporarily in disaster mode when Crocs announced their discontinuation of the orange footwear. Batali immediately set an order for 200 pairs in motion. They were delivered to his home in Greenwich Village where he lives with his wife Susi and their two sons Leo and Benno.
- Main Image: Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash