The James Beard Foundation's Best of the Best: Mario Batali Bonus MaterialJBF Editors
January 11, 2012
In spring of 2012, the James Beard Foundation will publish The James Beard Foundation's Best of the Best: A 25th Anniversary Celebration of America's Outstanding Chefs. This must-have cookbook will feature a delicious, signature recipe from every winner of the Foundation's Outstanding Chef Award, from Wolfgang Puck to Tom Colicchio. When we went to press, space required that we omit some surplus essays and recipes. During the weeks leading up to the book's release, we'll be sharing this bonus content with our readers. Think of it as an appetizer. This first installment spotlights Mario Batali, who won the JBF Outstanding Chef Award in 2005. Read on to learn about his favorite spot for a family escape and his charity work.
For someone enthralled by his professional life, surprisingly, Mario Batali is a devoted family man. He and Susi Cahn, his wife, divide time between homes in Greenwich Village and Northern Michigan. Susi’s family founded Coach Dairy Goat Farm in the Hudson Valley, where award-winning, authentic, artisanal goat cheeses, and other fine products for the Batali empire are produced. “Michigan is an escape for us after being in the city. It’s small town America, where we can ride bikes, grill outdoors, then swim in the lake out to the raft and swim back." No matter what, the kids and family are first in Mario's calendar, followed by business, then everything else. “You have to figure out the priority. You do what you’ve got to do, and if you like work more than your family then you should spend more time with your work. You should strive to find happiness that makes you feel that you’re giving to all of the components of your life in proportion to what they’re giving back to you,” he professes. “My true dream, as a father is being able to spend time with my wife and children. It makes me wonder why I would spend time with anyone else.” When Batali considers retirement, it’s a hazy, faraway vision of coaching his son's basketball teams and raising organic poultry. In the meantime, he promises to keep on building restaurants and feeding people. While Batali, as most top chefs, often demonstrates his cooking vibes for various charities, he also played guitar with eighth blackbird, the Grammy-winning, Chicago-based classical sextet for their world-premiere benefit of the album "Learn to Crawl." The peripatetic chef’s travels take him from the White House to around the world, supporting causes important to professional and personal involvement benefitting his culinary community and healthy lifestyles. Invited to harvest White House cauliflower from the culinary kitchen garden, First Lady Michele Obama greeted Batali wearing a bright orange dress the same shade as his orange Crocs, either a serendipitous coincidence, or subtle high five. Appreciating the positive benefits of success, Batali established the Mario Batali Foundation, which supports children’s disease research and programs to improve literacy and eliminate hunger. The foundation is working to create a curriculum to hand out to various educational institutions, boys clubs and girls clubs and organizations that give people a second chance in life. The aim of the project, he says is "not only show people how to live well but how to cook well and easily without having it feel like you’re doing missionary work. We’re trying to bring a simple way for people to get food.” The James Beard Foundation's Best of the Best will be released on March 7, 2012. Preorder your copy here.