Mario Batali Is 'Done' With New York—And Conventional TV

The celebrity chef emphasized his love for Northern Michigan in his first video cooking class.

Mario Batali returned to the small screen this weekend—the laptop screen—in the form of an online cooking class series called Molto a Casa. But the celebrity chef, who has faced numerous legal issues throughout the past five years, has made it clear there's one place he won't be returning to.

The subject came up Friday during the first of three broadcasts, for which participants (including me) paid $50 for one session or $150 for the trio, and received recipes to prepare along with Batali's instructions.

After walking students through two pasta recipes from his home in Northport, Michigan, north of Traverse City, Batali took questions over Zoom. One participant asked if Batali will "do live cooking demos back at Eataly in New York City," the Italian marketplace in which Batali once held a minority stake. He was bought out in 2019, two years after allegations of sexual misconduct first surfaced.

"Me and New York, we have parted ways," Batali declared. "Done. It was a great town, it worked for me for the longest time. But now I live in Northern Michigan, in a tiny little town of 600 people, with a community of magnificent, like-minded creatives."

"So New York?" Batali continued. "There's a lot of great people. I love most of them. But there's enough assholes in New York City that I'm done with that town. And I wish everyone the best there."

Batali appeared to show no hard feelings for his former New York venture. Earlier in the program, he recommended Eataly's online site to one viewer who asked for a source for guanciale, or pork jowl.

"I still love everybody and everything about the Eataly group," Batali said.

During the cooking session, a viewer asked which wine was Batali's favorite. He disclosed that he now lives a sober lifestyle. "I don't drink any more, but when I did, what was most important to me" was to match the food to the region where it originated, he said.

His son Leo now lives in his New York home, where his cellar is located, Batali added, saying it contained Italian wines including Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello, plus Chianti.

Asked if he planned more virtual classes, Batali answered, "Well, hell, yeah!" He promoted the classes he held on Saturday and Sunday. "And provided that everyone thinks this is a pretty good idea, we're going to continue doing this for a long time," he said.

Batali suggested he might move the classes to a weekend time slot later in the afternoon, so participants can cook along and then eat the dishes for supper.

Asked if he would consider launching a reincarnation of his Food Network show Molto Mario, which aired from 1996 through 2010, he replied, "This is it. This is where we're going to be."

No one asked any questions related to the legal issues Batali has faced since 2017, and Batali himself only obliquely referenced his past troubles during the session. After advising his viewers to stock their pantry with top ingredients and to make friends with butchers, fishmongers, and vegetable sellers, he said, "Above all, smile. Smile at people. Smile at everyone and be friendly."

Said Batali, "It's a dark time, including the adversity of tricky situations in life. Smile at all of them. Joy is within reach, and nothing is insurmountable."

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