Mario Batali Biography

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Birth Name: Mario Batali
Born: 09/19/1960
Birth Place: Seattle, Washington, USA

Mario Francis Batali was born on Sept. 9, 1960 in Seattle, WA. A third-generation Italian-American, he grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but relocated to Spain after his father, a former Boeing engineer, was transferred to Europe. Cooking was always a major part of his heritage; growing up, his mother requested her children prepare one meal a week. His parents were supportive of his passion for cooking, but when it came time to choosing a college major, Batali eschewed culinary school in favor of a traditional college. He attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, studying economics and then Spanish theater. After graduating in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in theater, Batali traveled to London to train at Le Cordon Bleu, but quit the program to become a true chef. Under the tutelage of London's legendary chef Marco Pierre White and with three years of culinary immersion at La Volta, a small trattoria in the tiny Northern Italian village of Borgo Capanne, Batali acquired the skills he needed to seriously make a mark in the American market.

Batali opened Pò restaurant in New York's Greenwich Village in 1993; the restaurant was his first big success. With his charm and "new-old" approach to Italian cuisine, he quickly gained a reputation as one of the city's most exciting young chefs. In 1998, Batali opened his flagship restaurant Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, an acclaimed three-star Italian hotspot also located in Greenwich Village, which featured Batali's sprightly salads, fresh pastas, grilled dishes, and savory ragus. Without missing a beat, the talented chef opened Lupa, a Roman-style trattoria in 1999 and then Esca, a Southern Italian cuisine restaurant. In 2002, Batali won the coveted James Beard Foundation Award for "Best Chef: New York City," a feat that he topped when he was also named "Outstanding Chef of the Year" in 2005 by the same foundation. Batali continued to expand his culinary empire, opening several other New York City establishments - from trendy, downtown eateries like Otto Enoteca Pizzeria located near historic Washington Square Park to the high-end trattoria Del Posto in the Meatpacking district.

Batali, who sported his trademark orange Crocs, khaki shorts, and pony-tailed red-hair in and out of the kitchen, gained even more prominence as host of the Food Network cooking series "Molto Mario," where he taught viewers how to prepare his reinvented versions of classic Italian dishes. After that program wrapped, he starred on the series "Ciao America with Mario Batali," taking his culinary expertise on the road across America and teaching families how to whip up easy Italian dishes. Food Network named Batali Iron Chef in 2005, a title bestowed upon him and a small number of celebrated culinary masters such as Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto. As such, Batali competed in intense battles on the hit show "Iron Chef America: The Series," based on the Japanese cult classic where some of the world's culinary masters go head-to-head with lesser-known chefs and cook multiple dishes using a secret ingredient.

Batali also found success as an author, with many of his cookbooks such as Simple Italian Food (1998), The Babbo Cookbook (2002), and Molto Gusto (2010) considered definite guides to contemporary Italian cuisine. In the fall of 2008, after leaving Food Network to set up camp at PBS, Batali co-starred on the documentary series "Spain on the Road Again" (2008-2010) alongside actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Claudia Bassols. At same time, Batali extended his culinary influence toward the glitzy West, opening B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca Pizzeria at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino, and Carnevino Italian at the Palazzo Hotel - all three establishments in Las Vegas. He also dabbled in acting, doing voiceover work in director Wes Anderson's animated film "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009) and enjoyed a cameo in the thriller "Bitter Feast" (2010). Batali was then announced as one of the four co-hosts of a new daily food and cooking show, joining fellow "Iron Chef America" alum Michael Symon, "Top Chef" fan favorite Carla Hall, lifestyle expert Clinton Kelly and nutrition expert Daphne Oz on "The Chew" (ABC 2011- ). As the show progressed, Batali fell into the role of the unpretentious older chef with an occasional curmudgeonly edge but an antic and slightly wicked sense of humor.