Conversation with Mario Batali and David Kamp

Tuesday night, I got to see Mario (big, orange, and furry) chat with David Kamp (author of The United States of Arugula) about their former status as ex-lovers, Alice Waters, and why Food Network sucks.

Kamp has known Batali for about nine years, but their relationship, however indirect, runs deeper than that. Kamp used to go to this neighborhood restaurant, Stuff-Yer-Face, in Jersey where Batali was one of the cooks, specializing in stromboli techniques. Kamp quipped that Mario was his ex-lover, and this joke kept surfacing every now and then for a quick, gratifying laugh for both men.

Mario discussed his disappointment with Food Network's decision to go with shows that create quickie meals and transform store-bought goods into something semi-homemade (cough sandra lee cough). I think they cancelled Molto Mario (I don't know why, that show is awesome!), but of course, there is Iron Chef America, which rocks. He kept mentioning that he's more interested in the process than the end product(take that Rachael Ray) and that his shows were about teaching people what he knows.

Kamp agreed with Mario and also brought up Bobby Flay (who I dislike b/c of his arrogance and disregard for clean kitchen counters) as someone who's image is distorted by television. FoodNetwork portrays him as their go-to "grill guy," but Kamp seems to think there's more to him then meets the eye. Okay fine, since I think Kamp's cool, I'll give Bobby Flay the benefit of the doubt.

Mario grew up in Seattle and Spain, and went to Rutgers. His parents actually encouraged him to go culinary school instead of college, but he chose to get his bachelor's in Spanish theater (very useful, as he noted). He mentioned that he thought everyone should attend college b/c it teaches you how to make friends and interact well with others. hahaha. Oh, let's discuss his lovely outfit. If you've ever seen pictures or read about Batali, you probably know he wears those hot orange clog thingys that have huge holes poked through the top. This time, he was wearing them with these pale pink socks that were scrunched down a bit, with shorts.

Since I went into Mario's, let's also briefly go into Kamp's interesting attire, as well. He was wearing this dark forest green suit with long pointy shoes and funny striped green socks. At certain angles, he resembles Chandler Bing aka Matthew Perry. Longish wavy hair swept back in this older hipster look.

Both of the men were really witty and hilarious. They were so awesome, I wish they could be my uncles. How cool would it be if Mario Batali was your uncle? He's really down-to-earth, warm and friendly. He referred to this one blogger who rags on him all the time, and he reads her page whenever he needs to be taken down a notch. He did make sure to check if she was in the audience, saying, b/c if she is I'm gonna take her out. hahaha.

If anyone wants to know, his favorite place to go in the city besides his own places, is Pearl Oyster Bar, which is right across the street from Po, one of his first restaurants.

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