Thursday, February 22, 2018
Features and More

Orange alert: Mario Batali talks charity and talks trash at Apron's Cooking School in Tampa

TAMPA

He wore his signature orange crocs and signed cookbooks with a bright orange Sharpie. Afterward, Mario Batali whipped through a few recipes for a crowd of 300 at the Pepin Hospitality Centre on Friday night, dropping the f-bomb a couple times along with stories of his grandma's cooking and tips on how to sear a steak to achieve multiple layers of flavor.

Before the sold-out Apron's Cooking School demonstration, the TV chef, owner of 16 restaurants and markets, and author of 10 cookbooks sat down with us for a few minutes, sipping a latte after an afternoon of golfing at TPC Tampa Bay.

I heard you were gearing up to do a golf show. True?

Yes, I'm going to be on Hank Haney's show on the Golf Channel. It's going to be me, Adam Levine (Maroon 5, The Voice), (boxer) Sugar Ray Leonard, and model Angie Everhart. (Former basketball player) Charles Barkley was on it, one of the most beloved figures in sports, and he had a swing like this (Batali stands, demonstrating a duck walk with something like a constipated baseball swing). It's going to be great. We're all average American golfers, around a 15 or 16 handicap. We're going to Cabo next week, and the winner gets $100,000 for their favorite charity.

I imagine that would go to your foundation. Talk a little about what the foundation does.

I started it to lessen the pain of me having to say no to just about everyone who came to me. Every marching band and boys club comes to me for donations. In 2005 I realized I had given away $2 million, but there was no focus to it. The Mario Batali Foundation is for children, with a three-pronged approach: literacy, diseases and hunger relief.

The foundation and the Food Bank of New York have this CookShop program to educate parents and kids about nutrition and getting the best value for their money. Next week, me and my family are going to live on food stamps; that's $124 for the family.

Seems like you have a leg up trying to eat well on that amount.

Yeah, I'm a good cook. Give me a rutabaga and I can make something out of it. But the question is, can you thrive on that amount of money? You can make it through the week, but can you be effective? What would be possible with just 25 percent more? With the food stamp program there should be a point system, the less processed a food is, the less points.

But back to the foundation. We focus on smaller diseases. Not that leukemia isn't worthy, but give your money to a smaller group and $100,000 can really do something, maybe triple a research budget. And with literacy, we just opened our first library in Manhattan. My family and staff go read to the kids. It's a program that allows kids to own their own books. That's important.

You're an avid reader. What are you reading right now?

I think I'm going to have to give up my e-reader. I never remember the name of authors or books with it. But right now I'm reading Adam Gopnick's new book The Table Comes First. It's a really funny one.

Have you spent much time in Florida?

I lived and cooked in Tampa back in 1984. I worked at a place called O'Neill's off of Bayshore. I was just back from Le Cordon Bleu. I loved La Teresita and Ybor City, and you could go to these Clearwater hotels and hear Jimmy Buffett songs. I loved the western Florida vibe, but there wasn't enough going on gastronomically yet.

Do you still think Florida is behind?

I don't think it's behind at all. Floribbean cuisine has this really remarkably different mind-set, like Southern California in the 1970s, it's its own kind of Berkeley. Where else are you going to get grouper? Florida is a place that has such geospecificity in its DNA.

Lara Cerri contributed to this report. Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293.

Comments
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FESTOn Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’s Historic Deuc...
Updated: 5 hours ago
As spring approaches, parties, food festivals bloom at Florida’s theme parks

As spring approaches, parties, food festivals bloom at Florida’s theme parks

Can you feel it? The air is gradually thickening with humidity and the layers of clothes are getting thinner. Spring has almost sprung and with it brings a bumper crop of festivals in Florida’s theme parks full of food, wine, concerts and parades. Th...
Published: 02/21/18
An original clarinet and bassoon composition highlights Tampa Bay Symphony concert

An original clarinet and bassoon composition highlights Tampa Bay Symphony concert

ST. PETERSBURG — After the National Anthem and some introductory remarks by the maestro, a teacher from Chattanooga, Tenn., addressed a crowd at the Palladium Tuesday about the short work they were about to hear from the Tampa Bay Symphony."This piec...
Published: 02/21/18
Clearwater Beach named No. 1 in U.S. by TripAdvisor

Clearwater Beach named No. 1 in U.S. by TripAdvisor

A reigning champion for sand and sunshine, Tampa Bay is once again home to what’s been deemed the best beach in the country. Clearwater Beach was named the best beach in the U.S. for 2018 by the popular travel site TripAdvisor reclaiming the crown tw...
Published: 02/21/18
Evangelist Billy Graham, preacher to presidents, dies at age 99

Evangelist Billy Graham, preacher to presidents, dies at age 99

MONTREAT, N.C. — The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, died Wednesday. He was 99. Graham, who l...
Published: 02/21/18
Orchestra debuts commissioned work, slam poet Neil Hilborn performs in Ybor

Orchestra debuts commissioned work, slam poet Neil Hilborn performs in Ybor

FLORIDA ORCHESTRA: NEW BLOODOne of the more significant Florida Orchestra events of the season, the world premiere of a commissioned piece, is this weekend. The orchestra, with personal financial backing from music director Michael Francis and his wi...
Published: 02/21/18
Explore mayo's upscale friend: aioli

Explore mayo's upscale friend: aioli

Mayonnaise does not have to be pedestrian. Mayonnaise, like life, is what you make of it. The link below is devoted to America’s love-hate relationship with the white stuff in the jar. Yours truly provides a defense for using it as a cooking a...
Published: 02/21/18
In defense of mayonnaise

In defense of mayonnaise

It weighed heavy, spread across my soul like a creamy white burial shroud. I would never admit it, not in a million years. My husband wondered, what was on the chicken? He ate it willingly, then enthusiastically. "I can never tell you." I sat quie...
Published: 02/21/18
Evangelist Billy Graham the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history

Evangelist Billy Graham the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history

Billy Graham, who returned to the U.S. after a 14- week South American crusade, relaxes in Miami Oct. 29, 1962, with his wife, Ruth. He planned to take advantage of the Florida sunshine and rid himself of a chest cold before starting a new crusade No...
Published: 02/21/18
SeaWorld uses food, concerts as bait for Seven Seas Food Festival

SeaWorld uses food, concerts as bait for Seven Seas Food Festival

Seaworld Seven Seas Food Festival at the Orlando park with an expanded menu celebrating two of Florida’s most popular types of food: barbecue and Latin-inspired dishes.DateSWeekends now through April 15.EntertainmentLike its sister park Busch Gardens...
Published: 02/21/18