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Former Tampa Bay Times staffer works on cookbook with Mario Batali

Mario Batali, left, takes a photograph of Rachael Ray, center, as she poses with Jim Webster during a tailgate event in Fort Worth, Texas. Webster, a former Tampa Bay Times staffer, was the winner of Batali’s Ultimate Grilling Challenge and is now working on a cookbook with the chef.

Associated Press (2008)

Mario Batali, left, takes a photograph of Rachael Ray, center, as she poses with Jim Webster during a tailgate event in Fort Worth, Texas. Webster, a former Tampa Bay Times staffer, was the winner of Batali’s Ultimate Grilling Challenge and is now working on a cookbook with the chef.

Jim Webster, a former copy editor and interim food critic at the Tampa Bay Times, is working on a cookbook with chef, restaurateur and TV personality Mario Batali to be published in fall 2014.

Webster, who now works at the Washington Post, met the famed chef in 2008 when his Pig-Wrapped Pig-Stuffed Pig won Batali's Ultimate Grilling Challenge. Part of his winnings was the opportunity to cook with Batali and Rachael Ray at a tailgate party in Fort Worth, Texas.

The as-of-yet untitled cookbook is one of two Batali projects acquired by Grand Central Life & Style, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group.

Details about the cookbook are still a bit hush-hush, but Webster has been traveling around the country visiting with chefs and farmers, whose relationships form the basis of the book.

According to the publisher, the book will feature "farmers and their top products in 12 American states across the country — from Maine to Washington — and will include 70 recipes that utilize these local ingredients."

Webster says that the book will be organized by ingredients, and Batali will be contributing the recipes.

"We started with Mario and we knew we could find farmers that Mario's restaurants use," Webster said. "Then we hooked up with his chef friends around the country and found out who their farmers were. Mario has friends everywhere."

The second cookbook will be published in fall 2015 and will be Batali's look at American regional cuisine, featuring more than 250 recipes. The book will feature state fair favorites, plus regional classics including barbecue styles from Texas and the Carolinas, and the seafood soups of New England, the Gulf Coast and Pacific Northwest.

Former Tampa Bay Times staffer works on cookbook with Mario Batali 09/19/13 [Last modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 4:04pm]

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