"Hot pig Jell-O" may not sound like a draw to most people, but that's exactly how Mario Batali describes the headcheese that he got me to try—and even like!—more than 20 years ago. How he managed that feat is just one of the many tidbits serious eaters will come away with after listening to this, the second installment of my conversation with the superstar chef and restaurateur.
For instance, how does he hire so many people who start out as line cooks and end up as chef-partners? Batali uses his intuition: "I could tell, at that point, by looking in someone's eyes for 15 minutes during a conversation, whether they were going to be able to work with me or not. Because they had a fire. But they also had a desire not only to be a good cook, but...to be a businessperson." To his kitchen staff, he describes his nose-to-tail approach to cooking (though it's not exclusive to him) this way: "We buy stuff, we fix it up, and we sell it for profit. And, as long as you guys all understand that part of our business, then we're going to be successful. But if we buy stuff, fix it up, and throw it away, or we buy stuff and we just eat it, then we're never going to make any money." And what does he regret about giving author Bill Buford an all-access pass for Buford's terrific book Heat? A lot, in fact—but we can't give everything away up front, can we?
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