Here's the cosmic question I posed to former Del Posto chef Mark Ladner on Special Sauce: Why did the only chef to earn four stars from the New York Times by cooking Italian food leave his palatial restaurant kitchen to open up a fast casual joint where the pasta cooks in ten seconds? His answer will surprise you.
But you'll have to wait until next week's episode of Special Sauce to hear it, because I thought my conversation with Ladner deserved two episodes. In the first part, we focus on Del Posto, and Ladner answers a whole host of questions in his typically low-key and thoughtful way. He describes how Mario Batali made three books—Marcella Hazan's The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Lynne Rossetto Kasper's The Splendid Table, and The River Cafe Cookbook—required reading before hiring him. He also speaks about some of the essential lessons he learned from Batali. "[Batali] understands that restaurants and business and life needs to exist at the corner of art and commerce," Ladner says. "If you lose sight of either one, there's no magic."
And what was his reaction to receiving those four stars from the Times? "I went through a really dark time after that. I don't feel like I handled it very well... we were just shocked."
Ladner's path speaks volumes about where food is headed in America, as I think you will find out when you listen to the entirety of our remarkable conversation.
You Could Be on Special Sauce
Want to chat with me and our unbelievably talented recipe developers? We're accepting questions for Special Sauce call-in episodes now. Do you have a recurring argument with your spouse over the best way to maintain a cast iron skillet? Have you been working on your mac and cheese recipe for the past five years, but can't quite get it right? Does your brother-in-law make the worst lasagna, and you want to figure out how to give him tips? We want to get to know you and solve all your food-related problems. Send us the whole story at [email protected].
All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.