SF: What's the deal with the new cookbook?
MB: The deal is still the same magnificent, delicious Italian cooking that I've reinterpreted. The emphasis on protein hasn't changed much for the Italians, but in America we've been donating way too many of our resources toward the production and consumption of protein. Not to say that we don't like protein -- meat is good, but you should eat less of it and more vegetables.
You have certainly taken that to heart.
I certainly have. I've lost like 45 pounds.
More of our interview with Mario Batali after the jump.
Wow, how did you do it?
Eating half. If you get a portion in a restaurant you take half away immediately and you'd be surprised, you're full anyway. I don't know where I was putting it away before. At a certain point you just realize you don't need to eat as much.
Do you have saggy skin?
Honey, I exercise every day. I'm taut!
Ever think about doing a kids cookbook?
If I'd put my kids on the cover this could have just as easily been that book, because some of these recipes fit two to a page but I don't know if I'm going to plumb that commercial component. A lot of the cooking I do is family- and child-friendly, but I don't think you have to dumb it down like, 'Bobby, here's how you make something.'
You're one of the first celebrity chefs. It seems like cooking has become a spectator sport.
On any level to watch someone else do something they're good at is entertaining, whether it's playing violin, cooking or playing baseball. Watching someone cooking something made from scratch as opposed to fast food – it must permeate you somewhere. At least you have a threshold of awareness.
Are you still feuding with Gordon Ramsay?
No, you know, we really don't even know each other. It was created by a couple of journalists. I'd love to hang out with him.
Who's going to win in a fist fight?
Me and him would kick someone's ass.
No, no, against each other.
He looks pretty tough. I wouldn't fight him, that's for damn sure.
What else is going on with you?
Opening a big grocery store in New York. With five restaurants and a brew pub on the roof. Fifty-thousand square feet, slow food deal. Italian magnificence. We need a gastronomic destination in New York, which we have not had for some time, like Harrods or La Boqueira. Hopefully this will be that.
Do you still cook?
When we do menu changes, I do a lot of that stuff, which is every four to six weeks. I'm still at Otto and Babbo every day.
But are you cooking?
I'm working in the kitchen. I don't necessarily set up a station. I work with the guys in there. We talk about the food. I touch it, I taste it. But I'm not accountable!
Any more TV?
I'm working on two new shows. One will be talking and cooking and teaching people like the original Molto Mario, except I'll have one or two guests on and we'll talk more about traditional ideals of what really good food is about and then we'll talk about philanthropy. The other one is in Sicily with Phil Rosenthal [creator of Everybody Loves Raymond], Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep.
Look at you, Mr. Celebrity Chef.
Any celebrity you want to cook for but haven't yet?
Jack Nicholson. I love that guy.
I loved the recent New York Times magazine article about celebrity chefs. You and Paula Deen make a lot of money.
Paula Deen probably makes a lot more money than me these days, but you know what, she hits a lot more strings with the public that I do. That cultural confidence with somebody that's motherly is an impressive thing and she makes food. Boy, she can really cook it up.
So how much money do you guys make at those food festivals?
A hundred grand a day is very traditional. It's crazy.
Are you kachinging in your head when you're sitting there?
Yeah kind of. No, basically when I'm there I'm doing what I do, which is to talk about food and how to make it delicious.