Mario’s Celebrity Guests

My Tivo “now playing” list is an embarrassment of cooking show riches: Lydia Bastianich, The Barefoot Contessa, and Martha Stewart all top the list. (Actually, Martha isn’t faring too well. I became convinced that she jumped the shark when I read, in one of the episode descriptions: “Martha and Richard Simmons make tiaras.” Yikes!) Yet my stand-out favorite, and the one I watch compulsively, is the show I watched compulsively when I first started cooking five years ago: Molto Mario.

Love him or hate him, Mario Batali knows his Italian food. Watching his show is an education in history, geography, language, agriculture and, of course, cookery. I watch his show pretty much every day (and what I’m watching, apparently, are old reruns–the Tivo descriptions date the shows back to 2001 and 2002; I don’t think he’s filming “Molto Mario” anymore) and I’m starting to really grasp the techniques that he advocates. Watching Mario is making me a better cook.

But that’s not the best part about watching. The very best and most gawkery aspect of watching his show are the celebrity guests. Mario always cooks for three guests–they sit on stools watching him cook. Often they are just average folk–or, presumably, family and friends of The Food Network. But VERY often (I’d say, at least twice a week) you will spot an important food personality on one of those stools. An important food personality or even a bona fide celebrity. Here are the guests I’ve spotted in my time watching Mario:

– Ruth Reichl (she was on the one that aired today)

– Amanda Hesser

– Bill Buford

– Jake Gyllenhaal

– Maggie Gyllenhaal

– Mario Cantone

– Rocco Dispirito

– Anthony Bourdain

– Joe Bastianich (Mario’s partner—ok, not a celebrity, but notable nonetheless)

– Michael Imperioli

And those are all the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Clearly Mario has one of those personalities that draw important people to him. That and his superior cooking skills. If you have a Tivo, I suggest you check it out: come for the gawking, stay for the food.

12 comments

  1. Hi, Joel. I love your blog! Speaking of the Food Network, when are they going to air the episode of “Iron Chef America” that you attended?

  2. I’ve also heard that the bulk of his guests are actually his own restaurant employees – that very few guests were ever “friends of the Food Network”. Mostly it was personal friends, some industry celebrities, and some Hollywood celebs that took a liking to his food (like the Gyllenhaals).

    I noticed Ruth Reichl as well – she’s pretty unmistakable, no matter what he chooses to call her on the show. :-)

  3. I’ve definitely seen Jay McInerney and I’m pretty sure Michael Stipe was on but I might be confusing this with that Sundance Channel series that had Stipe and Batali together.

  4. Thanks for inspiring me to watch Mario’s techniques a little closer!

    (Oh, and once I saw Michael Chiarello on the other side of the bar too. Nuts.)

  5. I’m pretty sure it’s “Adam.” But Joel is a good name, too.

    Yet another post that makes me wish I had the food network. Is there any way to get JUST that channel? I only need one.

  6. I swear I saw Michael Stipe on the show–I am a fan of Mario’s also I love the way he just slaps things together– verissimo (sp?). But, if you will permit me, a pet-peeve moment: I saw this on Emeril once and saw Mario do it on his show and it drives me gaga: grilling raw meat on those fancy built in gas grills on range tops–Mario did lamb chops, Emeril did chicken legs. You sit and watch as 2 foot high fat flare ups envelope the meat. Obviously charring it instantly on the outside and leaving it raw and disgusting on the inside. Want some carbon with your salmonella? Meanwhile Emeril blithely chats away preparing some other dish while a column of black oily smoke rises from the grill…Sorry to rant but these guys really should know better!

  7. I like it when he has a guest on the show that keeps asking him annoyingly dumb questions and he seems mildly annoyed every time they open their mouth.

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