unfiltered

The Best of the Batali Scraps

His real thoughts on those waiters.

His real thoughts on those waiters.Photo: Patrick McMullen

Some leftovers are just too good to throw away; in fact, they're even better a day or two later (especially when a contentious lawsuit is involved). Such is the case with the Mario Batali interview from this week's magazine. Here are a few Molto moments that were too hefty to fit into print, but too juicy to leave on the chopping block.

Any kinks [filming The Chew] so far?
The way I perceive our kinks is that we’re all so excited we tend to talk a little extra, like, we need to let everyone finish their thoughts. And it’s working.

Are you at certain restaurants more than others?
I’m at Otto in the daytime. I’m at Babbo, Lupa, Del Posto. Esca less because Dave doesn’t really need my help. Casa Mono, I go there for dinner. They don’t really need my help. It’s small. They don’t really have room for me in the kitchen. But I go there just to hang out and have a good time. And Eataly, I’m in and out of that two or three times a day.

What do you do when you go in?
I walk in. At this point in my career, I can tell a lot of how the restaurant is going just by the general calm or lack thereof in the kitchens. You can tell by how it smells. There’s a general good smell and rarely is there something I think smells weird. Not spoiled but maybe burnt, maybe overcooked, maybe over-reduced, and you can smell that in the air.

And then you’re doing a CW restaurant drama.
Yes, a scripted show called Chops with a guy named Captain Mauzner, who wrote Factory Girl. We have this scenario in the restaurant world in New York City.

Are you feeding him stories?
I’m allowing him to come in much like Bill Buford did and see the real thing, see what’s going on. And he’ll run some things by me.

What drama would you like it to convey?
The real reason that drew me into the restaurant experience when I was in college and I got my first job at Stuff Your Face in New Brunswick, New Jersey, was the idea that something’s rolling at you and you know it, and it’s the dinner rush, and you’re working together with people that may or may not love each other every minute of the day, but need each other desperately at that very moment, and when you’re working together and you work through the dinner rush and at the end of the day there’s a kind of relaxation.

What’s going on with the lawsuits?
Well, in New York City right now, there’s a group of people right now that are talking to waiters and cooks and the whole staff, and we’re just trying to figure out what they want and we’re trying to make sure we’re in compliance with the law. There’s a couple of ways to look at it.

Joe got slammed on the Internet for what he said in the Post.
Well, when was the last time the Internet gave you an uplifting story about somebody like me? The Internet doesn’t love me. People love me. Most of them do. But the nine people that write on the bathroom wall that we call the Internet have something to say bad about me and Joe no matter what we do. That’s okay. We’re all right with that.

How far is it from resolution?
I would resolve it tomorrow if I could figure it out. I mean, you know, it’s been going on for a year.

What’s the hold up?
Everyone’s playing liar’s poker. They’re trying to figure out the highest number they can get for us and we’re trying to figure out the lowest number we can pay them while not hurting anybody and not breaking the law. It’s about compliance, at the end of the day. It’s the tip standard. The real answer is that in the industry, all the waiters know that they’re not working for the standard minimum wage. They know they get what’s called the “waiter wage” and that they augment that by getting tips. Apparently there’s a part of the legal handbook — which, if we’re wrong, then we’re wrong and we’re going to deal with it — there’s a part of the code of the law that says that you actually have to tell them, “By the way, do you personally know that you’re not working for minimum wage, that we’re making it up with tips?” And if we didn’t do that because we just assumed that everyone knew that, and we’re wrong, then we’re going to have to deal with it.

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