‘Anyone who cuts these tomatoes into smaller pieces than this has anal-retentive problems,” said Mario Batali, holding up a half-inch square. “Or he is French!”
Just call him the Straight Chef for the Single Guy. Last week, Batali, wearing his trademark shorts and orange Converses, with his equally orange ponytail, was giving a group of twelve apron-clad New York bachelors and their guests cooking lessons at a kitchen showroom in Soho. Organized by Dewar’s, it was the first “Man With a Pan” class for helping guys learn how to woo girls (or, in the case of Isaac Mizrahi, boys) with food.
The bachelors were divided into appetizer, entrée, and dessert groups, with Team Bruschetta kicking off the proceedings. It included the freshly engaged Jay McInerney, who professed to have made a rib eye with black-truffle sauce only the night before. But in the presence of Batali, one’s cooking confidence can crumble faster than Pecorino. “Garlic first, you hillbillies!” Batali bellowed, brandishing a clove for the bruschetta. “Pay attention, Jay!”
As the pasta team got to work, violinist Joshua Bell began sweating. “I don’t cook, I eat,” he explained. “I thought this would be a good way to get reservations.” Nearby, Mizrahi called Batali “my cooking father figure.” But does the now-svelte designer even eat pasta? “Never.”
While the bachelors fixated on the meal at hand, Batali seemed rather preoccupied with another chef’s kitchen. “What’s the difference between red-clam and white-clam sauce?” he asked. White, it appears, is far more refined. “When people see red, they think, ‘Hey, it’s Rocco!’ ” he added, to laughter from the crowd.
“Actually, Scott,” said Batali, turning to bachelor Scott Feldman, a vice-president at American Express who’s worked closely with DiSpirito, “why does American Express support just one restaurant in New York?” “We support you too!” Feldman protested. “That’s why I’m here!” “No, I’m serious. You’re on the hot seat now,” Batali persisted. “Did you guys watch it?” He swung around to face his audience. “Really, it’s fabulous. I watched every episode.”
“Mario,” counseled Mizrahi, “drop it.” But only upon the arrival of dessert—affogato, or espresso over vanilla gelato topped with whipped cream and cocoa—did Batali clam up and let others embarrass themselves. “Who wants this?” asked one Dewar’s-fueled bachelor, zig-zagging over to two women with a measuring cup oozing gelato. Reluctantly, they opened their mouths. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about,” he leered. “You know you want it!” Batali shrugged: “I’m happy to help them get it any way they can.”