Celebrity chef Mario Batali’s recent remarks comparing bankers to “Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys” have landed him in hot pappardelle with the clientele of some of his high-end restaurants.
While participating on a Time Magazine Person of the Year panel along with NBC anchor Brian Williams, comedian Seth Meyers and taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, Batali was asked by the moderator, Time's managing editor Richard Stengel who he would choose for that distinction.
After citing his admiration for Steve Jobs and food activist Michael Pollan, Batali went on to condemn the banking industry for what he characterized as their negative effect on a global scale saying, "So the ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys. They’re not heroes, they're just people that had a really huge effect on the way the world is operating."
Restaurant gossip site Eater posted a memo that had reportedly been circulated widely throughout trading circles, saying, "Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Says Bankers As Bad As Hitler, Stalin ... a list of his restaurants *B&B Ristorante *Osteria Mozza *Babbo *OTTO *Bar Jamon *Pizzeria Mozza *Carnevino Italian Steakhouse *Tarry Lodge *Casa Mono *Tarry Market *Del Posto *Mozza2Go *Esca *Manzo *Lupa Cancel all reservations.....pass the word." and bankers seem to have taken heed, also bringing their wrath to Twitter in the form of the hashtag #bataligate.
Bloomberg News restaurant critic Ryan Sutton jumped into the fray, tweeting accounts of contacts he'd had with outraged members of the finance world saying, "UBS friend: 'most bankers/brokers have called to cancel resies at Babbo/Del Posto en masse. . . he is going to feel the boycott.'"
Sutton also posted "Credit derivatives trader calls me: 'I spent $4,000 on a white truffle dinner on Monday at Babbo. This is sh!tty. I feel used. #bataligate'" and "Morgan Stanley Trader messages me on Batali: 'Good luck with your $300 white truffle tasting menu among the 99% #bataligate.'"
While bankers and traders aired their ire on Twitter, people in other sectors of the economy relished the chance to finally score one of the notoriously difficult reservations at Batali's higher-end New York City restaurants, which include Del Posto, Esca and his flagship Babbo. Grub Street reported that tables were scarce at most of Batali's Manhattan outposts on the night of the initial boycott.
And as always, Twitter had a few requests on the menu. @gattogrigio925 wrote, "So... #bataligate? Hmmm...maybe @Mariobatali could do some reduced-priced 'menus for the 99%'? #hint." Globe and Mail editor Sarah Lilleyman chimed in, "Best thing about #bataligate = bankers call for Babbo boycott, everyone else celebrates the chance to get a table there."
Twitterer @JonU235 also wanted to know, "Which #bataligate restaurant has a decent meal for around $10? That's my fine dining budget right now. Thanks to bankers."
While the current pasta tasting menu at Babbo costs $69 a person, traditional menu $75, white truffle $300 and a five or seven course set menu at Del Posto are $115 and $145 respectively, a plate of pasta at his pizzeria Otto will set a hungry 99 Percenter back just ten bucks. (White truffles not included.)