March 3, 2015
MasterChef Mario Batali's Ideal Studio Kitchen
With his ideal studio kitchen now a built reality, New York-based entrepreneurial master chef Mario Batali is fully prepped and camera-ready for all media.
by Judith Nasatir interior designer Gregory Hitchcock for Manhattan Center for Kitchen and Bath photographer Costas Picadas
IT'S SHOW TIME
Forget the amuse bouche. To sate the expanding audience of ever-more-ardent foodies, ebullient master chef Mario Batali has far more than his usual, stellar menu planned. With a just-completed, 450-square-foot studio kitchen-"big enough to produce great videos, but intimate enough that it still looks and feels like you're in a home kitchen"—Batali's got what he needs to feed, stylishly, the evolving beast that is the digital universe, and more.
Designed by Gregory Hitchcock of Manhattan Center for Kitchen and Bath, which partnered with Cesar Kitchens for the cabinetry, the chef's super-understated, plain-in-the-best-sense, on-camera workspace puts the focus right where he wants it: on the food. "A few years back," says Batali, "I developed my own production company, Via Alta Productions, with the goal of delivering unique food programming to the ever-evolving digital space. As our videos and our team grew, we realized that using our restaurant kitchens wasn't going to cut it if we really wanted to go further. I started to dream up my ideal studio kitchen that would also serve as a test kitchen and photo kitchen. A huge part of building a successful production company (for us) is making sure our videos are as visually satisfying as they are useful. We want the food to look beautiful and we want viewers to enjoy those few minutes looking at their computer, phone or tablet screen as much as possible."
From long experience, Batali knows "how, spatially, I work best in a kitchen and in front of the camera. The most important feature and the heart of the kitchen is the center-cooking island, which is essential for shooting cooking shows." No kidding. At 3 feet by 13 feet, "the island is massive, yet elegant with its ¾-inch thickness," says Hitchcock. The extended quartz countertop by Caesarstone includes more than enough room for prep work and seating. "It has a honed finish so there's no reflection when we film," Batali explains, "but it feels so smooth and works excellently when rolling out pasta or pie crust."
Appliance-wise, the kitchen is Jenn-Air all the way, with a built-in double wall oven, a warming drawer, and two downdraft, four-burner, electric cooktops with duct-free downdraft ventilation. "Most chefs cook with fire in professional kitchens," explains Batali, "but I wanted electric here because I love the flat glass cooktop surface." As for the hood-free design, it doesn't interfere with filming-and, like favorite Batali recipes, "it works like magic."