If you’ve never heard of Mario Batali or his moniker, "Molto Mario", chances are you live outside the US of A. The celebrity chef is an American institution (as are his signature ginger ponytail and orange Crocs), and he’s bringing his unique culinary sense and sensibility to SBS VICELAND for Moltissimo. Fantastico!
Tell me more about this Mario guy…
Sure. Batali has been a mainstay on the screens of gourmet couch potatoes for decades. His first foray into TV cookery began in 1996 with the show that spawned his nickname, Molto Mario. It’s where viewers met the man’s encyclopedic knowledge and deep appreciation of traditional Italian cuisine.
Batali’s authenticity was evident from the outset, through his no-nonsense presentation style and belief in the power of simplicity. His sober instructional method instilled home cooks across the US with the confidence to try their hands at dishes they previously would have considered outside their wheelhouses.
This superpower to make viewers want to cook (as well as time travel to historic Italy) led to a list of successive television shows that’d make Shonda Rhimes feel lazy – including Mario Eats Italy, Ciao America and a six-year stint as an Iron Chef in the American version of the classic cook-off.
He's not just a celebrity chef
Let’s be clear, Batali isn’t a giant in the food world purely due to his endless television credits and collection of bestselling cookbooks. He started out working with legendary chef Marco Pierre White, before bringing his burgeoning interpretation of classic Italian cuisine to the impossibly competitive New York restaurant scene. In 1993, he opened his first spot, Po in West Village, which garnered rave reviews until its last sitting earlier this year.
Since teaming up with Joe Bastianich (who you might know from American MasterChef) in 1998 to form B&B Hospitality Group, Batali has opened award-winning restaurants the world over, with particular focus on his home nation. He now owns or operates roughly 25 restaurants, including the renowned Babbo Ristorante Enoteca and Del Posto, both in New York.
Mouths, get ready to water
The premise of Moltissimo is as simple and genuine as Batali’s cuisine. He invites a pair of celebrities to the VICELAND kitchen in Brooklyn and prepares a meal while chatting to them about both the recipe and their lives. What’s infectious about the set-up is that it doesn’t feel overly staged, and we as an audience feel more like flies on the wall than students in class, while still learning cooking tips and culinary history.
This casual vibe makes full use of Batali’s no-fuss, down-to-earth personality, and the way in which he riffs with and respects his guests suggests the man just loves cooking for people. I can guarantee you’ll wish you could pull up a chair to the counter and watch the man stuff a clove of garlic into a slab of pork or hear the bizarre origin of a little-known cut of pasta.
The celebrity guests
Another fantastic aspect of Moltissimo is that the celebrity guests hail not only from the entertainment industry, but also the world of food. For every Jimmy Fallon, you’ll get a renowned chef from a renowned restaurant, such as Missy Robbins from Lilia or Wes Avila from Guerilla Tacos. And of course, SBS VICELAND’s favourite chef-cum-rapper, Action Bronson from F*** That’s Delicious, makes an appearance. The dynamic created from this cross-section of personalities ensures the show doesn’t end up one-note or repetitive.
Speaking of Bronson, he appears in the premiere of Moltissimo on Monday, 31 July at 8pm on SBS VICELAND.