The World According to Mario Batali

Chef and restaurateur

From his tiny first kitchen in the ever popular Babbo, in New York's Greenwich Village, Batali has built an empire that now includes TV shows, a wine shop, cookbooks, cookware, and seven sensational restaurants. His latest, Del Posto, earned three stars from The New York Times. Still, a simple plate of pasta remains the chef's favorite dish, and the meal he prepares every day is breakfast: pancakes, French toast, and eggs for his sons, Leo and Benno. He is both a culinary star and everyman, as passionate about his dream car (a '61 Impala) as he is about caviar and oysters. Between bites, Batali shares a few of his most coveted ingredients, both in the kitchen and in life.

I'm always on a diet and none of them work! Right now it's Weight Watchers. The worst part is that one tablespoon of oil is a point, and I like six tablespoons with spaghetti.

The most important ingredient is olive oil. We make our own, La Mozza, near our farm in Tuscany.

I've had my Vespa for two years. It's classic green and I love it.

I own 30 pairs of orange Crocs. I wash them in the dishwasher and put them on while they're still hot.

The two ways to get garlic smell off your hands are to wash them with a real lemon or grab anything stainless steel.

I use cookbooks all the time to see what it tastes like when you follow someone else. I love the River Cafe books.

I buy my socks from Paul Smith. I was brought up not to buy $25 socks, but at a certain point they become a fashion statement.

Once a week I have a jam session with the kids on my Gibson Les Paul from the sixties.

The best $10 meal in New York? A falafel from Rainbow or pork buns from Momofuku. For $1,000? I'm going to Alain Ducasse tonight—I'll let you know.

I'd love to own a painting by Wayne Thiebaud. He did the magazine cover for The New Yorker's food issue last year.