Here’s what Mario Batali promised about this weekend’s Mario Batali Foundation Dinner, whose honoree was Jamie Oliver: “There will be no rubber chicken on the plates. There will be no boring speeches. There will be no hard sell.”
And he delivered. For what has to go down as the world’s best soft-sell fundraising events, Batali assembled a bunch of friends at his Del Posto restaurant and put them in charge of the entertainment. His friends sat in a row: Jimmy Fallon next to Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche next to Salmon Rushdie who sat beside Patti Smith. Del Posto’s rock star chef Mark Ladner and pastry chef Brooks Headley prepared the non-rubber-chicken meal; Batali’s friends performed in between courses.
Batali was at the head of the table, next to Oliver. The two met 22 years ago (“I was not a legal drinker,” Oliver remembers) at the Tuscany cooking school Capezzana. Batali was teaching a class; Oliver was rolling with Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers from London’s River Café. Now both head up awesome eponymous foundations; both with the same basic goal, to make sure kids get a better food education. And better food, period.