We chatted with The Chew star about dealing with social media trolls, navigating politics as a chef and the power of the “block” function.
The criticism “just stick to insert profession here!” is probably as old as professions themselves—certainly older than the social media platforms where it currently proliferates most. When chef Mario Batali tweets about politics and social issues to his 1.79 million followers, an unrelenting tide of criticism populates his notifications: People tell him they’re boycotting The Chew, that he’s unpatriotic, that he should just stick to cooking, among other recurring insults. Batali remains unfazed; in fact, he seems more inspired than ever to engage with his critics and double-down on his criticisms of the current administration.
“I think what makes it easy for me is that I have a consistent point of view,” he says. “It’s about righteousness and freedom. It is about the ideology of what America is. It’s important to realize that if you have a soap box, you should possibly use it, provided that what you’re going to say is positive and uplifting.”
Batali’s recent tweets range from answers to simple recipe questions—what sauce should I serve with red-wine cooked spaghetti?—to retweets of Mark Ruffalo and Seth Rogan’s words condemning white supremacy and the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville. (The answer to the first question, by the way, is sausage ragù.) Often, Batali will quote tweets from his critics to start a conversation. In response to one follower who said he was “tired of the left saying us Conservatives are racist,” Batali tweeted, “I have no problem with conservatives, we need 2 parties, but 45 is neither lib nor conserv and he is simply not up to the needs of the job.”
He also retweeted Chelsea Handler, who wrote, “Every past president that is still alive needs to come forward now and denounce Trump and advocate for him being declared unfit for office.”
Batali says that 50 percent of his Twitter spats can be attributed to misinterpretations of tone, though when people tell him he should “just stick to cooking,” he blocks them immediately. (“Just don’t come here,” he says, referring to his Twitter page. “You can come here or leave here.”)
Food is political, Batali says, so it’s only natural that he’s vocal about political issues—though he recognizes that different figures in the food industry should get involved in whatever ways are best suited to their strengths.
“I am not like my esteemed cohort Tom Colicchio; I’m not going to spend a lot of time up on the Hill lobbying for policy change,” Batali says. “I know he will be more successful at that. My world is going to keep doing what I do and not shy away from these issues. As most of my college friends say about me: I’ve never met a confrontation I didn’t like.”
They aren't all so confrontational though. A few days ago, a follower asked Batali, “Chef! Any recommended dish from your repertoire, seek delicious comfort against insane rhetoric of @RealDonaldTrump.” The chef responded, “in august I like gazpacho or a simple caprese.”