Batali Enlists Bourdain, Tucci to Battle Kids’ Obesity, Cancer

Mario Batali
Chef and restaurateur Mario Batali. His restaurant Del Posto failed to win back a second Michelin star. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

Mario Batali, who serves up cholesterol-boosting dishes such as fennel-dusted sweetbreads with duck bacon at his restaurants, wants to help children and adults avoid obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Through his Mario Batali Foundation launched last year, the chef and restaurateur has begun funding research on pediatric diseases. Last year, the foundation started a fund at Memorial Sloan-Kettering pediatric unit for cancer research and programs that assist children undergoing cancer treatment.

In May, Batali began offering at least two meatless meals on the menus of 14 restaurants, which include the tough-to-get-into Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in the West Village and B&B Ristorante in Las Vegas.

Batali has followed the work of Dr. William Li, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based expert on the relationship between diet and various diseases, including cancer.

“If you can create an environment in your body where cancer production doesn’t happen at a certain age, you can really stop and eliminate different kinds of cancers, even ones that have already started,” said the orange clog shod Batali, 50. He has developed recipes with cancer-fighters including apples and spinach, based on Dr. Li’s diet guidelines.

Del Posto Fundraiser

To support his agenda, he is hosting a fundraiser and dinner, “Magic, Martinis & Mario,” tonight at Del Posto Ristorante, his four-star palazzo of Italian cuisine in Chelsea, to raise about $200,000 for his charity.

“The greatest wealth that we have on the entire planet is the potential in children,” he said. “To squander it on any level is the worst thing we can do.” He added that his fundraisers are more affordable than most, with tickets ranging from $100 to $300, with half-price tickets for kids.

Batali’s chefs will serve rack of lamb, pennette with porcini and tomato strattu, and lobster salad. Bar maestro Tony Abou-Ganim, author of “The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails,” will pour some of his specialty drinks.

Mariska Hargitay

The guest list includes Anthony Bourdain, the chef and host of the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations,” NBC’s “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon and actors Stanley Tucci, and NBC’s “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” co-star Mariska Hargitay.

Yakima, Washington native Batali, who was mentored by British culinary legend Marco Pierre White, came to New York with $300. After launching his first restaurant, Po, in 1993, he opened Babbo in 1998 and received the James Beard Foundation award for best new restaurant of the year.

Batali became a supporter of the Food Bank for New York City with his wife, Susan Cahn. The pair have chaired the nonprofit’s annual gala dinner since 2004, when Batali joined the board.

With a restaurant and food empire that generates more than $140 million in revenue -- including Eataly, the Italian cuisine complex in Manhattan that opened last month -- Batali has begun carving out time from his frenetic schedule to raise money for his foundation’s work.

A former Iron Chef on the Food Network, Batali uses his celebrity clout to lure donors. In May, he hosted a day of gourmet food and golf at the Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles. He organized a benefit screening last year of “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” (in which he voiced the character Rabbit) to raise money for his charity.

The foundation also focuses on child literacy and “the critical thought process” that comes through reading and learning, he said.