Batali Gets Chopped From Food Network Lineup

Mario Batali, Food Network grow apart, but some say the chef has little to fear.

ByABC News
September 6, 2007, 5:51 PM

Sept. 6, 2007 — -- "Molto Mario" means "a lot of Mario," but fans of the Italian-American master chef Mario Batali will be seeing much less of him on Food Network this season.

The network has decided to stop airing "Molto Mario," the program Batali began hosting a decade ago but which despite regular reruns has not been in production for nearly three years, a Food Network spokeswoman told Batali will, however, continue to appear on "Iron Chef America."

Batali, known for his innovative variations on traditional Italian dishes and often described as a revolutionary chef and brilliant businessman, has been at the Food Network since 1996, helping to simultaneously raise his profile and that of the channel.

Though Batali has had a long and successful run on the Food Network, observers say he has little to lose by pulling back from the channel. Batali owns 14 restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, has written several best-selling cookbooks, has a sponsorship deal with NASCAR and is reportedly in talks with PBS to produce a special on Spanish cuisine.

"Mario Batali is still part of the Food Network family," Carrie Welch, a Food Network spokeswoman told ABC "Sometimes family members go off and do other things. We completely blessed his decision to go to PBS. … He is still going to appear on 'Iron Chef America.'"

While trying to maintain its association with one of the country's most recognizable chefs, Food Network is making a concerted effort to replace older personalities with fresher faces and more reality-style programming, industry insiders told

"Batali was there from the very beginning, and it was a mutually beneficial relationship," Anthony Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel's "No Reservations," told ABC

"This is a completely natural progression for the Food Network model. A look at the lineup shows they're looking for new personalities and have contempt for professional chefs," he said.

Ed Levine, a food writer and founder of Serious Eats, agreed that the network was moving away more toward home-style cooks.

"Food Network has made a sharp turn away from celebrity chefs," he said. "They're not featuring great chefs; instead, they're creating their own stars out of good home cooks like Giatta De Laurentiis and Rachael Ray."