A Northern Michigan Summer Day with Chef Mario Batali

I just returned from one of my favorite work days of all time–I was lucky enough to see a cooking demonstration given by Chef Mario Batali himself at Chateau Chantal on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, MI, and give a video interview with him on behalf of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine and MyNorth Media. Awesome. Seriously awesome.

Part of a “fam” or familiarity tour, an intimate group of travel writers from across the country were welcomed to take part in a five-day-in-the-shoes (or should I say five-day-in-the-orange-Crocs) journey, trekking to local Northern Michigan haunts favored by this famous restaurateur, chef, writer and TV personality, and of course, part-time Leelanau resident. Today, Thursday June 28th, was the meet-and-greet portion of this fam tour, and while not part of the tour, I was able to attend the event with Traverse Magazine videographer Kris Riley and photographer Angela Brown.

What a day! We arrived at Chateau Chantal, a gorgeous Northern Michigan winery and vineyard set high on the tip of Old Mission Peninsula and overloooking East and West Grand Traverse Bays, eager to see in-person this lover of all things Northern Michigan, who also happens to be a super famous and talented chef.

Known for his passion for local, seasonal food and zeal for Northern Michigan products and produce, I was beyond excited to see Chef Batali cook right before my very eyes. With a jovial personality and talented techniques, Chef Batali cooked two new summer recipes for us. The first: a prosciutto wrapped Michigan walleye filet, resting on a bed of vibrant pesto fregola and topped with a light white wine, lemon and olive oil sauce; the second: a beef braciole, pinwheel-style, stuffed with garlic, scallions, parsley, bread crumbs, salami and Leelanau raclette, seared and garnished with Kosher salt and extra virgin olive oil. If you’re drooling, you’re experiencing the correct reaction.

Not only was it amazing to watch Chef Batali prepare these dishes–a maestro in the kitchen sprinkling jokes into his demonstration and salt onto his food–and smell the aromas wafting through the air, we actually got to enjoy these dishes for lunch, to eat Chef Mario Batali’s cooking, paired with Chateau Chantal‘s award-winning wine. Now that, is lunch.

After the cooking demonstration, I was able to interview Chef Batali for a MyNorth.com video. He enlightened me on some of his favorite summer recipes to cook at home with his family after an adventurous day at the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and some of his fondest Northern Michigan memories from summer after he returns to New York.

Friendly, with an easy demeanor and heartfelt passion for food and Northern Michigan, there’s something about Chef Mario Batali that is relaxing–whether it is the good food or fresh Northern Michigan air, it’s almost as if he is not a larger-than-life celebrity with TV programs aplenty, or a James Beard award-winning chef with twenty restaurants and nine cookbooks; but I suppose that’s why he returns to Northern Michigan summer after summer, leaving the chaos and noise of New York behind– to be a regular guy, enjoying the sun and lakes Up North, reveling in the offerings of local farmers, butchers and markets, and of course, cooking and eating phenomenal food with his family.

Stay tuned to MyNorth.com for more on Traverse Magazine’s day with Chef Mario Batali, including a video interview with Chef Batali and delicious details on his cooking demonstration!

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