In the kitchen with a ‘Restaurant Man’
When he isn’t dishing out unabashed advice on the set of “MasterChef” beside the perpetually unfiltered Gordon Ramsey, restaurateur Joe Bastianich is overseeing his 23 restaurants worldwide, including the seven full-service restaurants that are within Eataly New York. And with that kind of resume, Bastianich has plenty of stories to tell. He does in his bestselling memoir, “Restaurant Man, which is now available in paperback.
What’s the adjustment been like since achieving fame from your restaurants, book and “MasterChef”?
The environment is very challenging for business. People want to do business. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just different than it was 10 or 20 years ago. It gets more complicated and more complex all the time. Being in [New York] and the whole world of restaurants, it never gets any easier, only harder. The hardest part of doing anything that we do is about creating a quality experience for the customers. We try to always be customer-driven. We’re trying to be authentic and uncompromised in a market where it’s very difficult to operate and make profit.
“Restaurant Man” had some brutally honest portrayals of the people you work with. Was there any backlash from colleagues or former employees who read the book?
I think the people who are mentioned realize what it is. It’s honest. It’s honestly entertaining — that’s probably the best feedback I’ve gotten.
What do you make of the comparisons to Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”?
His book is also an honest and interesting look. I think it’s very entertaining and he’s an incredible writer. I’ve known him for a long time.
Did you seek any feedback from Bourdain while writing your book?
I didn’t even tell him about it. The first bound copy I gave out was to him. I wanted him to read it cold turkey. He wrote the best book of the genre that I aspired to [write]. He’s a good friend and I wanted his feedback.
There are only a few remaining four-star restaurants in New York, including one of yours, Del Posto. What does it take to maintain that status?
It takes an army of people. It takes a mentality, a different way of looking at our business. It has to be passionate and about the food and the experience. Maintaining and running a four-star restaurant has to be one of the most difficult things in the world you can do.
What city would you like to open up a restaurant in that you haven’t yet?
We’re looking at an Eataly in Buenos Aires and an Eataly in Los Angles and Chicago. I’d love to do London, it’s a cool place.
Do you feel any pressure to put on a larger-than-life persona on TV like other TV personalities do?
What you see on MasterChef is certainly an aspect of my personality. I take the show seriously, and that comes across. I think the same is true for both Gordon and Graham. They very much are the same people in their daily lives that you see on camera. I think if a show is properly cast then there is no need for exaggeration.
You’ve dealt with critics of your restaurants throughout your entire career, and now you get to see it from the other side as a judge on “MasterChef.” What’s the toughest part of critiquing others’ culinary works?
As a restaurateur, critiquing culinary talent is one of the most important and constant things I do. It is sometimes difficult critiquing the home cooks on “MasterChef,” especially when we have to send someone home, someone that we’ve been mentoring for months. It is part of the competition, but it is never easy telling someone who has worked hard toward their dream that their time is up.