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Mario Batali Channels His Inner Anthony Bourdain in New Web Series

Rachel Tepper Paley
June 12, 2014

Photo credit: Hulu

Moody, black-and-white shots? Check. Writerly narrated voiceover? Check. A focus on food and the people who make it? Check, check.

Did Mario Batali attend the Anthony Bourdain School of Food Television? Because the chef is clearly attempting to give the lanky “Parts Unknown” host a run for his money in a new Hulu web series titled “The High Road.”

"I’m going to take you on a journey to some of New York’s most fascinating gems, with some of its most fascinating people,” Batali coos in the intro to the first episode, which debuted Thursday and features television journalist George Stephanopoulos. “We’ll visit iconic known and lesser-known locations as we chat aboard a New York City tour bus. Welcome to ‘The High Road.’” Note: It remains to be seen if that tour bus was such a good idea. Whenever the behemoth vehicle appears hurtling down the street, onboard cameras rolling, the footage is jarringly shaky.

The episode’s highlight is a trip to Royal Palms Shuffleboard in Brooklyn, a bar-restaurant-party spot featuring a rotating roster of food trucks doling out everything from grilled cheese to lobster rolls. Batali and Stephanopoulos banter pleasantly, nosh on food truck fare, and play a little shuffleboard.

The two seem politely gobsmacked by the hipster-ness of it all—which is where the show deviates from the Bourdain canon. Bourdain likely wouldn’t be able to resist a needling joke at some hipster’s expense, but Batali smiles on like a beneficent Buddha.

We’re not sure how much we’ll learn from “The High Road,” but the first episode is worth a watch—it’s like a food-ier version of Jerry Seinfeld’s web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” And with more Crocs.