Globe-Trotting With Celeb Chef Mario Batali — an Insider's Look

Who wouldn’t want to eat their way around the world with culinary expert Mario Batali? (Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

There are few folks who are better well-traveled than master chef and restauranteur Mario Batali. Whether he’s scouring Spain for perfect ingredients with Gwyneth Paltrow or visiting Africa with Bono, Batali knows how to travel well—something we consider to be a true art. The star of ABC’s “The Chew” still uses guide books and books through a travel agent. He always sticks to a carry-on. He makes sure to swim laps or do a workout no matter where he is. Mario Batali is a professional and we can all learn a little something from how he wanders the globe.

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The chef has been a busy man this year. He just got back from a trip to Italy and he is in the midst of putting the finishing touches on his newest restaurant, La Sirena (follow them on Insta here) in Chelsea’s legendary Maritime Hotel.

We still managed to snag a few minutes with Mario to find out his top tips and tricks for being a master globe-trotter.


Noshing on red wine and truffles at La Salumeria. (Photo: Mario Batali)

Yahoo Travel: What are your must-pack items?

Mario Batali: My phone charger, my iPod and a bathing suit for seriously early morning laps.

Yahoo Travel: Do you bring any mementos with you on long trips to remind you of home?

Mario Batali: I’m never gone too long without my family, but I do have a leather bound foto of Susi and the boys on a traghetto in Venice that I carry in my dop kit

Yahoo Travel: Where is your favorite destination? Is it the same as your favorite culinary destination?

Mario Batali: I have a soft spot for Emilia Romagna. I lived there for years and to me, the food of Bologna takes me to a happy special place. But I also love Asia—Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam… yum!!!


In the kitchen with Mauro Cuppone cook at Refettorio Ambrosiano. (Photo: Mario Batali)

Yahoo Travel: When traveling to a new place, do you research it beforehand? What types of tools do you use?

Mario Batali: Definitely – lots of research. I always pick up a Time Out for whatever city I’m headed to. I ask my assistant to make a list of cultural happenings and read the local paper to find out what’s happening in the food scene. I sometimes reach out to local food editors to get their advice. I’m big into planning ahead, at least a skeleton of the trip, and then whatever happens after that happens.

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Yahoo Travel: What is the best meal you’ve ever had while traveling? Was it a planned culinary experience or organically found?

Mario Batali: In the last year, my favorite organically found market food was a meat-filled pastel on a small street market in Sao Paolo. I loaded up with this family’s homemade hot sauce and I was in heaven.

Yahoo Travel: Have any of your travels inspired any of your signature dishes? If so, which ones?

Mario Batali: So much of what’s on the Babbo menu is inspired by my time in Emilia Romagna. A big chunk of the Casa Mono menu is inspired by the dishes I ate in Spain when my family and I lived there throughout my high school years.

Yahoo Travel: Being an expert on Italian cuisine, Italy must be a relatively frequent destination for you. Where are your favorite places in Italy to travel? What are your favorite things to eat while you’re there?


Squid ink pasta for lunch in Milan. (Photo: Mario Batali)


Ovoli mushrooms in a Milan market. (Photo: Mario Batali)


Quinoa arancini at Un Posto in Milan. (Photo: Mario Batali)

Mario Batali: I’ll have traveled to Italy three times this year come December and I find something new and captivating about the country every time I visit. I can be happy on just about any trattoria patio with an Aperol spritz in my hand.

Yahoo Travel: What city or country has inspired you the most?

Mario Batali: Most recently it was Rwanda and Nigeria when I traveled there with (RED) and Bono. Food-wise, the market in Lagos was out of this world and I came back so energized to try new spices and roast proteins using different techniques. But in general, the people of Rwanda – their generosity and spirit – was by far the most impressive part of the trip!

Yahoo Travel: What is one culinary custom practiced abroad that you wish Americans would adopt?

Mario Batali: Burping as compliments to the chef is a lot of fun

Yahoo Travel: What is the most valuable culinary lesson you have learned abroad?

Mario Batali: You can learn cooking technique using no words at all, just watching and paying attention.


Cooking pizza with Massimo Bottura at Sorbillo. (Photo: Mario Batali)

Yahoo Travel: If you could eat anything at this very moment, what would it be and where would it be from?

Mario Batali: Linguine with Clams and a cold glass of tuscan vermentino consumed on the terrace at Il Pellicano on the Tuscan Coast.

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Yahoo Travel: What is your most memorable meal?

Mario Batali: Flower Drum in Melbourne. 10 courses 10 wines all whole animals or things starting with langoustines, then abalone and on thru white king crab and then a whole suckling pig

Yahoo Travel: Top tips for travel?

Mario Batali: Never check bags, ever, and take the train if you’re flight is less than 2 hours – it takes the same amount of time and is more pleasant an experience.

Yahoo Travel: How do you plan?

Mario Batali: With a great travel agent - Mikey Holtz at smart flyer

Yahoo Travel: How do you decide where to eat?

Mario Batali: Ask the locals and ask anyone I know or trust most importantly I follow my nose

Yahoo Travel: What kinds of hotels do you like?

Mario Batali: I like the best room in the best hotel in town, I admit to being a hotel-snob. It’s my vice. If I’m traveling away from my home, I want it to be luxurious.

Yahoo Travel: Are you a window or aisle seat person?

Mario Batali: Window on the aisle, 1A baby!

Yahoo Travel: Apps or guidebook?

Mario Batali: Guidebooks. I’m old school.

Want more incredible pictures of Mario’s travels? You should be following him on Instagram.

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Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad.