‘Just like when you buy that first ounce of weed’: Celebrity chef Mario Batali describes the business strategy that built him an empire

Mario Batali
Mario Batali, pictured, reinvested three-quarters of the money in new ventures. Getty Images / Mark Von Holden

Mario Batali is a celebrity chef.

He’s also a businessman.

Batali is co-host host of cooking show “The Chew,” owner of Eataly markets and dozens of restaurants with business partner Joe Bastianich, author of numerous books, and has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $US13 million.

In an interview with Wealthsimple, the celebrity chef explained how he got to where he is today.

He and a business partner borrowed the money to open Pò, his first restaurant, for $US32,000 in 1993. “We paid our investors back in eight months and owned a really good restaurant that, in its day, was doing about $US2.5 million a year, which was — and is — a lot of f—ing money,” he said.

He met his current business partner, Joe Bastianich, while starring in “Molto Mario” on the Food Network and after selling his first book. Batali and Bastianich pooled their resources to open their next restaurant, Babbo, which made Batali a “a couple hundred grand” within a year.

And then, he started looking at what else he could do with the money. He told Wealthsimple:

“Just like when you buy that first ounce of weed and sell three-quarters of it (or so I’m told), we started to reinvest our capital in new ventures. We now have 28 restaurants and a $US200 million a year business, so we’re doing alright.

“Of everything I do — TV, books, product lines — restaurants are by far the most lucrative. Almost all of our restaurants are partnered, meaning that the chef and general manager have a small piece of equity, even if they didn’t chip in. When you give someone equity, they operate like owners — no one steals chickens, no one walks out with a case of wine because they feel like they’re being screwed by the man.”

Batali advises any businessperson looking to grow their prospects to set goals for the short, mid, and long term.

“You don’t have to be a slave to them, but you need to get on a path to what you think is a better place, whether that’s owning a restaurant, working in Aspen in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter, or whatever,” he said. “Find the lifestyle that is conducive to making you extremely happy. Happiness is so much more important than money. I know a bunch of stoned-out bus drivers in San Francisco who are happier than many of my friends in New York who make more than $US1 million a year.”

Read the full story at Wealthsimple »