Douchebag Decree: Mario Batali Thinks “Skinny Actresses” Should Shut Up About His Food

Douchebag Decree logo in red and blue letters it says Ye Olde Douchebag Decree. Bitch hereby declares the following person a total douchebag

It’s no secret that the food world is a dudely one. Chefs—especially those who achieve celebrity status—are usually men, and a “bros before hos” mentality permeates the industry, where women hold just 19% of chef positions, and female servers make 68% of the salaries male servers earn. Women working in the restaurant industry are also more likely to be sexually harassed on the job, and if that statistic doesn’t surprise you, then, like me, you’ve probably read one too many Anthony Bourdain books (you know, the ones where a douchey manly disregard for others is prized above all else and women are openly mocked).

Enter Mario Batali, the Crocs-wearing beponytailed celebrity chef best known for his shows on the Food Network and that time he drove around Spain with Gwyneth Paltrow. Recently, Batali left the show Iron Chef, and earlier this week at the Atlantic Food Summit he explained why. Said Batali:

When they had judges like you [Corby Kummer] and Jeff Steingarten and Dana Cowin and Ed Levine, people whose opinion I felt merited the ability to criticize my food, that’s one thing. But when all of a sudden you get these skinny little actresses from a show called The OC and they’re saying they don’t like raw fish, I’m like, ‘Fuck you, why are you talking about my food? Who let you in this room?’ ‘Oh, I really don’t like that.’ Well who the fuck are you?

Here’s his interview with Corby Kummer:

Transcript of the video available here.

Now, I’m sure that when someone from another industry judges your food it can get annoying. I’ve watched plenty of Iron Chef in my day, and Batali does indeed appear to be “busting his balls” to get the food ready, most of which looks pretty tasty. Hearing the O.C.’s Melinda Clarke say she doesn’t like spiny lobster after you’ve spent an hour cooking those suckers is probably a real drag. However, Mario Batali is a celebrity chef, and Iron Chef is a celebrity competition show—why so sour about judges from the entertainment industry? That’s the whole deal! Worse than that, though, is Batali’s dismissal of “skinny actresses” as having no business eating his food. Sexism: It’s what’s for dinner (and lunch and breakfast and dessert and tapas).

batali cooking on the set of iron chef
You’re next, Seth Cohen.

There’s a double standard in the restaurant biz when it comes to size. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the way Mario Batali’s weight is described compared to that of his celebrity chef colleague Paula Deen. Male chefs are “robust,” “hearty,” “meaty”—female chefs are fatasses who are to blame for the obesity epidemic. While this isn’t Batali’s fault, the way he blows off skinny women as incapable of tasting his food is not only whiny, it also reinforces the notion that a fat husky man is the only credible authority when it comes to eating stuff. (Newsflash: Everyone eats. Judging food is one job that we’re all somewhat qualified for, seeing as how we practice multiple times a day, skinny or not.)

I watch a lot of food TV, and I’ll admit it: I like Mario Batali as a celebrity chef. He’s dynamic, bears a striking resemblance to Melissa McCarthy (of whom I am a huge fan), and hey, I love a man in orange. However, he has a track record of being something of a horse’s ass offscreen (see: the time he told a female colleague to “get used to” sexual harassment because “this is New York”, the time he compared bankers to Hitler, the time he allegedly ran multiple tip-stealing rings, and the time he called a blogger a “snarky princess” for, um, writing about him) so this “fuck you don’t judge my food skinny actresses” rant isn’t really a shocker. It is indicative of a larger trend though—one that degrades women on both sides of the restaurant kitchen.

Previously: Jim Foley, Vice President of Victim Blaming, the University of Montana, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and the Authors of the Republican Violence Against Women Act

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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21 Comments Have Been Posted


i'm sure it's no coincidence that only one of the judges he lists that respects is a woman, and possibly that's only because she's the EIC of a very influential magazine that is owned by American Express.

While I agree with what you

While I agree with what you have to say about women's role/status in the culinary arts - I don't think that it has anything to do with Batali's comments. He was referring to his food being judged by actresses - as in, people with no culinary background/credibility as judges of food. The skinny part, while perhaps not the best choice of words, could also be interpreted as implying that many actresses starve themselves for their looks - further reducing their credibility as people who appreciate food.

I am more inclined to take his comments as a slight against the celebrity worship of untalented, cookie-cutter women. If anything, his comments are pro-woman.

Really "Female Foodie"?

No comment that polices a woman's body size is pro-woman. Period. To assume anything about my ability to enjoy/critique or understand food based on my size is wrong. To judge these women's ability enjoy/critique/or understand food based on their size is wrong. Using anything about her body to silence or invalidate a woman speaking her own experience is misogyny. Period.

For example, my 5 year old and went for coffee yesterday and she ordered a chocolate raspberry tart. She couldn't eat it because the crust was horrible. And she knows crusts, her mother and grandmother and uncle all work hard to make sure their pies, tarts, and turnovers have the perfect crust. No one in my family agrees on what perfect is or the recipes to be used, but they are all good. This tart at a highly reviewed local bakery had a crust that could have been mold injected cardboard. My "skinny" five year old knew it. Telling her that she should shut it down after she is asked what she thinks is ridiculous. Telling her she can't know what she is talking about because she didn't say it was dense and flavorless with a poor crumb is nonsense.

Essentially telling her to shut up because she doesn't weigh enough to know what something tastes like (because, ya know, you can always play the skinny-airhead/stupid-fatty card on any woman because you don't like what she has to say) is hate.

Well spoken!

Thanks Beverly! Couldn't have said it better myself.

It was obviously not my

It was obviously not my intention to suggest that body size determines one's ability to judge food quality - nor am I in support of body policing. Batali's comments are a nod to a broad generalization about the culture of food deprivation that many young actresses buy into - which is not entirely true for all, but not entirely false either. His comments had more to do with the irrelevance of actresses acting as food judges on food competition shows. These shows should be judged by those with culinary credibility. The actresses being used in these shows are there for window dressing and eye candy - not their ability to judge food. He could have just as easily been talking about male actors, architects, bus drivers; the point was about professional culinary credibility. The only reason we are talking about women is because tv networks want to use sex to sell food. The skinny comments, as I already said - were misplaced - but I understand where he is coming from. Networks choose these actress judges based on looks, not on their love of food. America doesn't want to see fat women on tv - and certainly doesn't want to see them eating.

I also wanted to add that

I also wanted to add that while anyone can enjoy food - age and size aside - they can't necessarily appreciate sea urchin, durian, or sweetbreads. Judging high-level culinary competitions requires the knowledge about a range of products and preparation techniques. This is why culinary professionals should be judges, and not actresses (or anyone else). Again, this is about food judging - not women, or size. "Skinny Actress" is just the most appealing package for the networks to sell tv food shows with sex.

White hipsters and

White hipsters and self-appointed food snobs might buy into the idea that there is something inherently high-brow and inaccessible about "exotic" foods but there is actually no real reason why any person, regardless of age or background, can't enjoy sea urchin, durian, or sweetbread. They don't require a "refined" palate or special training to enjoy, and people who are neither trained chefs nor "foodies" eat them every day.

Here. Here.

Here. Here.

Sorry, trying to validate his

Sorry, trying to validate his misogyny by claiming it was social commentary is disingenuous.

WEEELLL, yes and no. OK, so

WEEELLL, yes and no. OK, so I'm SO not defending the guy here, the man's an ass. HOWEVER, I wouldn't want a woman who probably has an eating disorder judging my food either. And I feel strange having to tell Bitch magazine that a LOT of female actors have eating disorders. EVERYONE knows it is an industry rife with disordered eating just as the food industry is rife with misogyny. Should he have said that the way he did or at all? No. Was it misogynist? Hell, yeah. But is it grounded in some fact? Yes.

And that makes it ok

So, inviting someone to make commentary and then telling them "F*** you!" and using their bodies and femininity to invalidate the commentary they were invited to make is ok because they work in another industry that also has a history of misogyny and making assumptions about their relationship with food based on their profession is a valid way to shut them up?

No body has argued that the media presents healthy images of women. Telling women that they cannot both work in their chosen profession and have a "normal" relationship with food makes Mario part of the problem. Attacking just the women and using their bodies to "validate" his angry tirade has nothing to do with problematic representations of women in media and has everything to do some misogynist douche-bag using the same old, tired, "women should shut up" garbage to make himself feel important and validated.

Bringing in a tangentially related issue and pretending that the article or publication or author doesn't understand said issue and needs you to explain it is ridiculous.

Assuming a woman has an eating disorder because she is thin and deciding what she is qualified to do based on that assumption (like judging your food) IS misogynist body policing. As a "skinny" woman who has struggled to take in enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, someone telling me I "probably have an eating disorder" makes them an asshole.


I just wanted to chime in here and agree with Beverly that we can't make the assumption that a skinny woman has an eating disorder. Thanks for all of the great comments, everyone!

You hit the nail on the head,

You hit the nail on the head, I think. Batali's opinion at its most simple isn't a problem for me, it's the way he delivered his opinion. His rhetoric is what marks him as a misogynist douchebag. And if he isn't really a misogynist douchebag, then this is a good notice to him to change the way he says things. But I'm not holding my breath. Haute cuisine is rife with misogyny.

I agree with most of what you

I agree with most of what you said however I don't agree with your five year old being the final word on the taste of a tart. Her skinniness is a moot point once you brought up her age. In this case its not her size, it's the fact that she's in kindergarten! Your comment lost credibility.

Speaking as a cook AND an (formerly) avid Bitch reader....

This article blew things way out of proportion, and a lot of commenters seem to be doing the same. Batali's comments had nothing to do with the woman's size or gender, he was expressing his frustration that people who do not understand what goes into making these dishes (aka people without ANY sort of kitchen experience or culinary training) were just immediately turning their nose up at his hard work. He very clearly says that in the video. And any chef would agree with this. Yes, everyone has the ability to appreciate exotic or intricately prepared foods. However, someone lacking any experience in the industry won't be able to gauge the amount of work and effort and skill that went into a dish like those made on Iron Chef.

Further, Iron Chef is NOT a celebrity competition show. It is a culinary competition between famous chefs, so let's not make it out to be in the same vein of shows like Dancing with the Stars. As another commenter pointed out, the token "celebrity" judges are only their to bring in viewers.

I'd also really like to call bullshit on the treatment of female chefs vs. male chefs in the industry. You can point out Paula Deen all you want, but chefs rag on her because her recipes are INCREDIBLY unhealthy, even she has admitted this. Beyond that, I'd really like to see substantial examples of legitimate female chefs who face size discrimination in the way described. In fact, I highly recommend you all go read Blood, Bones, & Butter if you want to see a realistic portrayal of a successful female chef.

Which brings me to my final point. Yes, the food industry has a nasty history of being a boys club...oh wait, just like any other industry. I've been in it since I was 14, and work full time as a prep cook now. I couldn't be happier with my job, and have never felt discriminated against because I am a woman. While it is unfortunate that there are women who still do experience discrimination in this industry (and I in no way mean to diminish their experience), you can't chalk that up to the industry itself, that kind of thing occurs in all sorts of workplaces. Kitchens require you to be tough, whether male or female. There are a lot of people that just can't hack it in the industry because they simply lack the proverbial "balls" or "ovaries" that it takes to make it in a kitchen. It's a high-stress, fast-paced world that just isn't for anyone, regardless of your gender. And for that matter, ask any pastry chef out there today, women DOMINATE that particular field of our industry. Go to any culinary program specializing in pastry and women outnumber men 20 to 4.

I'm sad to say that this article has soured me to reading Bitch in general, which I have supported since I began college 4 years ago. Perhaps next time you should talk to a few more women in the industry before making broad generalizations about an amazing field of work.

I completely agree with KitchenBitch

While complaints against Batali may very well be warranted, the example in the video gave little credence for anyone to "bitch" about anything. Nobody likes to have their work critiqued by people we feel have little knowledge of what we do.

So true ...

More often than not, your "Douchebag Decrees" are spot-on and well deserved. But, I am sorry to say that this one was a *FAIL* for especially the reasons given by KitchenBitch and Lee Bassett. Foodies, esteemed chefs, sous-chefs, and others in the culinary world take their creations VERY seriously and there are good reasons why the likes of Anthony Bourdain's honest, sometimes uncomfortable opinions taking aim at the sea of Food Network and Cooking Channel "stars" that are simply in it for cable ratings are appreciated. In all, it is unwise and uncool to "mess" with these people ... even if it is your mission to critique all that is "un-feminist" in pop culture.

I agree too!

With all the douchey-ness going on these days, I'm sure we could ALL find something more outrageous to rant about. I think this is mostly a misunderstanding.

And thank you to KitchenBitch for giving her first-hand input.

So basically you're saying

So basically you're saying Batali should get an A for effort, regardless of the quality of his final product? If he worked long and hard at it then the judges shouldn't be allowed to dislike it?

Also, if his comments had nothing to do with size and gender, then why did he explicitly reference size and gender? Why didn't he say unqualified entertainment-types or non-foodies or any of the other possible phrases that would have more clearly communicated the source of his frustration? You can say he could've, but the fact is he didn't. I don't think anyone here is confused about the point he was trying to make, though they don't necessarily agree with it; the problem people are having is with the language he used to make it, which was misogynistic and sexist.

As for your second-to-last paragraph, are you really saying that the food industry shouldn't be called out on its sexism because there are other sexist industries? If you've been reading Bitch for four years than you must know that the food industry is hardly being singled-out here. I'm glad you feel you've never been discriminated against, but that's not a reason to believe others haven't, which is what you go on to imply (that those women just weren't tough enough). And if women can hack it, as shown by the numbers you gave about pastry chefs, then why are they outnumbered in other areas of the kitchen? Could it be that making sweet and delicate pastries is seen as more feminine and thus acceptable for women? That perhaps female would-be chefs are steered, possibly via discrimination and harassment, into that particular field? I don't know, I'm not a chef, would-be, iron or otherwise, but that's what came to mind when I read your comment. Finally, I'm sorry to hear you're letting one article drive you away from a great magazine. I'll leave you all with this article:

Wait a minute...

Wait a minute... isn't Gwyneth Paltrow a skinny actress? ;^)

However, Mario Batali is a

However, Mario Batali is a celebrity chef, and Iron Chef is a celebrity competition show—why so sour about judges from the entertainment industry? <a href="">pure garcinia cambogia</a>

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