This here is a classic old story, which I recently discovered was never posted up here, even though it won me a "Best Celebrity Chef Encounter" contest. Since as many people as possible should be informed of this incident, I post it here as a warning, a public service, and of course, for your amusement.
While at the bar in the front room of the Tribeca Tavern, I saw Mario Batali standing talking with a small group. As I rejoined my friends in the back room, I mentioned this spotting to my foodie compatriot.
"Did you talk to him?" he asked.
"No, I've heard he's kind of a jerk. Also, rumor has it that he doesn't bathe often enough, and he smells," I replied.
My friend pulled out his wallet. "I'll give you a dollar if you go sniff him."
Since Batali was standing near the top of the stairs to the bathrooms, and in direct sight of my friend's table, this would be an easy task to pull off and have witnessed, so I took the dare.
As I tried to squeeze past Mario, I put my hands on his shoulders, leaned in for a sniff, and said "excuse me." Mission accomplished. But...
He took my hand and called me beautiful, and asked my name.
"Hi, I'm Ma.. actually, since you can probably pronounce it right, I'll tell you my real name: Maddalena."
"Mario," he said, still holding my hand. "So, you speak Italian?" he said, in Italian.
In better Italian than his, I explained that my parents were born there and we go back almost every year. He cut me off, in English.
"You were headed to the bathroom. Go do what you have to do and then come back and talk to me." He finally let go of my hand.
When I came back upstairs, he was talking to another young brunette. She slipped off (relieved?) as he turned his attention back to me.
Now, Batali the man may be a smelly philanderer, but Batali the chef has some fine restaurants that I love. At the time, Otto was still serving breakfast, and I used to go every Friday. A really great guy named Dennis worked that shift, so I decided to take the opportunity to praise Dennis to his boss.
"Oh, yes, Dennis is a very important member of my team. But let's talk about us." He leaned in a bit more.
"Well, now that I know you like my breakfast, we just have to decide when you and I are going to . . . make love."
I suppressed a laugh at this incredibly cheesy and out of the blue pick up line, and considered reminding him that he was wearing a wedding band, and had named pizzas after his kids. Instead, I decided to laugh it off.
"After breakfast sometime, apparently." I shrugged.
"That's good, since morning wood is the hardest, after all. Especially mine, as you'll see."
I couldn't take any more. "I'm sorry, I really should be getting back to my friends," I said, tears of laughter forming. I pulled away and rushed to the back room.
"So, did he smell?" my friend asked, a dollar in his hand.
"How much will you pay me for getting him to offer to show me his 'morning wood'?" I asked.
Speechless, he just pulled out his wallet and started counting off bills.