Tuesday, October 6, 2009


As a gluten free vegetarian, I attend most tastings with my own rations in tow. October 5, at the WNET"s Morgan Library event it was lucky I had. The only food I could enjoy was the Ciao Bella gelato. Delicious, as always. And a complimentary bottle of water. Sigh...

Food disappointments aside, I was looking forward to the interview of Mario Batali by local NPR show host Leonard Lopate since I'd seen them at an NYU panel discussion on luxury and food, and they were entertaining and informative. Doors had opened 6:30, interview was to run from 7:15 to 9. Familiar with the Morgan Library in its earlier pre-renovation layout, I waited to be directed by the staff to the interview venue, some large auditorium which I assumed had been built as part of the renovation. I made an incorrect assumption.

Standing Room Only usually refers to a sold out performance where part of the audience does without seats. This was ONLY standing room only: there were only two seats, one for Mario and one for Leonard. The crowd pressed toward them as if at an old-time political rally, the occasional hand-with-camera reaching out of the mass of humanity to get a snap of the stars. There was much grumbling and fatigue, and, eventually, people leaving.

Mr. Lopate unsuccessfully tried to quiet those who, because they were not near the small platform where he and Batali sat, were unaware the "event" had begun.Then, there was discussion of the Gourmet closing, a sketching out of Batali's career, some inside gossip about former partners...but...I apologize, dear reader, discomfort won out and I left before the end. The rambling interview could not compete with its amateurish staging.

Uneven lighting left Mario Batali in moderate shadow, and only part of Leonard Lopate illuminated. Given the duo was out of most of the audience's sight, speaking from some faraway semi-darkness, but the sound quality was good, the experience was oddly that of radio, with a fast-paced pre-show subway-like crush on snack lines so long and tense that one person said people were acting as if the miniscule samples might save them from starvation.

Leonard Lopate is a skilled interviewer, Mario Batali is quick-witted and amusing, and The Morgan Library is one of the treasures of the City. The excellence of the venue, interviewer and interviewee were sorely diminished by the severely flawed organization of that evening.


cinnamonquill said...

Exciting! Looking forward to hearing more... :)

G.F.Veg said...

hope you got a chance to check back