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    « Michael Batterberry - Begins a new chapter of his brilliant life | Main | Cooking for Joy »

    Friday, July 30, 2010

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    Maricel Presilla

    Suvir, you were so inspired...actually everyone who has contributed so far to Michael’s homage had something fundamental and touching to say about him. I think we got to know Michael that night in ways nobody else did. What amazing stories he told us. I remember some good ones about Craig Clairborne. What do you remember most? He had a sharp sense of humor...so witty too. That’s why he forgave me when I accidentally called him Mike at the last CIA conference we attended together. I was so embarrassed, but he put me at ease. No wonder that the first thoughts that came to my mind when you called me about Michael were memories of joy and good times.

    I look at the pictures you posted and I cry. I already miss him so, and he reminds me so much of my dear friend Shirley King, who adored him. She is gone too and I know she would have been devastated if she had been alive today. You should be proud of yourself for being such loyal friend. With Michael we have lost so many crucual memories of our industry. True, he was an eyewitness and commentator of the food scene, but I would also describe him as a participant and catalyst.

    Bill Yosses


    "This Charming Man" by the Smiths must have been written about Michael. He was an intellectual in an age which disparages and fears them, but never pompous his words were always well chosen and reflected his heartfelt passions, of food, companions, history and all their intersections. A conversation with Michael and Ariane was a moment to savor and I always took something away from those talks, a better person than before. Everyone said how much they loved to witness their devotion to one another, that alone was enough to set them apart, natural, real, so deep it hurt to watch. He had an analytical mind but an artist's perspective, witty and trenchant but never mean, knew Visconti and Rome in the 50s and 60s, he seemed to embody La Dolce Vita, Michael, I miss you already, the world seems a lesser place.

    suvir saran

    Maricel, I remember him most for always having the most glorious things to say about everyone. He would talk about someone and put them at this high pedestal that mortals never seem to sit on. But around Michael, mortals became legends. Why? Because Michael had the ability to place people on these high pedestals, but more importantly he had that celestial power that saw in others what ordinary folks would never see. He could see raw talent and know just how it would shape up in a few years. And so, those pedestals that seemed cradled and supported by the love of a friend and believer, translated with time to be pillars that bespoke of a talent that the person Michael had found in the raw had honed through their skills and perseverance into lucrative success.

    David Chang is one of those people. I remember meeting David years ago. When no one knew him or cared enough about good food, let alone the intricacies and wonders of Korean food. Michael knew there was talent in this young man and Michael was supporting him and championing his food and talents way before others.

    Yvan Lemoin is one such other. Michael brought him with Ariane and him to the CIA at one conference and we all thought he was bringing a toddler along. Who knew that this toddler was talented beyond his years and would become a force to reckon with.

    Bill Yosses - another such man. Michael told me years ago that Bill was "good people" and how true was that. That Bill is where he is only because of Bill's talents and decorum and circumspect manner but also a statement about Michael knowing a good thing when he saw it.

    Patricia Quintana - I would have never known her was it not for Ariane and Michael. I will forever be grateful to Michael for bringing so many wonderful women into my lives.

    The list is endless. I could do a book about the stories I heard from Michael and the people I learned about and the evolution of food and society as a whole.

    Michael and Ariane also knew the brilliance of the world that existed in a much more beautiful manner when we saw it without borders. It was this secular way of thinking that was so American and yet so NOT-American today that formed both these visionaries. At their table (or magazine) there was no room for jingoism, xenophobia and smallness of thought or actions.

    We are lucky that Beverly Stevens, Jim Poris and Gary Tucker are there at Food Arts along with lovely others I am yet to become familiar with. A team of brilliant writers and visionaries that will keep Food Arts relevant and alive just as Michael would have wanted it to remain.

    Most of all I cry for Ariane, whose loss is so much greater than any of ours. And I cry because I know how much she supported Michael to be who he was. And how much he respected and supported her for who she was. It was Michael who over one lunch told me all about the many accomplishments of Ariane, her Ivy education, her studies in Cambridge and her brilliance as a businessperson. Michael and Ariane had the brilliance of complementing each other in ways that made for a partnership that deserved all the compliments it received.

    Shall I shut up now? I can go on and on...

    But what I also loved Michael for was his very human sensibilities around everything. Even in near perfection that Michael was, he was happy to show you his own mortal frailties, if only to give the other comfort in knowing we are not meant to be perfect. He gave you hope for yourself, in exposing his own blemishes, the few he had.

    Most of all I enjoyed how he would pepper every story-telling session with anecdotes that were impossible to imagine as being real. Others that seemed so guttural that anyone wearing a kerchief in the suit-pocket could not have experienced and then that sense of humor and the impish manner too, that were always readily available to add a zing that only Michael knew when to add and when to take away. He had delivery down to perfection. He knew how to copy people and make them not only come alive in front of you through near perfect accents etc, but also the facial expressions and the ability to bring atmosphere from other countries and continents into his spoken word through his nuanced ability to deliver stories in a certain manner.

    More???

    suvir saran

    Bill - you are not unlike Michael yourself. How beautifully you capture Michael in such few words.

    Michael truly was an Intellectual. Living in a world where it really is either not understood or worse, despised. That he succeeded to inspire and affect people without ever losing his brilliance or change his ways is even more telling of Michael's unique personality and commitment to his own self and the world he appreciated and cherished. Of course none of this would be anything were it not for the participation and addition of Ariane in this picture. They were whole together. They were as you say naturally so wonderful that it seemed sick, as it showed all of us as being so incomplete and mortal and ordinary. But that was OK. Since at least those of us that saw them and spent time around them could witness two such amazing people enjoy each other to understand that which we were missing and needed to strive towards.

    I can cry and cry and reflect endlessly on this man, this woman who luckily we still have with us and the impact they had on lives together. WOW!

    suvir saran

    Mai - You are so right about how Michael gave compliments. And of course your voice is very special and sweet. We are grateful to Michael for having lit the fire in you that has you cooking the glorious food you do. This was what Michael did so easily and it is a gift that Michael gave that keeps giving. Decades from now, Michael's gift to others will be ensuring people who never lived during his lifetime can taste a bit of the magic that was Michael.

    Maricel Presilla


    Bill,

    I heard Michael talk about his days as a painter and could see how his artistic sensibility informed much of his work and personality. He was also a bibliophile, someone who could quote a great writer at the drop of a hat when most appropriate. He was always natural, never pedantic.

    He was also a man of the world and his cosmopolitan upbringing made him open to foods from all corners of the globe. When I first approached him back in the 1990's to send a writer to do a story on Venezuelan cacao, featuring chefs like you, he jumped at the idea when others seemed reticent. He had lived in Venezuela and had wonderful memories of the country's cooking. In fact, he recalled particular dishes prepared by people I had come to know well on my trips there. He followed his instinct and went along with the project. I benefitted from his support, but most importantly, the story launched El Rey, the first fine Latin American chocolate to be exported to the US. Now that Venezuelan cacao is entering a period of decline and El Rey's future might be in jeopardy because of the political situation in the country, the pivotal support of influential people like Michael and Ariane on those early days of the cacao-chocolate revolution seems transcendental. It helped place a deserving Latin American company on our culinary map and brought attention to the glories of Venezuelan cacao.

    David Guas

    Michael was one of the first "big timer" in NYC that I met nearly 12 years ago. He and my wife, Simone were friends for many years before I came along. I clearly remember taking the elevator up to his office and having a lump in my throat just before Simone barged into his office w/o even a knock. His face lit up and a big grin appeared, I knew then that he was not someone to fear, but someone you wanted to know. Many years went by and I would call him and give him the 411 on what I was up to next in my career. I remember when he called me to invite me to CIA Greystone for a conference, I asked him if he was sure he wanted "me" there. He was always so supportive of me, when I was just starting out and that support grew and was felt even stronger as time went on. Michael defined class and elegance to a level I cannot put into words. Always looking smooth and sharp in his suits, always speaking with such grace and so opionionated, yet always curious what you (the other person)had to say as well.
    I'm deeply saddened by his passing, and wish Ariane strength and loving energy to bid her partner in life farewell. Ok, I am now dripping onto my keyboard and must stop typing.

    As you journey to the next life, I wish you well. All my best to you Michael.

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