Mortal Man, Immortal Memories
(love this last sentence from the obituary as it would have given Michael a chuckle)
Ariane and Michael Batterberry were to many the first couple of the American food world. Together they chronicled the meanderings and growth of the American food scene in ways never done before. Founding Editors of Food Arts (1988)and Food and Wine Magazine(1978), they pioneered the world of food publishing and brought it to the place where it is today. Never ones to give up, always discovering talent and opportunities where another may find nothing. Nurturing, mentoring, supporting and celebrating people, traditions and cultures - they brought forth discoveries for professional chefs and home cooks alike. They gave the world of food tangible glories and successes to look up to when in doubt. They are responsible to have brought the food industry once considered a blue-collar profession into the uber-chic profession it has become.
Whilst Ariane has been left alone, she will certainly find endless inspiration from all the years shared with her beloved Michael. The loss suffered by the passing of Michael will be ours to experience anew tomorrow. Already I am reliving many moments past, when the world of food seemed to have no opportunities and then a call from Michael would show me the light and steer me back on the path of self-discovery. These memories of epic mentoring, generously supportive friendship and patient listening will keep Michael alive for as long as those he touched live.
43 years of marriage is a lifetime more than marriages last today. Seeing Michael and Ariane live their lives with the love and adoration they shared - gave one reason to believe in marriage and the sanctity of honest and kind relationships. Seeing them say, "I couldn't have done it without you" was as natural as a yolk in an egg. Totally in place. Totally magical. Ariane has the gift of her many decades of Michael-Memories. A gift that will continue to inspire her each day, and inspirit her with all the strength needed to continue her own journey, wherever it is she wants it to take her. Whilst it is hard for me to imagine Ariane without Michael (or vice-versa), I know as complete as they were together, they were also each legends in their own right. I for one salute Michael and respectfully and happily await pulling a chair to join Ariane at her visionary table, when she is ready to start a new chapter of her own life.
Charlie fell in love (as all do) with Ariane and Michael at first meeting. We were all in Napa for a CIA conference in St Helena. At dinner Ariane was regaling us with stories of wonderful meals, delicious desserts and old and new discoveries. Charlie came back to the hotel room feeling he had a front row seat at the best show in town. Most memorable to him was the fact that all stories shared by Ariane and Michael were real incidents of their past. Of course all stories were shared in a typically Ariane and Michael fashion. With a zing, and just the right amount of spice added to the facts to ensure optimum impact and for making it an inspirational thought. Ariane and Michael together, were not all about eating and chronicling the creativity of the che. Rather, they set the food and the chefs into the context of life. They helped exalt the lifestyle of food and dining into a communal affair that ought to have been preserved and cherished.
How I wish more people would have met Michael and Ariane together. They would never eat poorly or be lacking for inspiration around food and at a table. It would make sense to have family meals. Watching this couple interact, entertain and share with each other and all that came into their lives was a blessing. At their table (whichever chef they were indulging with their presence at their restaurant any given day or night) good food, good conversations and meaningful dialog were celebrated.
Charlie's cherishing the company of Ariane and Michael made my life easier. They were a couple I revered and he now saw why. Time spent in their company was time enjoyed immensely by both of us. Our one complaint - we did not get to spend too much time around them in the last 3 years, since the farm distanced us from the city and life robbed us of the pleasure of Ariane and Michael's brilliance on a more regular basis. The brilliance of these two visionaries was larger than their person. With closed eyes I could travel back to conversations of the past and feel Michael and Ariane were at my side and giving me hope and love even when alone in a silent dark room at the farm. It is this magic of theirs that can never be robbed and will never cease existing.
Michael was regal where royals would have been ordinary. Was it his birth in England that made him so? Was it just who he was? I think the latter is where it is at. In a world where soundbites and tweets (one liners or not even a full line) rule, Michael ruled with outpourings and missives that could have made the papacy look bankrupt for words. And what words he chose. He spoke from the heart, with notes on hand - just in case he needed words to remind him to stay on message. But Michael never needed those notes. He remembered every detail that another would have forgotten. He delivered in a message much more than a mortal could capture in a speech practiced and rehearsed over months. His magnanimous being sprung from the very core of his soul, a place so full of love and kindness, patience and forgiveness that Michael did not need to be reminded to include people, thank people or honor people - it flowed naturally. He was inclusive in a way that even the politically correct seem didactic and challenged.
I steal a quote from Michael to speak about Michael. Michael, if you are hearing me struggle to capture you in words - thank you for giving me your words, to describe you, yourself, in a more articulate manner." ....had the gift of immediate intimacy, tempered by ancestral decorum, proved to be an ideal table companion, a charming raconteur and, quite clearly, a born teacher with the ability to set the unfamiliar in engaging context."
Michael was all of the above and more. To watch Michael speak with people, to see Michael work a room, to be at Michael's side as he made a discovery - was to have witnessed life at its best. Nothing would ever give you more reason to persevere and to work hard to do what was right. If a man with such credentials and upbringing could be so inclusive, so generous and so patient, the rest of us had no reason not to push ourselves to work harder, be kinder and learn to be generous to a fault. Michael taught by example.
Michael looked like the kind of man who could be considered the founding father of a nation. But that said, Michael certainly can be considered the founding father of the 20th and 21st century food movement as we know it today. Chefs big and small revere Food Arts Magazine and I know across the world in hotels and restaurants Michael, Ariane and Foods Arts are celebrated as a magazine that makes us proud.
It was no surprise to see Michael flanked by culinary stars. It was natural. Why would you not see Michael in such company. He was after all the Editor-in-Chief of Food Arts and Founding Editor of Food and Wine Magazine. How many people can tout such credentials? Few! Michael mentored any and all that came his way. Ariane and Michael supported chefs in ways that often people cannot imagine. I did not have a restaurant, and was struggling to prove my credentials to NYC as a caterer when Michael and Ariane made me a part of the masthead as a Contributing Authority on Indian cuisine alongside Madhur Jaffrey. They took risk, where others would have taken the easier route. They invested time and support where they saw future. I questioned Michael about it. Let him know I was ashamed to be given such a placement by him. I was worried I would let him down. He held my hand, looked at me squarely in the eye and told me to keep dreaming and keep working hard saying "you will bridge the gulf between the Indian food of yesteryear and the future". That has always stuck by me and has given me reason to keep doing what is correct, not what is easy. I am fallible and each time I have made mistakes, I am reminded of Michael, his confidence and trust in those he knows, and that gives me reason to have hope and work harder for a tomorrow that could make me better. I know I am not alone in thinking Michael was my mentor. Everyone that was lucky enough to know him felt they were his favorite. Every chef that got to dine with him went back feeling they had dined with culinary royalty and a dignitary of the most ecumenical kinds.
Michael was first and foremost a devoted husband, a loving relative and a most loyal friend. I remember well my father's liver failure and need for a liver transplant. Michael called every week. And here there is no flourish or zing that Michael and I and some others we knew can often add to make those they love look even better. Michael truly called me every week in Denver to ask about my father. See how things were fairing. Gave me feedback from his own family and friend circle where another had gone through this and made sure I was not feeling disconnected to NYC and the food world as I spent several months at my fathers side in Denver. Ariane and Michael made me feel I had relatives in a country I had only come to as 20 year old. They made me proud of my own life. It was with pride that I would give his messages of hope to my parents. I would show them my name on the masthead and then mention that it was the man and woman photographed on the editorial page that were sending them wishes of recovery. It was a beautiful gift. One money cannot buy. And sadly few can extend. Michael and Ariane were those that did. I will remember this to my own dying day.
An era has ended with Michael's demise. But the reach of his person shall continue for as long as their are people cooking food with pride, love and respect. Michael ensured ego was removed from food. And he also appreciated food at its many different functions. There was room at his table and in his magazine for creations of all kinds. The rarefied and the esoteric were given as much attention as the more modest and comforting. I still remember David Chang and I demonstrating together at Javits Center as part of Michael's discoveries if you will from the world of food to showcase as the future of the world of food. This was long before David Chang got all his current recognition. That was the reach of Michael and his visionary ways.
Margalit Fox in the NY Times captures Michael in a soundbite-obituary if you will. Someone of Michael's stature and personality is hard to describe in an obituary made finite by word count and column space. I am sure the NY Times will do itself proud by doing several pieces in many different sections of the paper, since this one man enriched the lives of people through many different talents. Not food alone. I anxiously await to see what my most beloved paper does to remember my most beloved mentor/friend. Michael wrote with a flourish lost to the American people and perhaps the 21st century as a whole. His words were never plain and simple. His sentences as long as his speech was rich and effusive. Purple prose took on rich and kaleidoscopic patterns when it came to his writing. Michael knew just how to introduce a person, to give a welcome and to review something new. He was not ever slave to expectations or traditions of another. Michael moved in a world that was fluid and yet staged. And behind his world was the force that kept his world ticking and functioning with great pageantry. His formidably intelligent, dynamically talented and professional and very deft businesswoman and publishing genie, Ariane. Ariane gave Michael the space to perform and entertain without any competition. But luckily for us, Michael also gave Ariane her own space to captivate and enrich her own cadre of friends, fellow professionals and those she mentored. Charlie and I can never forget the many conversations that Ariane has shared with us where we left with new and precious knowledge. Ariane lives and shall keep Michael's world, the magazine and their zest for life alive in ways only Michael and she could. My prayers and thoughts are being channeled for Ariane and Charlie and I hope she is blessed with all the strength she deserves to come out shining as we know she will through such a tragedy.
But in the meantime, whenever at a loss for inspiration, I know I will look up at the stars, and find the one that is shining the most, shimmering with hope of a future with promise, and I know in that star I will find Michael, looking from above and giving me all that I will need to believe in myself and the future. And in my head, between my ears, I will have that voice of his speaking to me and giving me comfort. And of course I will have Ariane to visit and recount stories of Michael and come back home with more inspiration from two people that have already given me so much to be grateful for.
Michael's journey as we knew it till Wednesday is of the past. One we will all reflect upon and celebrate. Now he has given us an opportunity to walk with him on a new journey - ours to cherish and savor with every meal we cook and share. Michael was never one to live just in one finite moment. Michael lived to bring to the present the riches of the past and the imminent magic of the future. Michael will stay alive and inspire as long as people will live inspirited to capture the most each day and to understand that actions of today affect tomorrow.
Michael - your gifts to me and so many others are countless and unbelievably hard to document. At least by mortals not as immortally gifted as you. Please forgive me my many oversights as I reflected on my life with you. I will have you in my heart, on my mind and around my kitchen and table - always.
PS: The photographs are stolen from google image search. Sadly, when around Michael and Ariane I was paying more attention to the stories and never bothered with anything else. I have no photos to share. Shame on me! Or rather kudos to Ariane and Michael for having all of us so enraptured in their stories that taking photos just did not cross our minds.
PS 2: Michael introduced me to some of my closest
friends in the world of food. I have included below letters from some
of them. As they come to my mailbox, I shall keep adding them here.
Click here to read the obituary for Michael on the Wine Spectator site.
Joyce Goldstein - San Francisco
Michael Batterberry was always ahead of the curve. He and Ariane started Food and Wine magazine to fill a niche that was more than just recipes for home cooks and travelogues. He and Ariane created Food Arts because they realized that the Restaurant industry needed a magazine of its own; one that talked about food, technique, wine, kitchen design, culinary innovation, and what was happening of note in the culinary industry. He recognized not just trends but food and wine movements that would have lasting impact. He was supportive of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and recognized that women were making a unique contribution in the culinary world. He gave good advice, sought out the innovators, and recommended the right people for food events. He was a connector of people and ideas. And he will be missed.
Maricel Presilla - New Jersey
It was with enormous sadness that I learned that Michael Batterberry had died last night. I had first met him years ago at an intimate dinner party at the tiny New York apartment of the late Shirley King, a British cookbook writer and chef who thought he was as handsome (or more) than Gregory Peck. From that moment I felt that I had known Michael forever. Through the years I came to love and admire him, not only for his intelligence and wit, but also because he always seemed genuinely interested in my progress. I imagined him growing old gracefully, looking more distinguished with each passing year. The thought of an evolving American food scene without a Michael Batterberry chronicling and commenting on its twists and turns is inconceivable.
Somehow, it seems appropriate that I heard the sad news from Suvir, a mutual friend, who sounded heartbroken over the phone. Michael had been his mentor, a pole star. He had introduced us years ago at a pastry retreat he organized with Greg Drescher at CIA’s Greystone campus in Napa, and it was over dinner on our final day at that conference that our friendship was cemented.
Michael and his wife Ariane had invited us for dinner together with Mexican chef Patricia Quintana. The evening sounded promising as Michael was eager to take us to a well known Italian restaurant in the area that I had never visited. It was clear that his intention was to impress us. However, there was one small problem. Michael informed us that we needed to stop for a few minutes at a friend’s golf club on our way to the restaurant to meet the chef and perhaps stay for a few appetizers. It was already dark and a bit late when we drove through Napa’s backroads to reach the place. We meandered through the dark club grounds looking for the restaurant (we had all imagined something posh and classy) and to our surprise we ended up in a brightly lit glorified cafeteria staring at a menu featuring burgers and fries, club sandwiches and fried calamari.
Noticing that it was already too late to reach the Italian restaurant in time to have dinner we decided to stay. The experience seemed surreal, and Michael, though calm and collect, was clearly baffled by the turn of events. I was in the company of New York’s food royalty, the classiest couple I knew, with two of my most admired chefs, and I was munching on fries and lackluster calamari. Looking at each other we burst into laughter, and we simply could not stop. Like schoolchildren Patricia and I had to excuse ourselves from the table and literally fell on the floor laughing.
Michael was brilliant that night. He made up for the gaffe with the food regaling us with stories about the food world that I had never heard before. A dinner party gone awry at the home of a culinary superstar of old when hundreds of crayfish escaped from the bathtub where they had been kept waiting to be cooked and began crawling all over the house as dinner guests began to arrive. Revealing anecdotes of the complicated lives of James Beard and Craig Claiborne followed. It was as if Michael had taken us by the hand and giving a first row seating on the unfolding drama of the birth and growth of modern American cooking. How I wished I had recorded every word he said that night. Michael had been an eyewitness to the movement that made us love cooking and made it acceptable for us to embrace it as our careers. His stories had the depth of real life experiences, but they were peppered by a devilish sense of humor (that made me liked him even more) and remarkable insight. What an astonishing raconteur Michael Batterberry was. It was Masterpiece Theater with a touch of Fawlty Towers ...no…better. We could have listened to him all night, spellbound, and we did. We were the last to leave the restaurant and our laughter echoed through the deserted parking lot lit only by the stars.
May you shine like them forever, dear friend. We’ll miss you.
Nathalie Dupree, Charleston, South Carolina
Michael and Ariane Batterberry were leaders in many parts of the food world, but to me they brought the world of American Cuisine to the forefront. They did this through their magazines, of course, but the genesis of the movement was a grand dinner they executed in the mid-1970's at Inn in the Park. They invited the best cooks from all over the nation to show off to the food world. Paul Prudhomme did his Cajun cabins, served with strawberry ice cream melted and poured over them to soften the cabins. Alice Waters brought her tiny lettuces and they became de rigueur on every American menu. And on it went. It aligned the chefs into a greater movement. Michael was a gracious and kind man, generous to the food world, and to me. I am grateful for having known him.
Bill Yosses, Washington, DC
"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.
Mai Pham, Sacramento, CA
I will always remember Michael with the greatest affection and respect. At a conference in Seattle 15 years ago, Michael came up to me after my presentation. "Mai, I was so touched by your presentation," Michael said. "You have a very very special voice." I was so impressed that some of his stature to come up to me and say that. He probably never realized it but he and his comments that day lit a fire in me, and had a lot to do with my culinary career today. What am incredibly lovely and big-hearted person he was...his spirit and soul will forever be with us.
David Guas, Washington, DC
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