by Dave Arnold and Nils Noren
Michael Batterberry was a giant in the food world for over forty years. Long before we Americans were interested in what chefs were up to, Michael dedicated himself to improving the stature of that profession here. Along with his wife Ariane, he founded Food and Wine Magazine, Food Arts Magazine, and wrote the definitive history of dining in New York. You can read about his life and accomplishments here, and here. He went to great lengths to introduce people he thought should meet, and he made forceful recommendations for people he believed in. He decided I was right for the FCI’s Director of Culinary Technology position and cajoled the school into hiring me. I would not be who I am without him, and countless other people in this business can say the same thing. Michael was always searching for what was new –what was next. His eye was on the future but he had a deep appreciation for the past. His breadth of knowledge was staggering.
A few things the obituaries don’t mention: Michael was a sartorial wizard –the most dapper man I ever met. Despite always being the best dressed man in the room he was never, ever snobbish or stuffy. He could show up to a pig-pickin in a three piece suit and look perfectly at home. He had an amazing voice that easily held a room. His wit was sharp and dry but never biting. He was a great raconteur, but was also eager to listen.
Michael was gracious and generous and I am proud to be one of his protégés. I am sad I won’t see him again, but sadder for those who never got to meet him.
Michael was truly a great man in so many ways, and meant so much more to our industry the most people can comprehend. I personally have Michael to thank for many things. He gave me the chance to write, together with Dave, for Food Arts magazine, something I never thought I could really do. Michael was such a great visionary and when he spoke, you listened. His wealth of knowledge was so incredible. I never met anyone who knew more about the history of dining in this country and around the world, and who could also tell what the next big thing was going to be. Michael was opened minded and always curious about new things. He never dismissed new techniques or equipment. On the contrary, he embraced them and he embraced progress, something I admired much.
I don’t know how many people in the food industry have Michael to thank for their success, but I know that there are a lot of us. There will be a huge void without Michael here, and we will miss him tremendously. But we will do everything we can to honor his memory. Skål Michael!