After comparing bankers to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, celebrity chef Mario Batali is backpedaling as fast as his tradmark orange Crocs will let him, hoping to avoid mass cancellations at his high-end New York City restaurants Babbo and Del Posto.
Batali, who grew up in Federal Way and owns more than a dozen restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, was on a Time magazine panel in New York Tuesday taking part in a discussion of who should be Time's Person of the Year for 2011. Batali suggeted food writer Michael Pollan should be considered, then let his opinion continue unchecked with this, according to The New York Times: “But I would have to say that who has had the largest effect on the whole planet without us really paying attention across the board and everywhere is the entire banking industry and their disregard for the people that they’re supposed to be working for.”
Batali continued: “The way the bankers have toppled the way that money is distributed, and taken most of it into their own hands, is as good as Stalin or Hitler, the evil guys."
Since the story broke, the Twitterverse has been apoplectic, with some in the banking community calling for boycotts of Batali's many restaurants. Batali, who was back in Seattle last week for a pricey fundraiser benefiting the Seattle Art Museum, has since apologized, saying, "It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history."
Still, he may want to choose carefully next time he's shopping for a loan to open his next restaurant.