Mario Batali's heaping helping of controversy

 
 

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.

 

 

An Amazon Exploration

An Amazon Exploration

Beware of the dogs. Two thousand of them.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
 
When I heard that Amazon.com is now offering tours of its buildings in Seattle, I couldn’t wait to sign up. After all, I had worked in its gigantic warehouse in Georgetown many years ago and was curious to see what the company was doing with the small amount of extra space that used to be known as South Lake Union.
 
I imagined an action-packed adventure of a fulfillment center, or the excitement of a warehouse filled with random stuff. I worried about the likelihood of an overtired employee wandering zombie-like through the hallway and threatening to eat my brain. 
 
Instead, there is office space.
 
And there are dogs. Lots of dogs.
 
At the Van Vorst Building (426 Terry Ave. N), I saw techies in their natural habitat, sitting in an easy-chair-filled lobby under posters celebrating Amazon’s early successes. There’s also a souvenir from a failure — an ice cave bear skeleton that was purchased on the long-gone Amazon Auctions. Plus, there were two of the 2,000 dogs registered to accompany their owners to work. 
 
Guide Allison Flicker offered tidbits about Amazon’s corporate history during the one-hour walking tour that provides peeks into six buildings. Like the fact that every building is named after something significant from Amazon’s past, including the last name of the company’s first customer, Wainwright, and the company’s first dog, Rufus. (Are you reading this, Rufus Wainwright?)
 
 
My favorite stop was the Brazil Building (400 Ninth Ave. N), where each floor represents a country and has displays of local currency and items popular in that particular region. At a stop on one floor, Flicker took us to a room filled with free advance copies of new book releases.
 
Fresh from a free-book high, I never saw the near-ambush by a little yappy dog as I floated down the hallway. A small fence and a fast-moving owner quickly thwarted the attack. 
 
My trauma was soothed at our final stop in yet another building, where a demonstration of a robotic arm used in the distribution centers yielded more swag — a recharger and a selfie stick. 
 
As the tour ended, I even got a free banana from the bananista at Amazon’s year-round banana stand. What more could anyone ask for? 
 
Amazon Tours
Free. Ages 6 and older. amazonhqtours.com.