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.

 

 

Bright Idea: Mechanics Making House Calls

Bright Idea: Mechanics Making House Calls

Wrench wants to take the hassle out of car repair.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
 
Need a quick oil change? Maybe a complete tune-up? A year-old startup called Wrench dispatches a certified mechanic to your home or workplace and eliminates the hassle and cost of having to drop off your car at the car dealer or repair shop.
 
“We’re 30 percent cheaper than a dealership and on par with an independent shop,” says Wrench cofounder and CEO Ed Petersen. “But we’re more convenient.”
 
Petersen adds that the pitch to consumers is simple: “Our goal is to make owning your car completely hassle free.”
 
To request service, customers can visit Wrench’s website — getwrench.com — or they can use a smartphone app. Its most popular service is an oil change, which starts at $68. Wrench also offers memberships, which include quarterly visits for oil changes, tire rotations, safety inspections and fluid top-offs; memberships cost $14.95 a month for cars and $19.95 for trucks.
 
 
Last June, the Madrona Venture Group contributed half of a $1.2 million seed round. Managing Director Len Jordan says the big market potential, clear pain point and compelling solution sold Madrona on Wrench’s concept.
 
“We like the market opportunity,” Jordan says. “There are more than 120 million cars on the road that are more than three years old.”
 
So far, Wrench has serviced more than a thousand vehicles. Jordan says the startup is still in its infancy, so the focus is less on making a profit and more on establishing a presence. Demand, however, is apparent. Wrench expanded to car-happy Phoenix in November and is studiously eyeing other markets.
 
Wrench has a contract to service vehicles for Lyft, the ride-hiring service. And it hopes to expand its services to office and industrial parks; it already has deals with Bellefield Office Park in Bellevue and North Creek Business Park in Bothell.