The Man Who Was Everywhere

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Food Arts


I don't think I went to a food event where I didn't see Michael Batterberry and his wife, Ariane. Like, maybe, ever. His wide, handsome face was unmistakable, and he cut a very deliberately dashing figure; he was frankly theatrical, and his booming, mid-Atlantic voice. Of course he'd grown up in England and Venezuela. Of course he had been a cabaret singer in Rome—you could imagine him, in his tailored, double-breasted suit, sitting at the keyboard while he was talking to you.

It was his work that made him stand apart from other men about town. He wrote thoroughly researched, stylish pieces: he cared about history and scholarship along with the latest trends, which he usually saw before most everyone else did, and with his wife he wrote numerous books, including one I frequently consult, On the Town in New York. That effortless erudition and prolificity were more English than American, and unexpected in someone so relentlessly social.

There have been fittingly English-style obituaries, including nice ones in the Post and the Times. But no one's is fonder or more knowing than Julie's.

But the way he was social belied that underlying seriousness. Michael wasn't curious in only that social way I've learned to recognize but am nonetheless always sucked in by—the hanging on your every word as if you're the very most interesting person on earth let alone the room, when of course you'll be nonexistent the minute your rapt listener's attention is caught by someone more glittering than you. Michael remembered, he followed up, and pursued the subject you'd brought up for an article in Food Arts—preferably by you, if you were willing to work for slave wages and be made to re-report, rewrite, and re-think for them, too.

Ah, for the days when slave wages seemed worth thinking about twice! We'll set that subject aside to hear from one of his marvelously energetic, smart slavedrivers—my old friend Julie Mautner, for 10 years the executive editor of Food Arts. Julie evokes the magazine's start-up in the Batterberry's posh living room and eventual migration to the offices of the Wine Spectator, where I remember visiting the small, closely knit crew. Michael's office was a salon, as she describes, where if you didn't actually meet someone you wanted and needed to you'd have an introduction before you left—his favorite activity was putting ideas and people together.

There have been fittingly English-style obituaries, including nice ones in the Post and the Times. But no one's is fonder or more knowing than Julie's. I'm awfully glad to have it, and sorry to lose such an unmistakable presence in the food world.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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