'The Chew's' Mario Batali on making it in the restaurant business: 'Offer to work for free'

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mario-batali-the-chew-abc-325.jpgMost restaurateurs will tell you they got into the business out of a love of preparing food but often found themselves devoting most or all of their time to administrative functions.

There is, after all, much to be done: the books, the setting of the menu, the buying of the food, the actual running of the restaurant, and the hiring and firing of employees.

Ah, the employees. Getting and keeping good ones can often be the biggest challenge a restaurant owner faces and can often make or break the business.

Mario Batali, co-host of ABC's daytime food show "The Chew," knows. As a chef and co-owner of 24 restaurants across the U.S., including Babbo in New York and B&B Ristorante in Las Vegas, he's seen his share of staffing issues over the years and says the problem in the industry seems to be getting worse.

"Staffing is more a problem now than it was when we started in the late '90s," Batali tells Zap2it. "It's an interesting dichotomy: The restaurant business is in vogue -- I talk to an inordinate number of people who aspire to careers in restaurants -- but still, somehow, there's a lack of talent for hire."

As for which is more valuable in today's restaurant job market -- experience or culinary training -- he says, "Experience, which is analogous to a culinary education. Find a restaurant or chef you admire, and offer to work for free."

Batali didn't work for free when he started in the industry during his college years, but he did find the work irresistible, and he never looked back.

"There was no definitive 'aha' moment when I realized I was destined for a life in the kitchen," he says. "My first restaurant job was making stromboli at a restaurant called Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick, N.J. I loved the energy of the kitchen. I was hooked."
Photo/Video credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin