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Famous Chef Mario Batali Spreads Michigan Love

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By Christy Strawser
CBS Detroit Managing Editor
TRAVERSE CITY (CBS Detroit) A Christmas season spent Up North can look like a Norman Rockwell painting — snowy roads, icy tree boughs, quaint downtowns with mom and pop stores, even horse-drawn sleighs.

And no one knows that better than world-famous chef Mario Batali.

Batali, who hosts cooking shows on TV, took to the pages of “Vanity Fair” to talk to the rest of the country about Michigan’s pristine Upper Peninsula. He brags in the latest edition about his love of Traverse City, where he has a vacation home with his wife and two sons.

“We don’t have room service at our house or even delivery pizza for that matter. We cook and we love it,” Batali says to “Vanity Fair.”

“We have an outdoor kitchen with a smoker, a grill, and a pizza oven. And if we get sick of that, a grill pit on the beach for the weenie roasts that keep it real.”

He name drops the “butcher counter at Burritt’s” in Traverse City as his favorite place to shop, and Barb’s Bakery as a favorite place to visit. Batali, who owns some of the most iconic restaurants in New York City, says The Cooks’ House and Frenchies in Traverse City, and the Riverside Inn and Restaurant in Leland are his favorite Up North eateries.

Frenchies Famous Micro-Cafe opened in 2009 on the west side of Traverse City with an Old World Parisian feel and a maximum occupancy of 10.  It’s run by husband and wife team of Alisa Murphy and French Clements, who relocated to Traverse City from Seattle — and haven’t looked back.

“It’s been a hayride, we’re just trying to do the best we can,” Clements said. “Our motto is ‘easy to miss, hard to forget.’ The first time he was here I was kind of in shock, I was so afraid of screwing up his food … It’s more that feeling that’s not fear, but a real clear focus.”

Batali has sung French’s praises every chance he gets, which has pumped up business and brought visitors from around the globe, Clements said. He recently spotted four tourists standing outside at the same time taking photos of the facade.

Will he use the endorsement to expand his tiny location? Clements says “No.”

“My fear is if we get too big, we’ll be too big,” he said. “You always hear those stories about people who over expand.”

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