Mario Batali: My Sons Have Been Cooking 'Since They Were Walking'

Mario Batali is, naturally, the head chef in his home, but the Food Network star has always had plenty of backup: sons Benno, 15, and Leo, 13.

Mario Batali

Mario Batali is, naturally, the head chef in his home, but The Chew co-host has always had plenty of backup: sons Benno, 17, and Leo, 16.

“They’ve always participated in the kitchen, and they’ve known how to cook since they were walking,” Batali told PEOPLE at Monday night’s launch party in N.Y.C. for Eat (Red) Drink (Red) Save Lives, an AIDS fundraiser. “Leo makes a really killer beef taco, and Benno makes a stuffed cheeseburger with Gorgonzola inside the burger.”

Last year, the budding chefs published their favorite recipes in The Batali Brothers Cookbook, which features simple comfort foods like Cinnamon Swirl French Toast and Sloppy Sloppy Joes. Although, says Batali: “They’re like really cool right now though, so they’re not cooking too much. They like to go out to eat!”

Proud as he is of his sons’ culinary skills, though, the senior Batali, whose weight-loss successes and failures have been well-documented, limits himself to such rich indulgences. And it’s not easy, even for someone as active as he is.

“Squash, boxing, and golf, meatless Mondays and Thursdays … and it’s still not dripping off, is it? I work hard, but I don’t know. I must have a really slow metabolism. I’m going to try to accelerate it.”

We hope he does, so he can celebrate with Benno’s Gorgonzola-stuffed burger, recipe below.

Pocket Burgers

Serves 4

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 tsp. salt

1¾ lb. ground chuck

½ cup crumbled blue cheese or Gorgonzola

4 hamburger buns, toasted

1. Preheat a grill to high heat.

2. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, pepper and salt.

3. Form your ground chuck into 8 evenly sized thin patties. On one side of each patty, sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of the cumin mixture (or more to your liking).

4. Flip over 4 of the patties so the non-spiced side is facing up and put a quarter of the blue cheese on the center of each patty.

5. Take one of the remaining patties and, spiced-side up, place it on top of one of the blue cheese patties. Gently push the top patty down around the blue cheese and pinch the sides of the patties together until the burger is completely sealed around the cheese. Do this with the remaining 3 patties.

6. Put burgers on the grill and cook to desired temperature (4 minutes on each side for medium). Put burgers on toasted hamburger buns and enjoy.

—Nancy Mattia, with reporting by Haiwen Lu

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