"Immigrant food is American food," the chef tells PEOPLE

By Shay Spence
Updated January 30, 2017 01:42 PM
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Mario Batali has traveled across America studying diverse regional cuisines, an experience that’s given him a unique perspective on President Trump‘s latest executive order.

“What perplexes me is what seems to be a new misunderstanding of our roots,” he told PEOPLE at the Sun Wine & Food Fest at the Mohegan Sun on Sunday. “If we’re saying, out of fear, that we’re not interested in immigrants right now … we just have to be a little more thoughtful when we say something as stupid as that.”

The new policy, which temporarily prevents citizens from seven countries from entering the United States and indefinitely bans Syrian refugees, is a “thinly-veiled fear move,” according to Batali. “It threw everything into chaos.”

Having most recently authored Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA, Batalialso comes at the issue from a culinary point of view.“Immigrant food is American food,” he said. “There are no native Americans except for the Native Americans.”

The chef’s perspective on the roots of American cuisine is one he’s acquired organically throughout his career. “For the last 20 years I’ve been traveling around the country on book tour or doing TV appearances for the Italian books that I wrote,” said Batali, who hosted a brunch with fans at the festival in Connecticut. “As I get to these little towns, I’m not looking for Italian food. I’m looking for anything that anybody loves, anything that tells me the story of the place.”

“I discovered that the magnificent regional stories of American food aren’t because they were naturally from there,” he continued. “It was immigration that brought people here, those dishes followed them.”

WATCH THIS: Get a Look Inside Mario Batali’s Home Kitchen

It should come as no surprise, then, that Batali is supportive of the widespread protests that have broken out across the country since the policy went into effect on Friday.

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“The rebellion is what makes me the happiest because people aren’t going to take it,” he said, advocating for a much more liberal policy approach. “The open border immigration story needs to happen. You need new blood all the time. We need to constantly keep evolving—that’s what makes America such a fantastic place. And that’s why our food is so fantastic.”