SUTTONS BAY — Ginger Bardenhagen can't wait for Mario Batali's new cookbook to hit the shelves.
The celebrity chef is a fellow redhead and solidarity is important, she laughed. But the suspense mostly stems from waiting to see which fruits of the Bardenhagen farm's labor gets to share Batali's prestigious spotlight. The Ginger Golds? The Crimson Crisps? The organic "tarts," or tart cherries?
"He was really interested in our apples and cherries," Bardenhagen said of Batali's visit to her family farm last summer. "I can't wait to see what recipe they use."
The former Food Network chef appears daily on ABC's "The Chew" and owns 26 restaurants. Batali has nine cookbooks, including the James Beard Award-winning "Molto Italiano; 327 Simple Italian Recipes."
Batali's newest cookbook — to be published this October — shows Batali standing with a pitchfork in one hand and a chicken in the other. "Simple, delicious recipes celebrating local farmers" is the foundation of "America Farm to Table." Bardenhagen Farm in Suttons Bay and Epicure Catering from Omena are one of 14 farm-to-table pairs featured from across the country.
The book is written with The Washington Post journalist Jim Webster.
Batali, the Bardenhagen family and Epicure Catering's Cammie Buehler and Andy Schudlich all knew each other before this project. Batali has a summer home in Leelanau county and Epicure occasionally provides cooking and logistical support for Batali's projects when he is in town.
He's a "mentor," Buehler said, describing Batali, his wife and two children as "sweet, thoughtful and fun-loving."
Buehler and Jim Bardenhagen have worked together since 2003. There wasn't much of a local food "movement" in Northern Michigan but Buehler and Jim Bardenhagen — and Batali — share a passion for connecting people with their plates.