Don't let the questionable footwear fool you. Mario Batali is a savvy businessman at the helm of a culinary empire that includes 24 restaurants worldwide.

What might people be surprised to learn about you?

I have a degree in Spanish literature of the golden age and finance theory from Rutgers.

Who was your toughest boss?

[Chef] Marco Pierre White was a slave driver. His strategy was: Thebeatings will continue until the morale improves. I learned there are good things about being intense but also silly things that need to be left behind. You need to treat people with dignity.

What's the most important lesson in business?

Don't throw out tradition with the bathwater. I tell all my cooks: Take a traditional dish, modernize it with one or two ingredients, but don't throw it away. It has alredy passed the test of time.

Describe your power outfit.

My style is modified Seattle stoner with brand new Crocs. I'm a big fan of the Croc look and the way it shames my friends in the fashion world.

What's your favorite food?

Anything anyone else makes.

What is your biggest failure?

We've had only one restaurant that's closed, Bistro du Vent on 42nd Street. It wasn't a pretty restaurant. It wasn't a comfortable restaurant. It wasn't a very good location. I didn't try as hard as I needed to try. The restaurant was great on the plate, but off the plate it wasn't.

What's your personal motto?

Find something you love, because if you love what you do, you'll never spend a day at work.