The Food Network is just genius. There are only two or three things we can actually do with our lives and since sex is legislated, shelter is being covered by whichever channel hosts all the stupid redo-your-house shows, the Food Network seems to be an excuse to print money. I know that I registered for awesome All-Clad pans and Le Creuset pots because they look so awesome on TV.

That being said, I would like to give a shout-out to the best show on FTV, Mario Batali’s show, Molto Mario. The Barefoot Contessa and Nigella Bites shows are just fine, and I especially like that Nigella, but seriously, whoever decided that stomach churning close-ups of battered covered hands was a good idea for a food show are not doing the math.

Mario’s show is shot in a studio made up to look like an Italian grandmother’s kitchen, and there are, I think, four total cameras. Three of these cameras are set up sit-com style, and then a fourth is hung over the stove-top, showing pork fat and vegetables sizzling. Each day, Mario invites three friends to sit in with him and then he starts putting plate after plate of amazing food in front of them.

He is an artist and a scientist as much as a cook. He knows the reasons for each ingredient, he knows the history of each recipe. Yesterday, as he was putting sugar and vinegar together for a sauce, he described the arrival of sugar in southern Italy in 851 and the long-standing romance the people have had with it. There are some areas where there are more trees and less goats or cattle, and when he cooks from those areas, he uses Olive Oil and never butter.

For him, it is never an exact science. There are some things he holds on to, you can always add cheese, you never speak in French, etc. But he just knows when to stop salting, he tells you when to add the fat and how long to cook the vegetables. Most importantly, he wants you to modify his recipes based on what is freshest, what fish has just been caught, what meat has just arrived at the butcher. He gets these not non-stick pans up to about 400 degrees and then shoots olive oil on them, they start smoking and lighting on fire and he just cooks straight through it.

When I direct, I have a habit of talking a mile a minute between takes. I am always worried that the one piece of information I didn’t tell someone is the piece that person will need in order to do it right. Mario feeds right in to this. You don’t walk away with recipes, you walk away with an understanding of why the recipes exist the way they do. There is a masculinity to his bravado combined with a maternal attention to detail that just thrills me to watch.