Mario Batali Cooks!
Developer: High Five Labs Inc.
Runs on: iPhone
“Questo app è stupefacente!” or, “This app is amazing!” At $4.99 there was a lot of expectations to fulfill, but Mario Batali Cooks! is the most complete food app I’ve tested to date. Like his Penne alla Puttanesca, it’s that good.
When you first launch the app you’re greeted with a notice asking if you’d like a tour of the navigation features—a very quick and simple walkthrough that I recommend. Once you’re in the app, you can then click on a video of Mario Batali welcoming you to the app. (You quickly realize that this app is very personal with some serious family Italian hospitality).
From there, clicking the main navigation wheel will take you to one rich area of the app to another.
In total, there are 63 recipes all created by Mario, each with pictures of every cooking step and a video from Mario walking you through the entire recipe. I should note that the videos must be downloaded, and to do so you have to be connected to Wi-Fi. This was done with good purpose, having to download the videos keeps the app from being bloated and usually only takes a few seconds.
The recipes can be sorted by region, course, season, and more. There’s even a category for “Things That Kids Love.” When scrolling through the recipes, you can see the recipe names, a short description, images of the final dish, a look at the cook time and the number of people it will serve. You can save and e-mail ingredient lists, bookmark your favorite recipes and even set timers from the recipe while cooking. This sounds very similar to what other food apps offer, and it is, but it’s the small details that make this app so great.
The design is bright and colorful, and the app utilizes the form factor of the device—rotating the device reveals a fresh look of the same recipes, for example. When you browse by region, you’ll get a picture of say, Veneto, along with a description of the area. Even in areas of Italy where there are no recipes associated you still get a history lesson. It’s like you’re given a tour of Italy both outside and inside the kitchen. There’s an entire section of notes from Mario, a glossary of terms accessible by itself or from inside recipes (same goes for wine pairings), and there are even sections and videos on cooking techniques, kitchen staples and recipe building blocks—in total there are 89 videos spanning over five hours.
This app truly feels like Mario Batali is in your kitchen walking you through everything you need to know to cook his food, speak his language, and understand the roots of each dish. To say Mario Batali Cooks! is a well made digital cookbook would be a disservice. It’s clear that this app was not simply the result of porting card recipes onto a digital device. Each facet of this app has been well thought out to make the cooking and discovery of information as easy and enjoyable as possible. All I can say is, “Bravo!”
Toque Rating: 5/5