On Saturday afternoon, the Nationals invited celebrity chef Mike Isabella to throw the ceremonial first pitch before a doubleheader with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Fortunately for Isabella, the chef cooks better than he pitches. A two-time contestant on Bravo's Emmy award winning reality cooking show Top Chef, Isabella took a few practice throws and asked reliever Ryan Mattheus for a few tips.
"Don't put it in the dirt, that's my goal," Isabella said.
Unfortunately, the pitch sailed into the grass, bounced and then rolled to home plate. But Isabella took it all in stride. A lifelong baseball fan raised in New Jersey, Isabella rooted for the New York Yankees as a child. Now, Isabella lives and works in Washington D.C. and cheers for the hometown teams.
"I am a huge Capitals fan and I'm definitely a Nats fan. Having people like Pudge Rodriguez and Jayson Werth, those are some great guys to watch. Obviously, Pudge is one of the best catchers of all time," Isabella said.
Like the players he respects, Isabella is used to high pressure situations. His new restaurant Graffiato just opened near the Verizon Center in downtown D.C., and he survived countless timed cooking challenges and Quick Fire contests on Top Chef.
"Honestly, I felt pressure just walking down the hallway onto the field," Isabella said. "When all eyes are on you, that's when you feel pressure the most. That's when people make it or break it. In big competitions, whether it's in the kitchen or on the field, when all eyes are on you, you want to perform."
Graffiato serves small Italian plates and artisan pizzas. Isabella's bar and pizza oven stay open late into the night, so he hopes Nationals fans will make it their go to spot after home games.
"We're so excited," Isabella continued. "The support has been awesome from the city. I'm just so excited that I made the decision to open Graffiato in D.C. For me, I've always loved living in cities and D.C is the best one I've ever lived in."