Women allege he groped their breasts, grabbed their waist and pulled them close to his body.
On Sunday, people across social media dropped hints that a famous chef would face sexual misconduct allegations on Monday. Chef Anthony Bourdain tweeted that it was going to be bad, hinting he knew the accused.
Eater New York revealed on Monday morning that multiple women have accused Mario Batali, an Iron Chef on Food Network and co-host of The Chew, of sexual harassment:
About 10 years ago, at the after-party for a wine auction in New Orleans, a woman in her 20s walked up to Mario Batali to introduce herself. As a chef, she was excited to meet one of the most revered figures in the restaurant industry. When they started talking, she recalls, she realized that he’d been drinking and he became what she characterized as “creepy” — “just giving me this provocative, icky feeling.”
Minutes into their conversation, she recalls, he told her, “Come work for me, I’ll pay you double what you’re making.” Moments later, someone bumped her glass, spilling wine all over her chest and down her scooped-neck shirt. She alleges that Batali began rubbing her breasts with his bare hands while saying something like, “Let me help you with that,” as he groped her chest. “He just went to town, and I was so shocked,” the chef says. “Jaw on the ground, I just stepped back from him in utter disgust and walked away.”
The chef is one of four women who allege that Batali touched them inappropriately in a pattern of behavior that appears to span at least two decades. Three of the women worked for Batali in some capacity during their careers. One former employee alleges that over the course of two years, he repeatedly grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against his body. Another former employee alleges that he groped her and that, in a separate incident, he compelled her to straddle him; another alleges that he grabbed her breasts at a party, though she no longer worked for him at the time. The woman whose allegations are described above has never worked for Batali, though she works in the restaurant industry.
Batali was reprimanded for inappropriate behavior in the workplace as recently as two months ago. According to a spokesperson for Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group — the restaurant-management services company that provides support to around 24 restaurants owned by, among others, Batali and Joe Bastianich — in October 2017, a B&B restaurant employee officially reported inappropriate behavior by Batali to the company. It was the first formal complaint about Batali, who was reprimanded and required to undergo training, according to the company.
Batali is stepping aside from his empire:
“I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt. Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family.
“I have work to do to try to regain the trust of those I have hurt and disappointed. For this reason, I am going to step away from day-to-day operations of my businesses. We built these restaurants so that our guests could have fun and indulge, but I took that too far in my own behavior. I won’t make that mistake again. I want any place I am associated with to feel comfortable and safe for the people who work or dine there.
“I know my actions have disappointed many people. The successes I have enjoyed are owned by everyone on my team. The failures are mine alone. To the people who have been at my side during this time — my family, my partners, my employees, my friends, my fans — I am grateful for your support and hopeful that I can regain your respect and trust. I will spend the next period of time trying to do that.”
Variety reported that his bosses at ABC’s The Chew asked Batali to step away from the show, which he agreed to do:
“We have asked Mario Batali to step away from ‘The Chew’ while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention,” an ABC spokeswoman said. “ABC takes matters like this very seriously as we are committed to a safe work environment. While we are unaware of any type of inappropriate behavior involving him and anyone affiliated with the show, we will swiftly address any alleged violations of our standards of conduct.”
Batali has been one of four co-anchors of ABC’s daytime cooking and lifestyle series “The Chew” since its inception in 2011.
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