Mario Batali has been accused of sexual misconduct by four women who say he touched them inappropriately over the span of two decades. Three of the women are former employees of the celebrity chef and the fourth works in the restaurant industry. Their accounts are detailed in an extensive investigative story published by Eater.
The publication said that it interviewed nearly two dozen current and former Batali employees for the story. One encounter involved a chef in her 20s who’d had wine spilled down her shirtfront. She alleges the 57-year-old restaurateur began rubbing and groping her breasts with his bare hands while saying, “Let me help you with that.” The woman, with her “jaw on the ground,” stepped back in disgust and ended the interaction, she told the publication.
An additional incident involved a former employee who claims that for two years Batali — who is married to Coach heiress Susi Cahn, with whom he has two sons — repeatedly grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against him. Another former employee says that the Babbo founder groped her and asked her to straddle him. And another alleges that he grabbed her breasts at a party, although she no longer worked under him at that time.
Following the allegations, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group — which has been sued for harassment before — issued a statement saying Batali has agreed to suspend his involvement in day-to-day operations at the company for an undisclosed amount of time. “We take these allegations very seriously,” the company said in a statement to Eater. ABC has also asked the chef to step away from The Chew, which he’s co-hosted since 2011.
In a statement to Eater, the celebrity chef apologized and admits he has acted inappropriately: “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 the 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.”
In his statement Batali continued: "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.”
According to the Eater report, the first official misconduct report against the Culinary Hall of Fame member was filed by a restaurant employee in October. The chef was reprimanded and required to undergo training.
Batali, who is a member of The Daily Meal Council, is just the latest name in a slew of names tarnished by sexual misconduct allegations. Other celebrity chefs accused just this year include New Orleans’ John Besh, Plaza Hotel’s Todd English, and Top Chef alum Johnny Iuzzini, making the issue one of the 10 biggest celebrity food stories of 2017.