Celebrity chef Mario Batali has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. In an Eater New York exposé published Monday, four women accused the chef of “inappropriate touching in a pattern of behavior that spans at least two decades.”
Three of the women worked for Batali at one point in their careers. One former employee alleged Batali repeatedly grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against his body. Another claimed he groped her and, in one incident, “compelled her to straddle him.” The third claimed he grabbed her breasts at a party, though she no longer worked for him at the time of the alleged act. The fourth woman, identified as a chef who never worked for Batali, recalled how the chef groped her chest after she was accidentally splashed with wine at a party. “He just went to town, and I was so shocked,” she told Eater. “Jaw on the ground, I just stepped back from him in utter disgust and walked away.”
The publication spoke with nearly three dozen current and former Batali employees for the investigation, many who described Batali as having a reputation for inappropriately using sexual innuendo in workplace conversation. Batali was reprimanded for inappropriate behavior two months ago. According to a spokesperson for Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, it was the first formal complaint about Batali, who was reprimanded and required to undergo training.
On Sunday (Dec. 10), without naming Batali directly, Anthony Bourdain tweeted that he knew who the chef was. Bourdain tweeted that “Monday is really gonna suck,” and added in a follow-up tweet that “it’s where you stand when the people you care about and admire do awful things that matters. Keeping head down and hoping it goes away? No.”
Batali, a cohost on ABC’s morning cooking show The Chew and the author of over a dozen cooking-related books, rose to prominence after opening Italian restaurant Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in New York City. Together with Joe Bastianich, Batali owns B&B Hospitality Group, which operates over 20 restaurants around the world. Batali recently opened the 60,000 square foot Eataly in Los Angeles.
In a statement to Eater, Batali said that he would step away from the day-to-day operations of his businesses for an unspecified period of time. ABC also asked the chef to step away from the show while the network reviews the allegations, a representative told Eater. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, an ABC spokesperson said, “We have asked Mario Batali to step away from The Chew while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention. 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.”
“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,” Batali said. “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.”
His statement continued: “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.”
And Batali said: “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.”
Georg Szalai and Jackie Strause contributed to this report, which originally appeared on THR.com.