Chef Mario Batali is taking a leave of absence from his company and TV show following accusations of habitual sexual harassment, which surfaced in an Eater New York story published Monday morning. According to the publication, at least four women accused the famed chef of inappropriately touching them during his time at the helm of his company, including groping their breasts and buttocks, among other claims.
Batali told Eater NY in a statement: “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."
Batali said that he is stepping aside from day-to-day operations at Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, a group that operates about two-dozen restaurants and is owned by Batali, Joe Bastianich, and other partners. ABC confirmed to USA Today that Batali has also been temporarily removed from daytime show, “The Chew.”
“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 said in a statement to USA Today. "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.”
The allegations were detailed in Eater’s story. Three of the four women worked for Batali’s restaurants at one point during their careers.
One chef, who Eater referred to as “a women in her 20s” approached Batali at an after-party. According to the story, the interaction went down like this:
“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.”
One employee alleged that over the course of two years, Batali “repeatedly grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against his body,” according to Eater’s article.
Another said “that he groped her and that, in a separate incident, he compelled her to straddle him.”
One women, a former employee who didn’t work for Batali at the time, said he grabbed her breasts at a party.
In October 2017, a Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group employee officially reported inappropriate behavior by Batali to the company. The group said it was the first formal complaint against the chef, who was reprimanded and required to undergo training, according to Eater.
Bastianich released a statement to Eater as well: “Right now, I’m just focused on ensuring that our more than 1,000 employees continue to have a safe and positive work environment,” he said.
Batali is the latest iconic chef to face accusations of sexual misconduct. In October, Chef John Besh stepped down from his restaurant group following sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him and his eponymous company, Besh Restaurant Group, which he co-owns.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune conducted an eight-month investigation into the company, where 25 current and former Besh Group employees said they were victims of sexual harassment during their time at the company and its restaurants. The report claimed that Josh Besh Restaurants fostered a culture of sexual harassment.