Cooked

Celebrity chef Mario Batali steps down from businesses amid a hail of sexual misconduct accusations

Mario Batali. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Mario Batali, the chef who has parlayed his success in the restaurant kitchen into that of a full-blown celebrity announced Monday that he’s stepping down from his restaurant business empire and taking as leave of absence from his ABC show, The Chew, in the wake of a slew of allegations of sexual misconduct dating back two decades.

A report by Eater New York detailed accounts given by several women, all of whom asked to remain anonymous out of fear of professional retribution, who said that Batali’s behavior has crossed the line in one way or another with them over the years. News of Batali’s alleged chronic sexual misconduct came after an employee reported inappropriate touching by Batali to Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, or B&B, in October.

It was the first official complaint made against Batali, but as Eater New York showed, drawn from a series of interview with women and colleagues, there has been a pattern of misconduct going on for years, something Batali acknowledge in his apology. “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.”

One woman, a former server at the restaurant Pó , where Batali made his name as a top chef, said, he often approached her from behind and grab her “like a linebacker, like a disgusting bear hug,” while at work. Batali was a co-owner of the restaurant. “He would breathe on me — and sometimes take a deep inhale, like he was smelling me.”

Other women accused Batali of openly groping their breasts, much to their shock and dismay, and said the some of the incidents occurred when the chef, who is now 57, had been drinking heavily. Batali is a titan in the restaurant business. Just last year, he had been commissioned by then-first lady Michelle Obama to prepare the final state dinner hosted by the Obamas, which honored ItalyPrime Minister Matteo Renzi.

“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 in a statement given to The Associated Press. He joins Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Louis C.K. as powerful celebrities who have seen a swift demise as their misconduct has been brought to light.

Read the full story at Eater New York.

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