In the latest within a string of high-profile sexual harassment scandals, Iron Chef and Food Network celebrity Mario Batali has stepped away from his company, Batali & Bastianich, following a string of allegations against the chef.
According to Eater NY, at least four women have come forward with accounts of Batali’s behavior, which included groping, sexual innuendos, inappropriate questions, and even forcing women to do things like straddle him. These activities reportedly happened from the time Batali was building his career in West Village to a couple of months ago, when a woman filed a formal complaint with Batali & Bastianich about the chef’s lewd behavior. The complaint was the first of its kind to come up against Batali, and the business reprimanded him and forced him to undergo training as a result.
Batali does not deny the allegations against him, saying they “match up” with his behavior. In a statement, he announced that he would be stepping away from day-to-day business operations at Batali & Bastianich as a result of the complaint and other accounts.
“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 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.”
While Batali & Bastianich has had sexual harassment policies and training in place for over a decade, they will now also enlist a private investigative firm for staffers that wish to make claims against restaurant owners in their group.
Mario Batali has also been asked to step away from The Chew, an ABC daytime cooking show he has co-hosted since 2011, while ABC reviews the allegations.
UPDATE: Since the original publication of this story, four more women have come forward with allegations against Mario Batali. Three told their graphic stories to the Washington Post, while actress Siobhan Thompson told CBS Morning that she was also harassed by the chef, who inappropriately groped her breasts.
Another new disturbing account of Batali’s sexual misconduct, including groping and kissing a drunk woman inside of the so-called “rape room” at New York’s The Spotted Pig, was given to the New York Times. Batali had invested in the restaurant, and was a regular known as “The Red Menace” to staffers.