Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Accused of Sexual Misconduct by 4 Women

Celebrity chef Mario Batali in October in New York City. Batali said Monday he was stepping aside from day-to-day running of his businesses amid allegations of sexual misconduct by women who worked for him. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Celebrity chef Mario Batali is stepping aside from directing his restaurants and taking leave from his TV cooking show following reports of sexual misconduct over a 20-year period.

The move was apparently spurred by a report published Monday morning on the dining and food website Eater, in which four women allege that Batali touched them inappropriately:

“Three of the women worked for Batali in some capacity during their careers. One former employee alleges that over the course of two years, he repeatedly grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against his body. Another former employee alleges that he groped her and that, in a separate incident, he compelled her to straddle him; another alleges that he grabbed her breasts at a party, though she no longer worked for him at the time.”

The fourth accuser is a chef who says she met Batali at a party 10 years ago:

“Minutes into their conversation, she recalls, he told her, ‘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.’ “

In the article, a number of other current and former employees at Batali’s restaurants described bullying and lewd behavior. Some said they had complicated feelings about Batali, who has also championed a number of women’s careers and started a children’s education and empowerment foundation.

Batali did not deny the allegations, admitting they comport with his past conduct.

“I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt,” Batali said in a statement to Eater. “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 will remain an owner at his restaurants, but he said he would hand over day-to-day oversight of his businesses while he works to regain the trust of those he has hurt and disappointed.

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SOURCE: NPR, Laurel Wamsley