Chefs react to Mario Batali allegations
Mario Batali is stepping back from his restaurant empire as well as his hosting gig on ABC amid multiple accusations of sexual misconduct
News on Monday that celebrity chef Mario Batali faces sexual harassment accusations rippled through the lower Hudson Valley, where the restaurateur has co-owned Port Chester’s Tarry Lodge for nearly a decade.
The allegations surrounding the cookbook author and co-host of ABC’s “The Chew” dominated headlines, but few in the local restaurant community would speak about the charges.
“I’m appalled but not entirely surprised,” said Peter X. Kelly of X2O Xaviars on the Hudson in Yonkers and Restaurant X & Bully Boy Bar in Congers, who noted that the Batali allegations were the latest in a series of similar stories spanning across myriad areas of employment in the United States.
Since 2008, Batali has been a co-owner with Joe Bastianich of Tarry Lodge, an upscale Italian trattoria that serves Westchester and Connecticut, and which is operated by the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group.
Executive Chef Andy Nusser did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the news of Batali’s departure.
Adam Goldberg, a spokesman for Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group — which runs properties across the United States and abroad, including celebrated destinations such as Babbo, Osteria Mozza and Del Posto — confirmed that “Mr. Batali and we have agreed that he will step away from the company’s operations, including the restaurants, and he has already done so.” The statement went on to assert that, “We have had systematic policies and training about sexual harassment for over 10 years, including a detailed procedure for employees to report complaints to senior management. All members of management have participated in these trainings, including Mr. Batali.”
In addition to Kelly, the Journal News/lohud.com reached out to a dozen industry figures in Westchester and Rockland for comment on Batali and the issue of sexual harassment within the restaurant industry without response.
Kelly posited that reticence may be attributed in some cases to area chefs having witnessed or participated in some form of inappropriate behavior themselves.
“We have to recognize that we work in an industry that is celebratory and late-night and alcohol-fueled, and it’s a recipe for inappropriateness,” said Kelly. “And when management doesn’t take fast action when they see inappropriate behavior, this is what happens. It is allowed to fester and get worse.”
Having employed women for more than 30 years as a business owner, Kelly said that he strives to create an environment in his restaurants that is safe for everyone.
“This is a turning point in the country and globally at this point,” he said. “And there will be someone else next. There will certainly be someone else. I think that too many people know of and have witnessed or participated in inappropriate behavior. But when several people are willing to go on record, I think we have to pay attention and take them seriously.”
The complete statement from B&B Hospitality Group follows:
“We take these allegations very seriously. We pride ourselves on being a workplace for our employees where they can grow and deliver great service with equal opportunity and free from any discrimination. We have strong policies and practices in place that address sexual harassment. We train employees in these policies and we enforce them, up to and including termination.
Mr. Batali and we have agreed that he will step away from the company’s operations, including the restaurants, and he has already done so. Our restaurants thrive because of the chefs, kitchen staff, and front-of-the-house teams who are dedicated to delivering great food and service. We are confident that they will continue working hard for our guests as they have done for years. We have had systematic policies and training about sexual harassment for over 10 years, including a detailed procedure for employees to report complaints to senior management. All members of management have participated in these trainings, including Mr. Batali.
We have decided to take a further step beyond our current policies and practices to ensure all employees feel comfortable and empowered to report issues. If employees have claims they want to make against any corporate officers or owners specifically, they may now contact the outside corporate investigations firm T&M Protection Resources, LLC, who has discretion to independently investigate complaints and report to outside counsel.”