Mario Batali steps away from 'The Chew' and his restaurants after sexual misconduct allegations


Celebrity chef Mario Batali is stepping away from the TV show “The Chew” and the day-to-day operations of his restaurant empire after a report detailed sexual misconduct allegations from multiple women spanning at least two decades.

Batali did not deny the allegations against him, saying in a statement Monday that “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,” he said. “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.”

In the statement, he said he would work to “regain the trust of those I have hurt and disappointed,” and he apologized to those he “mistreated and hurt.”

“We built these restaurants so that our guests could have fun and indulge, but I took that too far in my own behavior,” Batali said. “I won’t make that mistake again.”

In an investigation published Monday by food website Eater, four women — three of whom had worked for Batali in some capacity — said he touched them inappropriately.

According to the Eater piece, a woman who worked for Batali in the late 1990s told Eater he came up behind her in the dining room “put his hand on half of my butt and he squeezed it. Another former Batali employee said he repeatedly grabbed her from behind and held her tight against his body. Another former worker said he grabbed her breasts during an industry party a few years after she stopped working for him. One woman who never worked for Batali said the chef rubbed her breasts at a party about 10 years ago after someone spilled wine down her shirt.

Eater did not publish the women’s names.

Batali gained mainstream recognition with the 1997 debut of his TV show “Molto Mario” on Food Network. Five years later, the chef was recognized by the prestigious James Beard Foundation as the best chef in New York City.

His brand now spans dozens of restaurants in six states and Singapore, and his name is attached to several culinary products, such as a line of pasta, sauces, oil, vinegar and slow-cured meats. He has also written 13 cookbooks.

Batali — who has a strong presence in the Los Angeles food scene, including his Mozza restaurants and the Eataly marketplace that opened at the Westfield Century City mall last month — also has co-hosted the ABC daytime talk show “The Chew” since it launched in 2011.

Backlash against Batali has been swift.

On Monday morning, B&B Hospitality Group, which provides back-office and operational services to 24 restaurants owned by Batali and others, said it took the allegations “very seriously.”

“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 company said in a statement.

B&B Hospitality Group said it has had systematic policies and training about sexual harassment for more than 10 years, and that all members of management, including Batali, have participated in that training.

A company spokesman said B&B Hospitality Group received one complaint in October from an employee at one of the restaurants, reporting inappropriate behavior from Batali. The company investigated the report, reprimanded Batali and required him to get additional training from outside legal counsel, which the spokesman said Batali did.

The spokesman also said Batali volunteered not to visit the restaurant listed in the complaint. He declined to identify the restaurant or describe the inappropriate behavior.

The company said employees who want to make claims about corporate officers “or owners specifically” can now contact an outside corporate investigations firm — T&M Protection Resources — which, it said, “has discretion to independently investigate complaints and report to outside counsel.”

Also on Monday, Food Network said in a statement that it is putting relaunch plans for “Molto Mario” on hold.

An ABC spokesperson said the network has asked Batali to step away from “The Chew” while it reviewed the allegations against him.

“ABC takes matters like this very seriously,” the statement said. “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.”

samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

Twitter: @smasunaga

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UPDATES:

10:10 a.m.: This article was updated with additional information about Mario Batali’s culinary products, restaurants and cookbooks.

9:20 a.m.: This article was updated with additional quotes from Batali’s statement, clarification of one of the women’s allegations and details of a complaint about Batali’s behavior received by B&B Hospitality Group in October.

This article was originally published at 7:50 a.m.

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