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Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Accused Of Sexual Misconduct

Celebrity chef Mario Batali is stepping away from his restaurant empire — and stepping down from his talk show, ABC’s “The Chew” — after being accused of sexual misconduct by at least four women.

EaterNY reported Monday that Batali is alleged to have groped and harassed three of his female employees, and “grabbing” a fellow chef during a drunken encounter at a wine auction in New Orleans.

The chef, who declined to provide her name to Eater, says she and Batali met at the New Orleans event just shy of a decade ago. After she spilled a bit of wine on her shirt, Batali, whom she says was obviously intoxicated, allegedly began “rubbing her breasts with his bare hands,” claiming to be trying to “help” the woman clean up. She described Batali as “creepy,” and extricated herself from the situation as quickly as possible: “jaw on the ground, I just stepped back from him in utter disgust and walked away.”

The three other women worked for Batali in his restaurants, at one time or another.

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 57-year-old Batali, who is married, has taken “full responsibility” for his actions, appearing to admit to his inappropriate behavior in a statement sent to Eater over the weekend.

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 have work to do to try to regain the trust of those I have hurt and disappointed. For this reason, I am going to step away from day-to-day operations of my businesses. We built these restaurants so that our guests could have fun and indulge, but I took that too far in my own behavior. I won’t make that mistake again. I want any place I am associated with to feel comfortable and safe for the people who work or dine there.

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.

Batali has amassed a restaurant empire, owning several restaurants by himself and 24 separate eateries (including several Eataly Italian grocery stores, and a food-themed amusement park in Italy) as part of the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group — a company he shares with several partners including wine magnate, Joe Bastianich. At least one of the accusers worked for B&B and filed a claim against Batali with the company in October 2017. B&B, Eater reports, investigated the complaint and reprimanded Batali, who was also asked to undergo counseling.

One of the original celebrity Food Network chefs, Batali is also a regular figure on television. He co-hosts the daily food-related chat show, “The Chew,” and was preparing to expand his presence on Food Network next year with a reboot of his 1990s cooking show, “Molto Mario.”

He has been asked to step down from “The Chew,” and any future projects with Food Network are now “on hold.”

Batali is not the first chef to be accused of sexual impropriety in the wave of harassment and abuse allegations gripping the media and entertainment industries. Famed New Orleans chef John Besh was asked to step down as the head of his restaurant group in October after allegations that he facilitated a dangerous work environment for female employees in his kitchens.

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