ABC has asked chef Mario Batali to step away from The Chew while the network reviews multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Eater reports that Batali, 57, who has served as a co-host on the popular daytime talk show since 2011, has also stepped down from day-to-day operations of the numerous restaurants he co-owns across the country.
On Monday, Eater described the various allegations against Batali, including accounts from women who worked for him. The chef, restaurateur, and TV personality did not deny the allegations, telling the online food trade publication that the reports of sexual misconduct “match up with ways he has behaved.”
While the sexual misconduct allegations reportedly happened over the past two decades, The Chew star was “reprimanded” in October 2017 for “inappropriate behavior in the workplace” after one of his employees reported inappropriate behavior by Batali to Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, the company that provides support for the restaurants co-owned by Batali.
One of the women who has come forward tells Eater that she met Batali at an after-party for a wine auction in New Orleans ten years ago. The unnamed woman, a chef who did not work for Batali, states that he offered to “pay her double” to work for him and, when a glass of wine was spilled on her chest during the event, Batali began “rubbing her breasts.”
“When they started talking, she recalls, she realized that he’d been drinking and he became what she characterized as ‘creepy’… 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.”
Three other women have also come forward to talk about Batali’s actions in the workplace, including a former restaurant employee who tells Eater that, over the course of two years, the Chew star “repeatedly grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against his body.”
Another former employee claims that in addition to groping her, Batali “compelled her to straddle him” and another woman claims that he “grabbed her breasts at a party,” an incident that allegedly took place after she left her job at one of Batali’s restaurants.
In a statement issued to Eater, Mario Batali says that the names of the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct have not been revealed to him but his “behavior was wrong and there are no excuses.”
“I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt,” Batali told Eater. “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, who is married with two children, got his start on TV with the Food Network’s popular show, Molto Mario (1996 – 2004). He went on to star on several of the Food Network’s shows including Iron Chef America and Mediterranean Mario before joining The Chew.
At this time, he has not been fired by ABC, but USA Today reports the network has “temporarily removed Batali” from The Chew while they investigate the claims against him.