The culinary world was shaken on Monday with the suspension of celebrity chef Mario Batali from his gig at “The Chew” amid sexual misconduct accusations.
“We have asked Mario Batali to step away from ‘The Chew’ while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention,” an ABC spokeswoman said in a statement. “ABC takes matters like this very seriously as we are committed to a safe work environment. 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.”
Batali has been accused by at least four women of groping and touching as well as other inappropriate behavior in the workplace over two decades, reports food industry publication Eater.com.
The 57-year-old Seattle native will also be taking leave of his restaurant company, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group. The company received its first official complaint of inappropriate behavior against Batali in October, and he was reportedly made to go through sensitivity training. NYC-based B&BH, whose website was down late Monday morning, will reportedly launch its own independent investigation.
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The celebrity chef did not deny the accusations in the lengthy exposé, in which one former employee reported 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.”
In a statement to Eater.com, Batali, who has no restaurants in South Florida but has made frequent appearances at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, said he is sorry.
“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 was well known in culinary circles, with jobs as a sous chef at the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara and San Francisco.
He shot to fame with the airing of “Molto Mario,” a show that ran on the Food Network for eight years, until 2004.
The Food Network, which was planning to relaunch “Molto Mario,” said Monday that it was placing its plans on hold, according to The Associated Press.