Mario Batali scandal: Celebrity chef steps down from his business and ‘The Chew’ after admitting to sexual harassment

December 11, 2017

by Colleen McGregor

Mario Batali
Mario Batali (Photo courtesy of Intersport)

Mario Batali has become yet another famous and powerful person accused of sexual harassment, resulting in serious damage to his career. Unlike most of the accused, celebrity chef/restaurateur Batali has admitted to the allegations made against him by colleagues and co-workers, some of whom detailed their stories to Eater, a website that covers the restaurant industry. In the wake of these revelations that Eater published on December 11, 2017, Batali has stepped down from his businesses and has left his co-hosting position at ABC’s food-oriented talk show “The Chew.”

According to the stories published by Eater, Batali (who is 57) has a history of harassing women for at least 25 years. The harassment includes unwanted groping of breasts, buttocks and other parts of the body, as well as crude sexual comments in the workplace.  Batali is married with two adult children.

Along with Joe Bastianich and Lidia Bastianich, Batali is a partner in Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, which owns the New York City restaurants Del Posto and Babbo, which each has one Michelin star.  Batali is also a minority shareholder in Eataly USA,  a chain of food halls specializing in Italian cuisine.

Batali had been co-hosting “The Chew” since the show’s premiere in 2011. He also starred in the Food Network show “Molto Mario,” which aired from 1996 to 2004. Batali was previously a sous chef at the Four Seasons Biltmore and a sous chef for the Four Seasons Clift Hotel San Francisco. His education includes studying at Fordham University and Le Cordon Bleu.

Batali released this statement to Eater: “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.”

Several journalists working on sexual-harassment stories involving the rich and famous have reported that the restaurant industry is one of the worst when it comes to sexual misconduct and degradation, with women usually being the target of the abuse. Batali surely will not be the last celebrity in the industry who will be exposed as a sexual harasser and have a fall from grace because of it.