UPDATE: Belcampo Meats announced that it’s pulling all Mario Batali products off the shelves and off its website.
Sexual misconduct in restaurant kitchens is not news, and after high-profile allegations have revealed widespread harassment in Congress, Hollywood, and other areas of American cultural life, it was probably only a matter of time before a celebrity chef was outed as a serial harasser.
Eater National reports that Mario Batali has apparently been touching women inappropriately in the workplace for decades, and the victims include employees and ex-employees. The accusations come from four woman, and grew out of an investigation in New York that Eater undertook, although there have been allegations of misconduct going back to the 1990s. Overall, the details — as currently known — don’t quite paint a picture of comprehensive workplace harassment like the baroque details of the lawsuit regarding S.F.’s own Coqueta a few years back. But there are more than a few cringe-inducing passages, including one about how Batali once said, “Let me help you with that” to a staffer who’d had wine spilled on her and began massaging her breasts. Then there’s this:
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.
As is usual in cases like these, the women were reluctant to come forward for fear of retribution from a powerful male figure in a close-knit, male-dominated industry. Batali’s Twitter feed — which only yesterday contained answers to hapless home chefs asking for urgent advice, presumably mid-recipe — has gone silent. But his team released the following statement:
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.
While neither Batali nor the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, which manages 24 restaurants, has gone into specifics about what Batali’s future with the company will be, he has been let go from The Chew, the morning show he’s co-hosted since 2011. Further, Batali & Bastianich will bring in independent monitors to improve its sexual-harassment training policy. Although he was once a sous chef at the Four Seasons Clift Hotel (now just the Clift), Batali does not have a strong presence in San Francisco.