Mario Batali has been asked to temporarily leave his ABC series "The Chew" — and his upcoming Food Network series is said to be "on hold" — in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct, Fox News has learned.
The celebrity chef, 57, said he will “step away from the day-to-day operations” of his restaurant empire after four women accused him of inappropriate behavior in the workplace and elsewhere, including grabbing and groping three of his female employees, and even grabbing a fellow chef who approached him at a New Orleans wine auction ten years ago, Eater NY reported on Monday morning.
The four women have declined to reveal their names, but the latter accuser claimed that Batali groped her breasts after she spilled wine on her chest, while saying something to the effect of “Let me help you with that.” The woman also alleges that Batali had been under the influence of alcohol at the time, and that just prior to the incident, he came off as “creepy” and “icky,” Eater reports.
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The other three accusers were all employed by Batali at one time or another, and shared similar stories of Batali’s behavior with Eater. One woman says he approached her from behind and held her against himself; another says she was groped and made to “straddle” Batali; and the last, who had already stopped working for the chef, says he also grabbed her breasts.
Batali, who is married to wife Susi Cahn, has since released a statement apologizing for his actions, in which he takes “full responsibility” for the inappropriate behavior.
“I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt,” said Batali in a statement obtained by Eater. “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.”
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ABC confirmed to Fox News that they have asked Batali to step down as a co-host of its daytime series “The Chew.”
“We have asked Mario Batali to step away from 'The Chew' while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention,” writes an ABC spokesperson 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.”
Prior to these allegations surfacing on Monday morning, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain suggested that he knew such an exposé was coming, though he refrained from revealing Batali’s name until after the site published the accusations on Monday morning.
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The accusations against Batali follow several other allegations against celebrity chefs in recent months. In November, four former employees of Johnny Iuzzini, a judge on ABC’s “Great American Baking Show,” accused the pastry chef of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, including one woman who claims Iuzzini tried to stick his tongue in her ear “three or four times.” And in October, New Orleans chef John Besh stepped down from his restaurant group after more than two dozen of his employees came forward with accusations of harassment and sexual misconduct.
Batali and his restaurant group operate dozens of restaurants in the United States and Singapore. Along with Lidia Bastianich and Joe Bastianich, Batali co-owns the Eataly chain of Italian marketplaces.
In November, Batali was also reported to be working on a revival of his "Molto Mario" cooking series for Food Network, although a representative for the channel tells Fox News those plans are now "on hold."
“Food Network takes matters like this very seriously and we are putting relaunch plans for 'Molto Mario' on hold.”
A representative for Mario Batali or his restaurant group was not immediately available to comment.