Mario Batali steps down amid sexual harassment allegations

Mario Batali is stepping away at least temporarily from his fine-dining empire following a media investigation into dozens of allegations that the chef sexually harassed female employees and potential hires.

“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,” Batali said in a statement released to Eater, which aired the expose this morning. “That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses.”

“I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt,” Batali wrote.

He left open the possibility of resuming day-to-day involvement with his multicity restaurant holdings after learning how to change his behavior.

The chef-restaurateur is also relinquishing his post as co-host of ABC's “The Chew” daily program at the network’s request.

Batali is one of the nation’s best-known chefs and restaurateurs. Through his partnership with Joe and Lidia Bastianich, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, the red-haired chef co-owns and operates 24 restaurants, the majority in New York City. He is also a partner in outside ventures, including New York’s celebrated Spotted Pig.

Batali is also a TV star and a writer of best-selling cookbooks.

Reports of inappropriate behavior have followed the chef throughout his career. Batali was reprimanded as recently as two months ago by B&B, Eater reported.

The company said it was hiring an outside concern to investigate the allegations that were brought to light by Eater.

The website quoted four women who accused Batali of touching them, making unwelcome sexual propositions and maintaining a kitchen culture rife with sexual innuendo. All were granted anonymity, but their stories were verified with associates and other sources, the site said. In all, more than 25 people were interviewed, Eater said.

The situation echoes the high-profile downfall of New Orleans chef-restaurateur John Besh in October. Besh stepped down as leader of Besh Restaurant Group following an investigation by The Times-Picayune, New Orleans’ main daily newspaper. More than 25 current and former employees of BRG told the paper they were harassed while working at the company.

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