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Mario Batali, the orange-Crocs-wearing American chef who’s become a daytime TV staple over the past few decades, has announced he’ll be stepping away from his many restaurants and businesses after sexual misconduct reports have been lodged by several former employees.
Eater broke the news Monday morning, complete with accounts from four chefs and former employees who all say they experienced inappropriate touching from the celebrity chef in the workplace on various occasions. One chef recounts Batali groping her breasts directly after offering her “double” what she was making to leave her job and come work for him. The sources chose to remain anonymous, but in a statement to Eater Batali said he took full accountability for the claims: “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.”
It’s Batali. And it’s bad .— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) December 11, 2017
And no one should be surprised https://t.co/DCLvDzNYwO— Tom Colicchio (@tomcolicchio) December 11, 2017
Back in November, when allegations against Hollywood figures like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey initially began making headlines, longtime Top Chef judge Colicchio published an open letter on Medium about the food industry’s underlying culture of toxic masculinity.
“This isn’t just a matter of a few bad eggs and we all know it,” Colicchio wrote at the time. “For every John Besh splashed across Page Six, we can assume hundreds, if not thousands, more with kitchens just like the ones his female employees described. Something’s broken here.”
Colicchio’s choice of words in his tweet—that “no one should be surprised”—is catching criticism from media writers who can’t help but wonder: Did Colicchio know about Batali’s misconduct? And if so, why didn’t he say something?
Go to the top of my timeline and read https://t.co/3ZAkwTeeH3— Tom Colicchio (@tomcolicchio) December 11, 2017
It was well documented in Bill Buford’s book Heat https://t.co/r7El2X2M2m— Tom Colicchio (@tomcolicchio) December 11, 2017
Colicchio is directing critics to his Medium letter and the book Heat, suggesting he probably meant to communicate that in a toxic workplace culture, it’s safe to assume that some of the people high up are perpetrating the bad behavior—not that he knew Batali specifically was an offender.
For Bourdain’s part, he appears to have caught wind of the news Sunday evening but waited for Eater’s piece to go live before he named names.
Batali told Eater he plans to work on regaining the trust of those he has “hurt and disappointed” for the time being: “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.”
According to a spokesperson from ABC, where Batali has co-hosted daytime show The Chew since 2011, the network has asked him to step away “while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention.”
Christine Friar is a writer and editor in New York who focuses on streaming entertainment and internet culture. Her work has appeared in the Awl, the Fader, New York Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and more.