Once a beloved Food Network personality and highly regarded chef, Mario Batali seemed unstoppable — until multiple women came forth with allegations that the chef, often while drunk, had touched them inappropriately or verbally harassed them.
Disgraced celebrity chef Mario Batali relinquished his stake in his company on Wednesday, more than a year after numerous women alleged that he sexually harassed them, resulting in a criminal inquiry against the chef. The New York Times reported that longtime partners Joe Bastianich and his sister, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, have bought the chef’s shares in the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, the company behind his popular restaurants like Babbo and Del Posto, for an undisclosed price.
The company will soon be renamed, and Bastianich Manuali will head up operations. Other partners include the Bastianich siblings’ mother, chef and television personality Lidia Bastianich, and award-winning chef Nancy Silverton, who had partnered with Batali for several of his restaurants, including Mozza in Los Angeles. Batali also plans to sell his shares in Eataly, the popular chain of Italian markets.
Batali issued a statement on Wednesday morning to the Times: “I have reached an agreement with Joe and no longer have any stake in the restaurants we built together. I wish him the best of luck in the future.”
Once a beloved Food Network personality and highly regarded chef, Batali seemed unstoppable — until multiple women came forth last December to publications including Eater, The Washington Post and The New York Times with allegations that the chef had touched them inappropriately or verbally harassed them, often while drunk.
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Batali was long known to be a hard partyer. Holly Gunderson, special events director for Batali’s Mozza restaurant, told The Post the chef put his hand “between my legs, up and under, so his hand went on my vagina outside of my clothes.”
The Times reported that Batali allegedly took women to a party space nicknamed “the rape room” in the Spotted Pig, a restaurant for which Batali was an investor. In May 2018, the New York Police Department opened a criminal investigation against the chef, and a Boston investigation followed in August. NYPD closed its investigation in January for lack of evidence.
Batali initially said that he could not remember the alleged incidents, but later apologized to his fans in an email newsletter with a bizarre coda. “I have made many mistakes and I am so very sorry that I have disappointed my friends, my family, my fans and my team. My behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility,” he wrote, but closed the newsletter: “In case you’re searching for a holiday-inspired breakfast, these Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls are a fan favorite.”
Though Bastianich has said he was unaware of Batali’s abuse, an Eater report included allegations that Bastianich was responsible for creating the “boys club” atmosphere that allowed abuse to take place.
Batali’s personal brand was hit first: ABC asked him to step back from co-hosting duties at his daytime talk show, “The Chew,” and a Food Network relaunch of his show, “Molto Mario,” was scrapped. Boycotts and calls for Batali to divest from his company began shortly after the first allegations, but the full divestiture took more than a year. The company had initially announced that Batali would be out by last summer. The company took a financial dip, too: B&B restaurants in Las Vegas, Singapore and New York closed.
Batali is the first high-profile restaurateur to relinquish his business after sexual harassment allegations. In Washington, D.C., former “Top Chef” star Mike Isabella declared bankruptcy and closed all of his restaurants in the wake of a sexual harassment lawsuit. In New Orleans, fellow “Top Chef” star John Besh has stepped back from operations of his restaurants, but has maintained his financial stake.
All the while, consumers grappled with the fallout from sexual harassment allegations at high-profile restaurants across the country. Some diners said that only a total boycott of restaurants where misconduct took place would send a message; others worried about harming the livelihood of innocent staff members.
Silverton, who said she was unaware of any sexual harassment in the restaurants she ran with Batali, struggled to come to terms with her newly elevated role in the company in a June story in The Post: “Should we all be penalized by our partners? Are we guilty by association? To me, it’s almost like, you want to handpick who is more guilty than someone else,” she said. “Do I take all the good and the bad from Mario? I guess I take all the good and the bad from Mario.”
After a few stories speculating on thwarted Batali “comebacks,” the chef has withdrawn from public life entirely, retreating to a home in Michigan. Meanwhile, the restaurant group that once bore his name perseveres: The Times reports that group’s first new restaurant will be The Barish, a Los Angeles steakhouse.