Mario Batali is one of the biggest names in the US food scene. He co-founded a company that owns 20 restaurants, is the host of one of the most popular cooking shows on American television (The Chew) and has written 13 top-selling cookbooks.
But over the last week, the 57-year-old Italian chef’s culinary empire has begun to crumble under allegations of sexual misconduct, his name the latest to be added to Hollywood’s sordid post-Weinstein predator list.
The claims against the the married father of two are damning and detailed. They range from inappropriate behaviour and lewd comments to harassment and assault, the most unsettling of which reportedly occurred in a top New York restaurant’s so-called “rape room”.
In the days since, as he was sacked from his TV show removed from operations at his company, Batali has admitted to having “made mistakes”, to having “mistreated and hurt” people. But as has been the pattern with these allegations, his bizarre attempt at an apology has managed only to fan the flames and cause even more pain to his alleged victims. (Kevin Spacey, anyone?)
But more on that later. Let’s start at the beginning.
It was on Monday that New York food magazine, Eater, published the first report. The piece, by Irene Plagianos and Kitty Greenwald, was based on the accounts of four women – three former employees and a restaurant industry worker – who allege they were touched inappropriately by Batali “in a pattern of behaviour that appears to span at least two decades”.
One alleged Batali repeatedly grabbed her from behind, and held her against his body. Another that he groped her and later forced her straddle him. And the third, that he rubbed her breasts at a party, after she accidentally spilled wine on her chest.
“[He said] ‘Let me help you with that’,” the female chef told the publication. “He just went to town, and I was so shocked. Jaw on the ground, I just stepped back from him in utter disgust and walked away.”