Rumors about celebrity chef Mario Batali’s alleged misconduct have circulated for decades but it wasn’t until 2017, when a slew of women accused him of assault, that his successful career started crashing down.
Batali, 61, was once a Food Network fixture on shows like ‘Molto Mario’ and ‘Iron Chef America.’ But the ponytail-sporting and Croc-wearing personality’s high-flying career crumbled amid sexual misconduct allegations.
He is currently on trial in Boston Municipal Court over accusations from a female fan who said he forcibly kissed and groped her at a Boston restaurant in 2017.
The 32-year-old Massachusetts resident was one of a handful of women who accused Batali of sexual harassment and misconduct amid the #MeToo movement, which exposed widespread patterns of abuse of women in multiple spheres of American life.
The woman’s claims form the basis of the only criminal case to result from the various allegation against Batali.
In convicted, the chef – who pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery in May 2019 – could face up to two-and-a-half years in jail and be required to register as a sex offender.
Rumors about celebrity chef Mario Batali’s alleged misconduct have circulated for decades but it wasn’t until 2017, when a slew of women accused him of assault, that his successful career started crashing down. He is pictured at his arraignment on a charge of indecent assault and batter in May 2019
Batali, originally of Seattle, was one of America’s most celebrated chefs and beloved television personalities.
The chef opened six highly successful restaurants in New York City – including Esca, Del Posto and Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca in Greenwich Village – and a partial owner in Italian chain Eataly.
At his peak, Batali’s food industry empire was worth an estimated $250 million. He and his former business partner Joe Bastianich were involved with dozens of restaurants and food businesses in the U.S., Italy, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Batali, who had cooked at the White House for the Obamas, also hosted a variety of shows including Food Network’s Molto Mario and the PBS series Spain…On the Road Again. He also made several appearances as a competitor on Iron Chef America.
He was the recipient of many awards, including being named GQ Magazine’s Man of the Year, in the chef category, in 1999.
He won the James Beard Foundation awards for Best Chef: New York City and Outstanding Chef of the Year in 2002 and 2005, respectively. In 2001, the he was the recipient of the foundation’s prestigious lifetime achievement award, Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.
Batali (pictured in 2010) was once a Food Network fixture on shows like ‘Molto Mario’ and ‘Iron Chef America.’ But the ponytail-sporting and Croc-wearing personality’s high-flying career crumbled amid sexual misconduct allegations
Mario Batali, 61, arrived at the Boston Municipal Courthouse on Monday wearing Crocs for his sexual misconduct trial. If convicted, he could face up to two-and-a-half years in jail and be required to register as a sex offender
However, Batali’s accolades and professional successes took a nosedive in December 2017 when Eater.com detailed allegations by four women who said Batali touched them inappropriately over at least two decades.
The article, which was published while Batali was co-hosting The Chew, outlined allegations of sexual harassment towards his employees and fellow chefs over the course of two decades.
The women cited alleged instances of groping, close-contact touching and an instance where he ‘compelled [a woman] to straddle him.’
The Eater report, among others, prompted ABC to fire Batali from The Chew, a cooking and talk show. He also stepped down from day-to-day operations at his restaurant empire and later cut ties with restaurants he partly owned, like New York’s Babbo and Del Posto.
Food Network immediately froze Molto Mario despite having ordered six additional episodes of the show. Production insiders alleged the episodes had already been filmed and were set to air in 2018.
Although he denied the allegations of sexual assault, the chef also issued an apology for his ‘deeply inappropriate’ behavior and acknowledged the accusations ‘match up’ with ways he has acted.
‘That behavior was wrong, and there are no excuses,’ he said at the time. ‘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.’
Batali was one of America’s most celebrated chefs and beloved television personalities. His food industry empire was worth an estimated $250 million at its peak. The chef, pictured in October 2016, also cooked at the White House for the Obamas
Batali is pictured alongside former President Bill Clinton at a New York City Food Bank awards dinner in April 2017
He was the recipient of many awards, including being named GQ Magazine’s Man of the Year, in the chef category, in 1999. Batali is pictured promoting his Big American Cookbook in 2016
The Eater article – which was published on December 11, 2017 – prompted negative response from other industry members.
Chef Anthony Bourdain, whose partner Asia Argento, was one of the many women who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, took to Twitter addressing the allegations against Batali.
‘It’s Batali. And it’s bad,’ Bourdain tweeted at the time, adding that he had been in the industry cooking business for nearly 20 years but ‘only started hearing s** a few weeks ago’.
Fellow Chef Tom Colicchio shared Bourdain’s tweet, saying: ‘And no one should be surprised.’
The Eater article – which was published on December 11, 2017 – prompted negative response from other industry members
The next day, on December 12, 2017, further allegations against Batali were made public by The Washington Post. At this point, nine women had made claims against the chef.
The newspaper article detailed the testimony of Holly Gunderson, who served as the special events director at Batali’s Los Angeles restaurant Osteria Mozza.
Gunderson claimed Batali made drunken advances towards her during the week of the 2010 Academy Awards, a very busy time for the establishment.
‘I want to see you naked in my hot tub back in the hotel,’ Batali told Gunderson as she was escorting him to greet his guests, she alleged.
Gunderson claimed bystanders ‘looked at me like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe he said that about you.”
She also alleged that Batali put his hand ‘between my legs, up and under, so his hand went on my vagina outside of my clothes. And then he moved his hand backward. So, you know, under my butt. And then continued walking.’
Gunderson said she didn’t take action against Batali because she was so surprised by the alleged assault.
The chef issued a statement to the paper saying: ‘I take full responsibility for my deplorable actions and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation, or anguish I caused.’
Batali’s accolades and professional successes took a nosedive in December 2017 when Eater.com detailed allegations by four women who said Batali touched them inappropriately over at least two decades. Batali is pictured in August 2010 at Eataly’s grand opening in NYC
The Eater report, among others, prompted ABC to fire Batali from The Chew, a cooking and talk show. He is pictured on the show in October 2017
After the first women came forward, the allegations against Batali started to flood.
In May 2018 a group of Batali’s former employees, who worked at The Spotted Pig in New York City, appeared on an episode of 60 Minutes and claimed he harassed and assaulted them.
Two women claimed he assaulted them while they were unconscious, including one who claims she spoke with a detective with the New York Police Department’s Special Victims Division who encouraged her to file a report.
The women declined to file the police report, fearing repercussions at her workplace. According to the news outlet, due to this choice, the woman’s rape kit was never processed and the hospital records were expunged.
Batali, in wake of the interview, issued a statement saying: ‘I vehemently deny the allegation that I sexually assaulted this woman.’
The day after the 60 Minutes segment, The New York Times reported that police were investigating another complaint against Batali.
The woman, whose story had not yet been reported, told the Times the chef had raped her at his restaurant Babbo in 2004.
Batali ‘vehemently denied’ the allegations that he ‘engaged in any nonconsensual sex’.
In response to the May allegations, the Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group ousted Batali from the company.
The group announced on May 22, 2018 it was ‘actively negotiating with Mr. Batali to buy his interests in the restaurants’ and wanted him removed by July 1.
Three days later Joe Bastianich confirmed three of Batali’s Las Vegas restaurants – Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria – would close on July 27.
‘These restaurants have continued to succeed, and they are a tribute to every one of you who works in them and brings great dining experiences to our guests,’ Bastianich wrote in a statement at the time. ‘Unfortunately, our partner in these restaurants, Las Vegas Sands Corp., has decided to end our relationship.’
Batali and Ayesha Curry are pictured during at a Family Ice Cream Fun-dae event in New York City in October 2017
Carla Hall, Mario Batali, John Leguizamo, Michael Symon and Clinton Kelly appear on an October 2017 episode of The Chew. The stars are pictured left to right
In May 2019, Batali appeared in a Boston courtroom and plead not guilty to a criminal assault charge of indecent assault and battery. The charged stemmed from allegations that he forcibly groped and kissed a woman at a restaurant in 2017. He is pictured at his May 2019 arraignment
On May 30, 2018 Eater published another article sharing the stories of seven more women who claimed to be assaulted by Batali, including that of the plaintiff in Batali’s sexual misconduct trial.
The woman, who was named in the article but has since requested anonymity, claims Batali drunkenly assaulted her shortly after midnight on April 1, 2017, while posing with her for selfies at a bar in Boston.
The woman alleged Batali forcibly kissed her, grabbed her private areas, touched her face and even stuck his tongue in her ear. She filed a lawsuit against Batali in August 2018.
Eater also published video clips and photos that allegedly supported the accusations made by the seven women.
Batali declined to comment for the article and, to date, only one of the women’s claims have resulted in trial.
In May 2019, Batali appeared in a Boston courtroom and plead not guilty to a criminal assault charge of indecent assault and battery.
The charged stemmed from allegations that he forcibly groped and kissed a woman at a restaurant in 2017.
At the time, Batali denied wrongdoing and said he ‘intends to fight the allegations vigorously.’
His trial was delayed until May 2022, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Batali still maintains his innocence.
In August 2019, likely in response to his trial, Eataly purchased Batali’s minority interest, formally ending their relationship with the chef. Batali did not have any direct involvement with the restaurant chain since December 2017 and had already given up financial stakes in all his restaurants.
(Left to right) Adam Saper, Alex Saper, Eric Garcetti, Nicola Farinetti, Mario Batali, Valentina Gambelunghe, Dino Borri, Sophia Bush and Marino Monferrato attend Eataly Los Angeles Grand Opening Celebration at Eataly LA on November 3, 2017 in Los Angeles
Batali is currently on trial in Boston Municipal Court over accusations from a female fan who said he forcibly kissed and groped her at a Boston restaurant in 2017. He is pictured in court on Monday
Mario Batali is pictured walking into his sexual misconduct trial in Boston on Monday
New York launched an investigation into Batali in January 2020 after a business associate of his agreed to compensate former employees over sexual harassment allegations.
The state attorney general’s probe of restaurateur Ken Friedman had unearthed information regarding Batali’s alleged behavior at The Spotted Pig.
Friedman, the majority owner of The Spotted Pig, agreed to $240,000 to 11 women and give them a share of his restaurant’s profits for ten years under a settlement. He also agreed to no longer manage the restaurant.
Batali was an investor in The Spotted Pig and, like Friedman, had also been accused of harassment and unwanted touching.
The restaurant was forced to shut its doors just week after Friedman paid the settlement.
In July 2021, Batali and his former business partner, Bastianich, agreed to pay $600,000 in a settlement to 20 former employees over sexual harassment allegations.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the settlement following a four-year investigation into the alleged culture of rampant sexual harassment at the restaurants.
The investigation found a culture rife with sexual harassment at the Manhattan restaurants Babbo, Lupa and Del Posto, which closed permanently in April, with employees reporting that managers and colleagues groped them, kissed them against their will, or made sexual comments.
‘Batali and Bastianich permitted an intolerable work environment and allowed shameful behavior that is inappropriate in any setting,’ James said in a statement. ‘Celebrity and fame does not absolve someone from following the law.’
‘Every individual deserves to work in a safe environment, and today’s agreement marks one more step towards remedying workplace harassment,’ she added.
Later that year it was revealed that Batali would face criminal trial in 2022 on the sexual misconduct charge stemming from the 2017 alleged groping in Boston.