More allegations have surfaced against celebrity chef Mario Batali. (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP, File)
Only six weeks ago, celebrity chef Mario Batali was mulling how he would rebound after allegations of sexual harassment. But in recent days and weeks, troubles for Batali and his business empire have deepened.
On Sunday, the CBS program 60 Minutes reported that the New York Police Department was investigating a new sexual assault allegation against Batali, dating back to 2005. On Monday, the New York Times said a second sexual assault claim had been filed with police on March 15, in an incident alleged to have taken place in 2004.
The claims came as Batali faced more turbulence in his business dealings, which reportedly helped him accumulate a $25 million fortune.
The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that Eataly USA, the American operation of the upscale Italian marketplace, had begun a process to “compel the divestiture of his small, minority interest” in the organization.
Eataly said Batali, who was a key player in bringing the marketplace concept from Italy to the United States, has had no direct involvement in Eataly USA since December.
In a statement issued Monday, Batali’s former company, B&B Hospitality, called the allegations “chilling and deeply disturbing,” adding that it was the first it had heard of them. B&B said it had been actively negotiating with Batali to buy his interests in his restaurants, and that he and the group’s other main partner, restaurateur Joseph Bastianich, had signed a letter of intent setting forth broad terms by which to do so.
It said it expected the transaction to be completed by July 1.
On Dec. 11, the food website Eater published an extensive investigation of Batali’s alleged harassment of employees and others.
At the time, Batali said the allegations surrounding his conduct matched up with ways he had behaved, and apologized, as he did on Sunday when the 60 Minutes report aired.
Mario Batali says in a statement to 60 Minutes, “my past behavior has been deeply inappropriate and I am sincerely remorseful for my actions.”
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) May 20, 2018
Batali also said he vehemently denied the 2005 assault allegations aired on the program.
Meanwhile, ABC plans to continue its daily food program The Chew without someone in Batali’s spot, co-host Carla Hall told People Magazine on April 30.
Batali, who was among five co-hosts on the show a year ago, was let go from the program in December. Speaking to People, Hall said, “We are going to keep it at three and what we have found is that it leaves room for when we have guests,” she said.
The latest allegations put a damper on Batali’s repeated efforts to rebound from the sexual harassment allegations, which began within weeks of losing his ABC and Eataly USA presence.
On Dec. 16, Batali issued a newsletter apology along with a recipe for pizza dough cinnamon rolls, which was roundly decried as tone deaf.
Since the 1990s, Batali has built a business empire through through restaurants, cookbooks, social media, cookware, television and other business ventures. Known for his orange Crocs and his boisterous manner, Batali is easily the best-known food figure to have been accused of sexual harassment allegations, which also have enveloped television chef John Besh, whose behavior was detailed by the New Orleans Times-Picayune earlier this fall.
In early April, the Times published a lengthy article looking at options that Batali felt were open to him. They included his efforts to help refugees in Greece and Rwanda, and the possibility of creating a program with other chefs to help displaced Rwandans.
Alternatively, Batali had told friends he might move to Italy’s Amalfi coast. The NYPD investigation probably would discourage any effort by Batali to leave the country, however.
The latest allegations surface at a time when Batali normally might be cranking up his summer social media output. In previous years, his Instagram account has featured his regular vacations on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, as well as photos of his family members.
In past years, Batali has been an avid promoter of restaurants and events in northern Michigan, and as a regular visitor to Ann Arbor, where one of his sons attends the University of Michigan. His plugs have been a boon for businesses in the two areas, which each have thriving food scenes.
This year, however, Batali may choose to lay low. His Instagram account, once a place where he ran daily promos for snacks and his other activities, seems to be gone. An account for the Mario Batali Foundation remains, although it has not posted any fresh content since November.
Likewise, there is no longer an official Batali account on Twitter, where he once regularly interacted with fans and others in the food world, often punctuating his tweets with his signature phrase, “Whee!!!”
Watch a CBS Evening News report on the allegations.