AceShowbiz - Celebrity chef Mario Batali stepped away from his ABC show "The Chew" and his culinary empire for an unspecified period of time on Monday, December 11. The decision came after sexual misconduct allegations against him were made by four women.
A spokesperson for the ABC culinary show stated that the chef was asked to step away from the show. "ABC takes matters like this very seriously as we are committed to a safe work environment. While we are unaware of any type of inappropriate behavior involving him and anyone affiliated with the show, we will swiftly address any alleged violations of our standards of conduct," the spokesperson said.
The 57-year-old chef was accused by the four women, three of which worked for Batali in some capacity during their careers, of sexual harassment over a period that spans two decades, according to Eater New York. One former employee alleged that Batali "grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against his body," and this reportedly occurred over the course of two years. Another woman claimed that Batali "grabbed her breast" at an after-party when she was in her 20s.
Just two months ago, Batali was reprimanded for inappropriate behavior in the workplace. A Batali & Bastianich restaurant employee officially reported inappropriate behavior by Batali to the company, which is owned by Batali and Joe Bastianich, in October, marking the first formal complaint about Batali.
Following the allegations, Batali released an official statement, in which he offered an apology while not denying the sexual misconduct claims. "I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt. Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted," Batali said. "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 to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family."
"I have work to do to try to regain the trust of those I have hurt and disappointed. For this reason, 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," he added.
He concluded, "I know my actions have disappointed many people. The successes I have enjoyed are owned by everyone on my team. The failures are mine alone. To the people who have been at my side during this time -- my family, my partners, my employees, my friends, my fans -- I am grateful for your support and hopeful that I can regain your respect and trust. I will spend the next period of time trying to do that."
B&B, meanwhile, stated, "We take these allegations very seriously. We pride ourselves on being a workplace for our employees where they can grow and deliver great service with equal opportunity and free from any discrimination. We have strong policies and practices in place that address sexual harassment. We train employees in these policies and we enforce them, up to and including termination. Mr. Batali and we have agreed that he will step away from the company's operations, including the restaurants, and has already done so."
Bastianich said that he's now "just focused on ensuring that our more than 1,000 employees continue to have a safe and positive work environment." Meanwhile, Food Network announced that it would put the plan to relaunch Batali's show "Molto Mario" on hold. "Food Network takes matters like this very seriously and we are putting relaunch plans for 'Molto Mario' on hold," the network said in a statement.