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Mario Batali is latest high-profile name caught up in sexual harassment allegations

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The celebrity chef has stepped away from the restaurant group he runs with business partner Joe Bastianich, reports Tina Nielsen

As public allegations of sexual harassment spread beyond the entertainment industry, it seems the foodservice sector is next to face up to serious revelations of inappropriate behaviour.

Earlier this year prolific New Orleans chef and restaurateur John Besh rocked headlines when he announced he was stepping down from his company after allegations of rampant sexual harassment in his restaurants. Now restaurant website Eater.com has reported that celebrity chef and TV personality Mario Batali has announced he has stepped away from his restaurant and brand empire after the site interviewed almost a dozen women who accused him of sexual misconduct in the form of inappropriate touching and words in the workplace and at industry events.

No excuses

In a statement issued to Eater, Batali did not deny allegations:

“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. 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.

“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.”

Serious change

What was known among many to be an ongoing issue, or just part of a “boys club culture” in the restaurant industry has finally bubbled to the public surface. As such, the foodservice industry lies on the precipice of serious change.

“We’re in a different place than we’ve ever been,” Rudy Miick FCSI, principal of Rudy Miick Consulting told Foodservice Consultant magazine before the allegations against Batali were announced. “The foodservice and hospitality industry has been a predominantly male industry but the time has come for us to wake up and take harassment and hostile work environments seriously.”

Tina Nielsen

Photo: Paramount Pictures