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Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Steps Aside After Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct


One of the country's best-known celebrity chefs has left day-to-day operations of his businesses after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.


MARIO BATALI: Hello, and welcome. My name's Mario Batali, and this is "Molto Mario." I'm here with my good friends Ken (ph), Christy (ph) and Michael (ph). And today we're talking about the basic pasta sauce primer. You've seen...

MCEVERS: Mario Batali has said in a statement that complaints detailed today in a report match up with his behavior in the past. That report comes from the online site Eater. It describes the accounts of four women over a period of at least 20 years. Amanda Kludt is editor-in-chief of Eater, and she's with us now from New York. Hi there.


MCEVERS: So the story starts with a woman who's a chef who met Mario Batali 10 years ago at a party. What happened?

KLUDT: She was at a party in New Orleans. And he was being sexually suggestive to her throughout the party. But then at one point, someone spills wine on her shirt, and he tried to mop it up with his hands. But it obviously wasn't in a friendly way. It was in a much more sexual way.

MCEVERS: And this story matched what your reporters heard from other women, yes? What can you tell us about some of the other claims and who they came from?

KLUDT: Sure. We had someone who had worked for him in a short capacity. And she ran into him at an industry event, and he groped her as well. He was visibly intoxicated. And she went to check on him, and he lunged at both of her breasts with his hands. We have another person who worked for him. And she was cooking in tight conditions with him, and she had to straddle him in order to exit the kitchen to go to the bathroom. And we just heard a lot of other similar reports of this kind of behavior and more subtle sexual harassment.

MCEVERS: Mario Batali basically has an empire at this point. He's got these really popular restaurants in New York and LA and Las Vegas, and his company partners with other restaurants. How big is his brand?

KLUDT: I mean, he's the biggest chef in the food industry as far as I can tell. He has TV shows. He has restaurants around the country. His company brings in almost $250 million in profits a year. He's also a big face for charities. He's a big face for the (RED) charity. He has a lot of different interests in a lot of different areas.

MCEVERS: From your reporting, do you know when his company first heard of the allegations?

KLUDT: We told them about our report on Wednesday, so that's when they first heard from us. They told us that they had an internal complaint about him in October and said that that was the first official complaint that they'd received from an employee. So I'm not sure if they've had more or not, but that's what they said to us.

MCEVERS: How have they handled these complaints?

KLUDT: He sent an apology to us that was pretty thorough. He said - he didn't deny really much of anything. He said it sounded like him and that he was going to immediately step away from the day-to-day operations of his businesses. And then the company said that they take these matters very seriously, and they are going to up their training. They're going to bring in an outside firm to help with training. And then ABC's "The Chew" immediately said they didn't want to work with him while they investigate this.

MCEVERS: And this is the second celebrity chef where we've seen allegations like this and they've stepped down. Is the reckoning happening in the restaurant business now?

KLUDT: Absolutely. I mean, he's just one of many chefs that we've received tips about. He was the one that we started looking into first. But we have a lot more that we need to start looking at now.

MCEVERS: Amanda Kludt is editor-in-chief of Eater, which broke the story of multiple sexual misconduct allegations against Mario Batali. Thank you very much.

KLUDT: Thank you, Kelly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ODDISEE'S "SOCIAL INSECURITY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.