About 10 years ago, at the after-party for a wine auction in New Orleans, a woman in her 20s walked up to Mario Batali to introduce herself. As a chef, she was excited to meet one of the most revered figures in the restaurant industry. When they started talking, she recalls, she realized that he’d been drinking and he became what she characterized as “creepy” — “just giving me this provocative, icky feeling.”
Minutes into their conversation, she recalls, he told her, “Come work for me, I’ll pay you double what you’re making.” Moments later, someone bumped her glass, spilling wine all over her chest and down her scooped-neck shirt. She alleges that Batali began rubbing her breasts with his bare hands while saying something like, “Let me help you with that,” as he groped her chest. “He just went to town, and I was so shocked,” the chef says. “Jaw on the ground, I just stepped back from him in utter disgust and walked away.”
The chef is one of four women who allege that Batali touched them inappropriately in a pattern of behavior that appears to span at least two decades. Three of the women worked for Batali in some capacity during their careers. One former employee alleges that over the course of two years, he repeatedly grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against his body. Another former employee alleges that he groped her and that, in a separate incident, he compelled her to straddle him; another alleges that he grabbed her breasts at a party, though she no longer worked for him at the time. The woman whose allegations are described above has never worked for Batali, though she works in the restaurant industry.