Chef Mario Batali steps away from food empire over sexual misconduct allegations

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Celebrity chef Mario Batali said he has stepped away from his restaurant company and ABC said it asked him to step aside as co-host of a daytime food and talk show after he was accused of sexual harassment.
Italian-American chef-restaurateur Mario Batali. PHOTO: ST FILE

NEW YORK (AFP) - Celebrity chef Mario Batali stepped away from his eponymous gastronomic empire Monday (Dec 11), after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct over the course of at least two decades.

In allegations published by the food website Eater, four women speaking on condition of anonymity said Batali - recognisable for his generous physique, flaming red ponytail and signature orange Croc shoes - groped them and made inappropriate comments.

One of the most famous figures in American cuisine, the 57-year-old Italian-American is a popular TV personality whose empire includes 26 establishments nationwide, as well as cookbooks, cookware and food products.

Controlled by private shareholders, the group does not publish its accounts but US media has estimated its worth to be at least US$250 million (S$338 million). Batali also owns and runs Osteria Mozza in Singapore's Marina Bay Sands with Joe Bastianich and Nancy Silverton.

Three of the women interviewed by Eater worked for Batali's restaurant conglomerate.

The restaurant management Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group told Eater the famous chef was taking leave from the day-to-day management of his company, of which he nevertheless remains a shareholder.

The group did not respond to an AFP request for comment.

The ABC television network, which airs Batali's foodie show The Chew, said it asked the famous chef to "step away" from the programme "while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention."

"While we are unaware of any type of inappropriate behaviour involving him and anyone affiliated with the show, we will swiftly address any alleged violations of our standards of conduct," an ABC spokesperson told AFP.

The accusations come in the wake of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's downfall, which triggered a flood of public accusations of harassment, sexual assault or rape against dozens of personalities from the world of entertainment and media, the arts and politics.

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