NEW YORK • Celebrity chef Mario Batali has stepped away from his eponymous gastronomic empire after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct over the course of at least two decades.
In allegations published by the food website Eater on Monday, four women speaking on condition of anonymity said Batali - recognisable for his generous physique, flaming red ponytail and signature orange Crocs shoes - groped them and made inappropriate comments.
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. Restaurant management Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group told Eater that Batali was taking leave from the day-to-day management of his company, of which he remains a shareholder.
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".
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.
Separately on Monday, The New Yorker said it had fired Mr Ryan Lizza, the magazine's Washington correspondent, after it said he had engaged in what it called "improper sexual conduct", a charge he denied.
"We have reviewed the matter and, as a result, have severed ties with Lizza. Due to a request for privacy, we are not commenting further," a spokesman for the magazine said in a statement.
Mr Lizza rejected The New Yorker's characterisation of events, but both the magazine and Mr Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer representing his accuser, said it was accurate.
In a statement, Mr Lizza said the company's decision to fire him "was made hastily and without a full investigation of the relevant facts" and "was a terrible mistake".
"I am dismayed that The New Yorker has decided to characterise a respectful relationship with a woman I dated as somehow inappropriate," he said.
NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE