One alleged victim told Eater that Mario grabbed her breasts at a party in New Orleans 10 years ago. After she spilled wine on her shirt, the woman claimed that Mario “went to town” under the guise of helping her clean up the mess. “Jaw on the ground, I just stepped back from him in utter disgust and walked away,” she told Eater.
Three former employees of Mario, who is a part owner of at least 24 restaurants, also allege that the chef inappropriately touched them. One claimed he would grab her from behind and hold her against his body during the two years she worked for him.
Another employee claimed Mario groped her and even forced her to straddle him. The third alleged victim claimed Mario grabbed her breasts at a party. In a statement, Mario did not deny the women’s allegations and said the behavior they 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,” Mario said.
Mario added that he will “step away from day-to-day operations of my businesses” while he tries to “regain the trust of those I have hurt and disappointed.” A spokesperson for The Chew said the show has asked the chef to take a break “while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention.”
As recently as October 2017, an employee of Mario’s company, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, made an official report accusing Mario of “inappropriate behavior.” One woman told Eater that in the past, employees were afraid to speak up for fear "of retribution."
“He has clear intent on being threatening when he is wronged. And the level of vindictiveness is very chilling. So, it never occurred to me to share tales out of school,” she said.
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