Celebrity chef Mario Batali has long been known for the bright orange Crocs he once wore everywhere and celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jimmy Fallon who flock to him often. But to those working in his restaurant empire, he was known by something else.
“He hugs you, kisses you, or puts his hands on your waist… or touches your hips,” says Trish Nelson, former host of the now-closed New York City restaurant Spotted Pig, where Batali is his primary investor. Discovery+’s new documentary, Batali: The Fall of a Superstar Chief, currently available. “We called him the red threat.”
Nelson is one of several former employees of Batali’s restaurants who, in the document, claims that the restaurateur, who was behind dozens of venues, was a co-host on the TVs. chewThe face of Eataly, and indeed the creator of an entire food empire, has been sexually abused over the years. They described situations in which he had said obscene things to them or—as Steve Crane, one of his former restaurant partners—had become “touching” or worse.
They described a man with two different aspects: one who is attractive and sociable, and the other who comes out after drinking too much. The man who appeared as the night progressed was immoral and shoddy. Workers said they felt trapped and unheard because the restaurant industry was not equipped to deal with reports of sexual misconduct.
For example, Nelson recalled a night when Batali brought drinks to his table of seven. He could only carry six drinks, so he assured the seventh person that he would come with him. In front of everyone, Batali said if he sat on the man’s face he would “come back again and again”. Other women recounted that Batali grabbed their breasts or backs many times.
There were also fans, like Sharelle Klaus, co-founder of Dry Soda Co., who claimed that Batali touched them inappropriately during brief encounters.
“He asked me if I wanted a photo with him,” Klaus said. “While I was taking the picture, he reached his hands under my underwear into my pants and grabbed my ass.”
Eva DeVirgilis, a former stewardess of Batali’s New York City restaurant Babbo, made herself public as one of Batali’s accusers in the documentary. She told her story in an interview with She. 60 minutes In 2018, but his face was hidden at that time. Not this time.
DeVirgilis claimed that she agreed to go to the Spotted Pig with Batali after her shift in 2005, and she hopes other people will go too. But his boss picked him up in a limo and took him to a candlelit feast where he drank wine and passed out.
DeVirgilis says, “Then I have a memory, where I was kissed so hard by him. “And then there was nothing. And then I woke up… on a floor, on a hardwood floor. I had no idea where I was.”
DeVirgilis immediately said he thought he was being drugged, because he didn’t usually get sick or pass out while drinking. She also said she found scratches on the inside of her legs and something on her skirt that could be semen. So she went to Mount Sinai Hospital and had a rape kit made, but she refused to go to the police because she was concerned about her potential for employment in the industry if she told her story. She informed and broke up with Babbo.
Batali issued a controversial apology in December 2017 for his past behavior as Eater filed four female charges against him, but also denied all sexual assault allegations. He declined to be a part of Discovery+’s new documentary, and Yahoo couldn’t reach him for comment.
But Batali: The Fall of a Superstar Chief He explains that in an industry that has long allowed bad behavior to go unchecked by many, it’s only part of the problem. Batali – as several journalists covering the alleged sexual abuse by Julia Moskin and Kim Severson New York Timesand freelance writer Irene Plagianos, who wrote about Eater’s celebrity chef, explained in the documentary, that her news coverage of him came to light in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo Movement.
Batali’s dealings fell apart after his reports surfaced in 2017.
New York Attorney General Letitia James eventually investigated Spotted Pig and the restaurant group Batali co-owned, where she found something wrong. While Batali was not charged with a crime in New York, he was charged with indecent assault and assault for forcefully grabbing and kissing Natali Tene at a local bar in Boston in 2017.
“I’ve never been touched like this before,” Tene testified, “like squeezing between my legs, squeezing my vagina to pull me in, as if that was a normal way of grabbing someone.”
The judge ruled that Tene had “significant credibility issues” due to text messages he sent about his encounter with Batali and his behavior as a juror in another case, and Batali was found not guilty in May.
He has also filed numerous civil lawsuits regarding sexual misconduct over the past few years.
Batali: The Fall of a Superstar Chief currently streaming on Discovery+.