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The Food World Reacts to Mario Batali News With Anger — and a Lack of Surprise

Four women have accused the chef of sexual misconduct

Photo by Dave Kotinsky / Getty Images for NYCWFF
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

In the wake of Eater NY’s bombshell report that Mario Batali is stepping aside from operations at his restaurant group due to allegations of sexual misconduct (allegations he doesn’t wholly deny), the restaurant world at large has to process the news about one of its most venerated members. Chefs, writers, and other industry types have taken to Twitter to express their feelings in light of the news. Eater has reached out to several chefs and restaurateurs for comment.

Many, including Tom Colicchio, who recently penned “An Open Letter to Male Chefs,” challenging men in the restaurant industry to Do Better, did not seem surprised at all:

For others, it’s made them reconsider the Batali they thought they knew from his restaurants, television shows, and the iconic book chronicling his culinary life, Heat by Bill Buford. In the book, Buford reports witnessing Batali’s crass behavior toward female employees, which New York Times critic Pete Wells now views in hindsight:

Anthony Bourdain, who was tweeting last night indicating he knew ~ some bad news ~ was breaking today, noted that this is a time for the industry to make a stand:

Eater reached out to Nancy Silverton, the prolific Los Angeles chef who collaborated with Mario Batali on her Mozza Restaurant Group, which includes Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza, and Chi Spacca. In her statement, she called it “a sad day in the restaurant industry,” and also added: “Sexual misconduct of any kind is unacceptable in our workplaces, on any level and I simply do not stand for it.” Head to Eater LA to read her full statement.

Boston chef-restaurateur Barbara Lynch, a collaborator in Eataly’s Boston location, sent a statement to the Boston Globe: “As I’ve expressed many times before, this is an especially tough industry for women to excel in... I have never reported directly to Mario, and have not experienced the behavior described by the media. The allegations as described are horrifying, unacceptable and inexcusable. I commend the women who’ve had the courage to come forward; their brave voices will bring change to the restaurant industry. I’m glad to see that Mario has accepted responsibility for his actions.”

Fellow Boston chef Tiffani Faison wants to see more men in the industry owning up to bad behavior:

When reached for comment, Faison says she does see this moment as watershed, but she sees these changes as, regrettably, too dependent on women. She wants to see male chefs and restaurateurs getting out in front, saying what they’ve done is wrong and proactively addressing those concerns, rather than the current situation: “People are sitting on their hands hoping that sexual-predator bingo doesn't land on them.” She also added that she wants to see a focus-shift:

There are a lot of women who have been dealing with [harassment in the industry] for a long time, and when it comes out, we’re like ‘Yup.’ It’s not a shocking thing. But for the general public, there’s this heartbreak. When it’s Kevin Spacey, Mario Batali, John Besh — people that are likable figures in public, and people like what they produce... there’s this pause. There’s a conversation around how to deal with this disappointment. Do we patronize the restaurants? Do we watch the movies?

This is a really big world. There’s room for so many people. For every Mario Batali, for every Kevin Spacey, for every Al Franken, as much as you liked them or believed in them, there’s someone right behind them that’s just as talented, just as capable, that’s going to be just as inspiring, that’s not actively hurting people.

San Francisco fine dining star Dominique Crenn took to Instagram to share her #MeToo experiences, noting that: “Sexual harassment is damaging in level that perhaps people do not understand.”

Eater reached out to hear more from restaurateur Jen Agg, who has written extensively, including for Eater, about misogyny in the restaurant industry. She tells Eater:

Obviously the allegations against Mario Batali (which of course I believe to be true) are disgusting and I would say, unsurprising. Not because I had heard anything more than rumors, but because it's clear that this is not unusual behavior for a specific type of powerful man. It's very telling that the brave women who came forward did so anonymously and seem to be so scared of repercussions [or] backlash. It suggests that Batali, who obviously knew this story was brewing, isn’t really sorry, just sorry he got caught.

Yet again, I expect to be disappointed as leaders in the restaurant industry put their heads down and pretend this isn’t happening. It’s a huge, systemic problem that arises from the complete entitlement kings of fiefdoms feel (plus alcohol and a total lack of accountability). Food media, (including Eater) has long glorified, documented and raised the profiles of the (ugh) “bad boy” chef, and the dining public likes its chef bros a little sadistic. The entire industry needs to be rebooted.

Eric Ripert issues a statement in the afternoon, not mentioning Batali by name but referencing poor behavior in the industry:

Eater also reached out to Momofuku chef-founder David Chang, who sent the following:

First and foremost, the victims are most important and they need our support. Our industry is broken, and we must all work towards being better. Batali is a long-time friend who has supported me throughout my career. While I’m personally saddened by the news, there is just no way to condone or justify these actions. These reports underscore the urgent need to change the culture of our kitchens and workplaces.

Senior food and drinks editor for Time Inc. and Chefs With Issues founder Kat Kinsman sums up the mood today succinctly:

This post will be updated with comments as Eater receives them.