Mario Batali, one of the food world’s most prolific chefs and television personalities, is under intense scrutiny after four women accused him of sexual misconduct.
In a statement provided to Eater NY, Batali said he would “step away from day-to-day operations of my businesses” in light of the allegations, adding, “I want any place I am associated with to feel comfortable and safe for the people who work or dine there.” The largest of Batali’s business interests is the 23-unit restaurant group that partially bears his name, which includes NYC’s Michelin-starred Del Posto, two spots in Connecticut, and LA’s Mozza Group, among others, in its portfolio.
According to a spokesperson for Joe Bastianich, Batali does not hold an ownership stake in Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, which handles operations and human resources for the restaurants under its umbrella. But the chef does co-own each of the group’s restaurants; depending on the structure of each, it’s likely that he would have to be forced to divest or otherwise be bought out by his partners in order to fully separate from each entity. B&B says it’s currently reviewing matters and “determining what’s best for the company.”
A spokesperson for Batali’s production company, Via Alta, who wished to remain unnamed, said the chef is also “stepping away” from that business. Eataly, which recently announced it was seeking an IPO on the Italian stock exchange, has started to distance itself from the chef, pulling Batali’s namesake line of products off its shelves.
Meanwhile, Batali’s individual business partnerships, co-branded products, licensing deals, publishing deals, and charity-based work remain in the balance.
“It’s always tricky when the entire business is centered around one individual,” says Marlene Towns, professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. “It makes it harder for a brand to handle a scandal like this, or to survive it, where, in this situation, Mario Batali is the product.”
Batali has appeared on hundreds of cooking and talk shows, and his name recognition is strong enough to sell a wide range of items: In addition to a cookware line, his likeness has been used to hawk aprons, pasta, clogs, salami, and pepper mills.
“These are sauces, pastas, TV shows — brands people bring into their homes, and people have a choice as to who they let into their lives,” Towns says. “Brands have to consider their immediate and long-term reputations, and we’re at a point where they’d want to reevaluate those associations.”
Batali’s sauces and pastas are produced by an Ohio-based company called Summer Garden Food Manufacturing/Gia Brands. His cutting boards are produced by a company called Madeira Housewares, which sells them on Amazon. It is unclear whether these partnerships are licensing deals in which they pay to use Batali’s name, or (more likely) if Batali contracted Summer Garden Foods and Madeira Housewares to produce sauces, pastas, and kitchenware for his brand. Either way, Batali likely makes a healthy profit off the sales of these products, though it remains to be seen if stores will continue to carry them. Some consumers have started a petition to convince Target to remove Batali’s products from its shelves.
“Companies are definitely vulnerable by association,” says Towns, “especially in today’s climate where there has been zero tolerance for sexual abuse or harassment in the workplace.”
Update 12/13: Target announced that it’s pulling all Batali-branded products from its shelves and has already removed them from its website. Zidian Group, which manufactures Batali’s line of pasta sauces, says it “will be working to transition [its] products away from the Batali brand”; for now, Batali has agreed to donate any profits to a yet-to-be-determined women’s charity.
Update, 12/15: Walmart is the latest chain to announce it’ll “end its relationship” with the Batali brand, according to Business Insider.
We’ll update this post as more information becomes available; here’s where Batali’s business empire stands right now:
Belcampo by Mario Batali
Products: Since 2015, SF-based meat purveyor and restaurant group Belcampo Meat Co. has produced spicy pepperoni, traditional salami, and cotechino under the sub-brand “Belcampo by Mario Batali” which was for sale at Eataly, Belcampo stores, and online.
Statement: In an email to Eater SF, Belcampo’s CEO Anya Fernald wrote: “We are disappointed by the recent allegations against Mario Batali and have suspended our business relationship with him and removed all products from our stores, effective immediately.”
Mario Batali by Dansk
Products: Cookware, Dutch ovens produced by Dansk, which is owned by Lenox.
Statement: "Mario Batali Products are no longer available directly from Lenox." The last time Dansk produced Mario Batali branded cookware was in 2012; it is no longer available at Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s, but can be found on resale websites.
Crocs™ Bistro Mario Batali Edition
Products: Orange-colored Crocs.
Statement: Crocs tells Footwear News that its relationship with the chef ended in March of this year. The company has not returned requests for comment, but the page has been taken off of its website. A cached version shows that the product is sold out.
Mario Batali™ by Fletchers’ Mill
Statement: The company has not yet returned requests for comment.
Mario Batali Foundation Aprons by Hedley & Bennett
Products: Aprons adorned with the logo of Batali’s charity, the Mario Batali Foundation.
Statement: According to the company, the aprons were “a one-time collaboration” from 2015 that stopped being produced some time ago. Mention of the aprons has also been scrubbed from the Eataly website since the allegations were made public.
Cookbooks with Grand Central Publishing
Books: Batali has published over a dozen cookbooks over 20 years, and has worked with a handful of publishers including Ecco, Clarkson Potter, and Rizzoli. His most recent books, Mario Batali: Big American Cookbook and America: Farm to Table were published with Grand Central Life & Style. All of Batali’s cookbooks remain on sale at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but have been taken off the shelves at his restaurants and at Eataly.
Statement: Grand Central Publishing says it has no current or pending deals with Batali, and is not in the process of reissuing or republishing any of his older titles.
Molto Mario, Food Network
From 1996 until 2004, the Food Network produced Molto Mario, a cooking show series starring Batali. This year, producers announced they would be reviving that series; but yesterday, in light of the allegations, the network said it was putting the show “on hold.”
The Chew, ABC
Batali has been a lead host on The Chew, a culinary talk show, since it began airing in 2011. The Chew asked the chef to step away from the show “while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention.” He has been put on leave.
Charities and Philanthropic Organizations
Mario Batali Foundation
Involvement: Batali’s own kid-focused nonprofit, launched in 2008 with his wife Susi Cahn, funds nutrition education, pediatric disease research, and educational programs including providing books for children.
Statement: The organization has not responded to a request for comment.
The Lunchbox Fund
Involvement: Batali has served as an ambassador for this nonprofit, which funds nutrition education and provides meals for orphaned children in rural South Africa. He also wrote a limited-edition cookbook to raise money for the charity.
Statement: Reached via email, a representative for the organization provided the following statement attributed to Batali: “I'm incredibly proud of the work I've done for The Lunchbox Fund, providing nutritious school lunches to South Africa's most at-risk children. Together, we've raised more than $1 million to provide daily meals for orphaned and vulnerable school children in township and rural areas. To ensure The Lunchbox Fund continues to fulfill their vital mission without outside distractions, I've made the difficult decision to step down from my role on the Board of Directors.”
The Food Bank for New York City
Involvement: This Bronx-based charity provides emergency food assistance and meals for low-income New Yorkers. Batali has served on the charity’s board since 2003.
Statement: The organization has not responded to a request for comment.
Emeril Lagasse Foundation
Involvement: Batali sits on the board of directors of Lagasse’s New Orleans-based charity, which supports culinary, nutrition, and arts education opportunities for kids.
Statement: "Mario Batali is no longer a board member of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. Mr. Batali has not been actively involved with the Emeril Lagasse Foundation since 2014 and is no longer on the board as of December 2017. We appreciate his generosity over the years and support of our efforts serving disadvantaged youth.” Batali’s name and likeness was recently removed from the foundation’s website (a cached version shows Batali was still on the website as of December 3).
Involvement: Batali is a chef ambassador for the AIDS charity founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver.
Statement: Reached via email, a representative for the organization stated, “The allegations in news reports are deeply troubling. Mario Batali has generously donated his time and talent to the AIDS fight with (RED). The kind of behavior described in these news reports, which Mario has acknowledged was wrong, is inconsistent with our standards. In light of these allegations and his own statements about them, we have suspended his involvement in our current campaign.”