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Mario Batali Is Still Profiting From His Restaurants

The chef has yet to divest from B&B Hospitality one year after sexual misconduct allegations

A man, Mario Batali, seated in profile Jason Kempin / Getty Images for Food Bank for New York City

Almost a year to the day since Eater NY broke the news that Mario Batali was at the center of multiple sexual misconduct allegations, New York magazine published a piece on the state of the restaurant empire the famous chef left behind. In the months following the allegations, business at B&B Hospitality restaurants dropped up to 30 percent, and despite stepping away from operations, one year later, all of Batali’s financial ties are intact.

The New York Times reported in April that Batali would divest from his restaurants, allowing his partners to buy out his stake. But the negotiations, meant to close in July, have gone on, and anyone who eats at the restaurants Batali made famous is putting more money in the chef’s pockets. “Mario isn’t about to let himself get taken advantage of by [restaurant group partner Joe Bastianich] because of the situation,” former Del Posto chef Mark Ladner said to New York. And there’s a lot of money at stake — New York reports that Batali’s share could have been worth as much as $100 million at its height and is currently in the tens of millions, at least.

The piece asks whether the restaurant group can survive with Bastianich at its helm. Bastianich tells reporter Eric Konigsberg that he never witnessed any of Batali’s misconduct and goes as far as to claim he wasn’t aware of an alleged assault at Babbo, which is currently under investigation by the NYPD. New York magazine fails to note that according to an Eater NY report from late last year, multiple former employees say Bastianich was in part responsible for the “boys’ club” culture that allowed Batali to (allegedly) assault women unchecked, and engaged in his own “sleazy” behavior. The report also contradicts Bastianich’s newly claimed ignorance; last December, Bastianich told Eater NY that “he had ‘heard [Batali] say inappropriate things’ to staffers, and that he ‘should have done more’ to criticize Batali.”

The story sympathetically suggests that Bastianich feels burdened with the task of cleaning up after his former partner. “On the day in December that it broke, I had to walk into these restaurants and talk about these allegations,” he said to Konigsberg. He would go on to deliver more bad news — in May, B&B closed its Sands Casino restaurants on the Las Vegas strip, as well as its two Sands Casino properties in Singapore.

According to New York magazine, the numbers are down at B&B restaurants across the board. Those in California led by Nancy Silverton, as well as the B&B restaurants in Westchester, New York and New Haven, Connecticut aren’t as affected by the scandal. However, the New York restaurants most associated with Batali — Otto, Lupa, and Babbo — aren’t doing well. New York quotes one regular who said without Batali “the loss of charisma to the place was palpable.” But Bastianich says B&B Hospitality is moving away from a restaurant group identity centered on one chef. Going forward, Silverton and Bastianich’s mother Lidia Bastianich will become public faces of the restaurants and one may even step in to run Otto, apparently one of the harder hit of the Batali restaurants.

The New York magazine piece also offers an update on Batali himself: After going abroad to volunteer (he taught cooking to migrants and refugees in Rwanda, Greece, and Iraq), Batali is in Northport, Michigan, where his family has a summer house. He told Konigsberg he wasn’t interested in being interviewed because “I’m not going to live my life in public anymore.” But, he’s not exactly lying low — Konigsberg notes he’s driving around in a bright orange Dodge Power Wagon and still wearing his uniform of fleece vest and Crocs. Batali said to Konigsberg, referring to his current life in Michigan, “I’m a lucky man.” He’s also lucky that he has yet to suffer consequences from the multiple criminal investigations against him and that although they may not be as successful as they once were, he’s still profiting from his restaurants. Realizing that that’s exactly how that quote might sound, Batali admitted “it’s been a bad year.”

Mario Batali’s Empire in the Wake of Mario Batali [NYMag]

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