The NYPD has reportedly launched a criminal investigation into celebrity restauranteur Mario Batali, after nearly a dozen women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct and assault.
CBS’s 60 Minutes program first reported on the investigation on Sunday night, according to HuffPost. An NYPD spokesperson confirmed to Jezebel that the department was “looking into the allegations” against Batali, though the spokesperson was unable to immediately provide further information. It is unclear which specific allegations police are investigating.
Nearly a dozen women have come forward to accuse Batali—whose empire includes the Eataly chain and famed New York restaurants like Babbo and Del Posto—of sexual misconduct, with allegations ranging from repeated workplace innuendo to groping. On Sunday, 60 Minutes host Anderson Cooper spoke with a former Babbo employee, who alleged Batali drugged and assaulted her in 2005. The employee told Cooper she had a rape kit done, but was too afraid of Batali’s influence to file a police report, despite urging from NYPD detectives. “They tried getting me to file a report. They tried, they tried. But I ― you know, a young actress, no resources, no money ― I couldn’t. I― I couldn’t do it,” she told Cooper.
Cooper also spoke with several former women employees of West Village eatery The Spotted Pig, for which Batali was an investor. The employees told Cooper Batali would “make passes at the female wait staff and make inappropriate comments” at restaurant events, with former manager Jamie Seet alleging on the program that Batali grabbed her breasts. When Seet alerted Spotted Pig co-owner Ken Friedman, a friend of Batali’s, he told her, “Oh, don’t worry about it, it’s just Mario,” she said.
In addition to alleging Friedman enabled Batali, employees accused Friedman of emotionally abusing and intimidating Spotted Pig staff, and former bartender Erin Fein said he asked her to send “sexy pix” and sexually assaulted her in his car in 2014. “He lunged forward, he grabbed my face, he started kissing me very sort of sloppily,” she said. “He pulled up my shirt. He put his hands on me. And I felt frozen.” (A spokesperson for Friedman “vehemently” denied the accusations against him.)
Chef April Bloomfield, who co-owns The Spotted Pig and several other popular restaurants with Friedman, told 60 Minutes she’s in the process of severing her business ties to him, according to Eater. Staffers have previously accused Bloomfield of enabling Friedman’s alleged abuse, sexual and otherwise; in December, she put out a statement conceding she didn’t do “enough” to protect employees from Friedman.
Batali, meanwhile, has stepped away from his business empire, though last month the New York Times reported he was considering attempting a comeback. No word on whether the police investigation will put the kibosh on that golden plan.
Update (9:40 p.m.): A spokesperson with B&B Hospitality Group, which comprises Batali’s restaurants, has provided Jezebel with the following statement:
The accounts tonight were chilling and deeply disturbing. This was the first we learned of them. Our partnership with Mr. Batali is ending. We have been actively negotiating with Mr. Batali to buy his interests in the restaurants, and he and Joe Bastianich have signed a letter of intent that sets forth the broad terms to do so. We expect to have the final terms set by July 1, and that Nancy Silverton, Lidia Bastianich, Mr. Bastianich, and other current investors will participate in the acquisition.
We have worked for years with Mr. Batali to bring true, innovative Italian cuisine to our guests. He has been our partner and close friend, but the actions he has acknowledged required us to separate wholly so that we reinforce our core values for our employees and our guests. We had taken a number of steps in the last six months to separate Mr. Batali from the business, including immediately removing him from any operations this past December and asking Ms. Silverton and Ms. Bastianich to take on business-wide leadership roles and responsibilities.
We remain focused on two priorities: ensuring that our employees work with equal opportunity and freedom from discrimination; and continuing to give our guests amazing dining experiences.