He is a beloved, folksy figure who rose from a sandwich shop in New Jersey to become one of America’s most famous chefs.
In recent years Mario Batali, 57, established himself as a household name with TV shows, 22 restaurants, 11 cookbooks, and a string of celebrity friends.
But now the portly, red-headed culinary maestro has been forced to apologize after a string of sexual misconduct allegations were made against him.
“I have made many mistakes and I am so very sorry that I have disappointed my friends, my family, my fans, and my team,” Batali wrote in his regular newsletter. “My behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility.”
Batali decided to accompany his statement with a large picture of a cinnamon roll and invited people to “get the recipe”.
He wrote: “Ps. In case you’re searching for a holiday-inspired breakfast these Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls are a fan favorite.”
The ponytailed chef was pilloried on social media, with former fans accusing him of being “tone deaf”.
Hi guys, it’s 2017 and Mario Batali just apologized for sexual harassment AND gave a recipe for Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls all in one email. pic.twitter.com/88VuVB8a4H
— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) December 16, 2017
A typical comment read: “I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to give a worse apology than Harvey Weinstein, but Mario Batali managed it.”
Batali, 57, had been accused on Monday, in a bombshell report by New York food website Eater, of having sexually harassed a series of women working in his kitchens.
Three of his former employees and a fellow chef accused Batali of groping or inappropriately touching them.
In the following days, additional former workers came forward with similar accusations. One waitress told the New York Times he was known as the “Red Menace”.
By Friday he had been fired from The Chew, the ABC daily food programme he launched in 2011.
Batali, married to Susi, his wife of 23 years, and mother of their two sons Benno, 21, and Leo, 18, was not the first culinary domino to topple in the current wave of sexual harassment scandals that have engulfed Hollywood, the media and politics.
In October television chef John Besh, famed for his championing of New Orleans cuisine and his appearances on Top Chef, was brought down by his local newspaper.
Around 25 current and former employees told The Times–Picayune newspaper they were victims of sexual harassment while working at Besh Restaurant Group or at a number of its restaurants.
Besh apologised and resigned from the group immediately. On Friday the producers of Top Chef, a reality show for professional cooks, announced that he had been edited out of a forthcoming episode.
The Great American Baking Show, a spin-off of The Great British Bake Off, which in previous series was judged by both Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, was cancelled on Thursday, after accusations against celebrity pastry chef and judge Johnny Iuzzini.
Four women have accused Iuzzini, pastry chef at Jean-Georges, one of the most expensive restaurants in New York, of sexual harassment between 2009 and 2011.
Iuzzini, 43, said he was dismayed by the decision, adding: “I stand by my apology for some unprofessional behaviour 8-10 years ago, but the sexual harassment allegations and many other reports against me were sensationalised and simply not true.”
British-helmed establishment The Spotted Pig, the first gastropub in Manhattan, was also swept up in the controversy.
April Bloomfield, a Birmingham born chef who honed her craft at River Café and Kensington Place before moving to the US, opened the Greenwich Village celebrity hotspot with business partner Ken Friedman in 2004.
On Tuesday The New York Times reported that 10 women said Friedman, 56, subjected them to harassing behaviour during their time under his management, such as unwanted groping or demands for sexually explicit photos.
Friedman said some incidents were not as described, but apologised and admitted his behaviour “can accurately be described at times as abrasive, rude and frankly wrong”.