Several more women have come forward with accusations against disgraced celebrity chef Mario Batali, and this time, it’s not just former co-workers or employees speaking out — it’s his fans.
A number of Batali’s ex-admirers spoke to Eater, the online publication, about their experiences in meeting Batali at restaurant events or bars, describing such behaviors as forcible kissing, groping, asking them to accompany him to his hotel, and in one case, being a “serial crotch grazer.”
A few of the women also provided photos to Eater that reportedly depict the offending behaviors.
Sara Watson and Natali Tene, two self-described former fans of Batali, told Eater they ran into him at separate bars in 2016 and 2017, respectively, but the experiences they describe are strikingly similar.
Watson, 31, reportedly attended a charity event for the 2016 Link Stryjewski Foundation, which had been catered by Batali, and ended up seeing him at a bar after the dinner. She said she asked for a photo, but soon felt Batali’s hands “all over my butt, thighs, the whole vaginal area.” He also licked her face and ear, and told her he wanted to perform oral sex on her, according to Watson.
“I had never had anyone do something like that to me — it was appalling, he had no shame,” Watson told Eater, adding that Batali was “obviously drunk.”
Tene, too, claimed Batali appeared to be drunk upon spotting him in a Boston bar. He called her over after she snapped a photo of him, she says, and insisted they take selfies. Tene, 28, claims he then proceeded to rub her breasts and butt, and try to kiss her before inviting her back to his hotel.
Tene tells Eater she “ended the conversation as quickly as possible” before leaving. “I feel like what he did to me wasn’t one drunken mistake; I feel like he was a predator,” she said.
Another woman, 48-year-old Sharelle Klaus, said she met a seemingly drunk Batali at a restaurant in Aspen in 2012 and he suggested they pose a photo. He then stuck his hand down her pants, underneath her underwear, and groped her behind, she said.
“In one moment you go from being really excited to meet this guy, who’s like a hometown hero, to just disgust,” Klaus told Eater.
A couple of former employees, too, shared their experiences with Eater, alleging that Batali had a habit of greeting his female staff members by pressing the back of his hand into their crotch, or sometimes just cupping it while they were talking.
“We all knew he was sleazy. We dreaded when he’d come in, because we knew he’d keep everyone there late, drinking and doing what he does,” said one employee who wished to remain anonymous.
Additional allegations described to Eater tell of Batali’s behavior with more fans, one of whom said Batali tried to shove his tongue in her mouth at the 2017 Link Stryjewski Foundation.
Another woman said she was invited to join Batali for dinner on the third floor of NYC’s The Spotted Pig restaurant — which has been described by former employees as the “rape room,” and where multiple other women say they were abused by Batali — and Batali cup her breast and refuse to stop until she pointed out that he was a married man.
These latest allegations against Batali come just over a week after another woman appeared on “60 Minutes” and accused Batali of sexually abusing her also at The Spotted Pig restaurant, saying she woke up on the floor of the private third-floor dining area with broken bottles around her legs and what appeared to be semen on her skirt.
The NYPD announced an investigation into certain allegations against Batali shortly thereafter.
Batali first announced he would be stepping away from the “day-to-day operations” of his entire restaurant group in early December, following Eater's initial report. Additional accusations of inappropriate behavior surfaced in the following weeks, including accounts from a former Del Posto hostess who said Batali touched her breasts, and that of a former manager at The Spotted Pig who claimed to have seen Batali grope and kiss a woman who appeared unconscious.
In April, The New York Times further reported that Batali was “actively exploring” ideas for his future career. Following the latest allegations, Batali said in a statement that he is “not attempting a professional comeback,” but rather a “personal path forward” in which he “can continue in [his] charitable endeavors.”