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A new Eater report published Friday claims partner Joe Bastianich helped to create a “boys’ club” culture of sexual misconduct at the restaurants he owns with accused chef Mario Batali.
Batali and Joe Bastianich are co-owners of B&B Hospitality Group, along with Bastianich’s celebrity chef mother, Lidia Bastianich. Their restaurant empire includes 24 restaurants and five Eataly marketplace locations across the United States. An Eater report published on Dec. 11 revealed alleged decades of sexual misconduct at the hands of Batali, spurring several additional women to come forward with claims about the celebrity chef. As a result, Batali apologized, stepped away from the day-to-day operations of his empire, saw his products removed from Eataly’s shelves and was fired by ABC, where he co-hosted daytime talk show The Chew for six years.
A spokesperson for B&B Hospitality Group, which owns Los Angeles eatery Osteria Mozza where one of the claims allegedly occurred, called the accounts “appalling” in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter the following day. “In light of these reports, we are continuing to assess our practices to make sure we have the best policies in place to offer our employees that environment,” read the statement in part.
Now, the company has responded with a new restructuring plan after the Friday report from Eater. Dozens of current and former employees from the B&B restaurants, many under anonymity, spoke to the outlet, including from Babbo, Otto, Lupa, Del Posto and Las Vegas’s B&B Ristorante and Carnevino.
The staffers claimed Joe Bastianich fostered a “boys’ club” environment and that he and Batali were responsible for some of the most “debaucherous behavior” they had ever witnessed, despite working in an industry known for its male-dominated, late-night culture.
The claims include staffers being degraded with sexual language, having to endure physical touching and women seeing little recourse after reporting the behavior.
Batali released a new statement in response to the story, telling Eater he has always wanted people working at the restaurants “to feel comfortable and safe.” Adding, “I now realize that my completely inappropriate behavior impacted the behavior of others who worked in the restaurants. I am truly sorry and am very ashamed. It was never my intention to humiliate, cause discomfort or pain to anyone in the operations in any way.”
In response to the story, B&B announced that Mozza owner and Batali’s partner Nancy Silverton and Lidia Bastianich will now be taking on new leadership roles at the company.
“It has become clear that we need to improve our culture,” said B&B in a statement to THR. “Some employees have violated our policies. We have fallen short in creating an environment where every employee feels comfortable reporting complaints. And we have fallen short at times when enforcing our policies. We are already taking steps to change.”
Those changes involve Batali no longer being involved in any operations, including “not going into any of the restaurants”; and Silverton and Lidia Bastianich taking on new responsibilities “to help ensure everyone has a safe and positive workplace and to steer our culinary direction.” The company will hire additional senior management to oversee daily operations and plans to retain an outside firm to survey employees and staff compliance with their sexual harassment policies. That includes termination when appropriate, said the company.
“More than 1,700 employees work hard to provide our guests with great dining experiences,” said B&B in the statement. “They have devoted their energy, their talent and their careers to our company. Their great work far outshines the bad behavior of a few.”
Joe Bastianich, Batali’s partner since 1998, denied via a spokesperson to Eater that he had ever witnessed Batali grope an employee. Though he admitted that he had heard Batali say “inappropriate things” to staffers and said he “should have done more,” he also said he had “never heard” accusations of Batali’s sexual misconduct until the past week.
He will, however, be refocusing the restaurant side of the business.
In a statement given to THR, Joe Bastianich said, “I’m reexamining my own behavior to ensure that everyone I work with feels that respect.”
He continued, “The stories I have read and heard these past two weeks about Mario and our company have shaken me to the core. Other stories I have now heard about employee mistreatment, violation of our sexual harassment policies and that some employees felt they had no future in our company are terrible and unacceptable. I am sorry that I didn’t devote enough attention to the business, didn’t do enough to protect my employees and delegated too much of the day-today to others. I’m now refocusing my energies here where they belong, and have already taken specific steps to do so.”
Joe Bastianich says he is restructuring the company to “better reflect that we’re comprised of many diverse and talented people and far more than just one or two,” citing Silberton and his mother Lidia’s new roles.
“Our central goal is to develop the right culture where employees don’t have to file complaints,” he said. “Our management and staff number more than 1,700, and it would be wrong to paint them with a broad brush. Every day and night, great teams work long hours together to give our guests exceptional dining experiences, and the actions of some should not diminish the hard work and accomplishments of so many.”
In a statement to Eater, Batali called the steps announced by B&B “significant” and “meaningful.” (THR has also reached out to Batali.)
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