(NEW YORK) -- Mario Batali, the flame-haired, Crocs-wearing celebrity chef watched by millions as a co-host of The Chew, has stepped down from the show and his restaurant empire, after allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted touching surfaced against him.
The foodie website Eater reports that at least four women have accused Battali of groping them, noting that he was "reprimanded for inappropriate behavior in the workplace as recently as two months ago" by Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, the company he co-owns with restaurateur Joe Bastianich. The formal complaint that triggered the reprimand was reportedly the first one to officially emerge from an employee. Eater notes it resulted in Batali having to undergo training.
“We have asked Mario Batali to step away from The Chew while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention," ABC said in a statement Monday. "ABC takes matters like this very seriously as we are committed to a safe work environment. While we are unaware of any type of inappropriate behavior involving him and anyone affiliated with the show, we will swiftly address any alleged violations of our standards of conduct.”
In a statement provided to ABC News, the chef said he was leaving his company for an unspecified period of time, "to try to regain the trust of those I have hurt and disappointed."
His statement reads, in part, "I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt. Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family."
Batali adds, "I know my actions have disappointed many people," but says he's "hopeful" he can regain the "respect and trust" of "my family, my partners, my employees, my friends, my fans... I will spend the next period of time trying to do that."
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