Mario Batali — the once-venerated Food Network chef who was accused of multiple instances of sexual misconduct and sexual assault between 2016-2019 and settled two of the lawsuits last summer — seems to be getting back into restaurants again.
As first reported by Eater, Batali has quietly become an investor and partner in the Traverse, Michigan business, Common Good Bakery. According to local Traverse City publication, The Ticker, Common Good is applying for a liquor license in an expansion of its second location, with plans for a new weekend brunch menu and evening pizza/pasta/wine menu, in addition to its baked goods. Batali is listed as a co-applicant on the application.
“We plan to leverage our partnership with celebrity chef Mario Batali and launch a series of events designed to tackle the problem of food insecurity in northern Michigan,” owners Jason and Linda Gollan said in their application. “Each event will feature a nationally known celebrity chef, with whom we will create a once-in-a-lifetime culinary event and raise tens of thousands of dollars to fight hunger.”
The controversy around Mario Batali began in 2017, when the chef stepped down from the former B&B Hospitality Group in partnership with Joe Bastianich after accusations of sexual misconduct. In 2018, both B&B Hospitality Group and Eater bought out the cofounder in light of the accusations. Then in 2018 and 2019, Batali faced both civil and criminal assault charges from multiple women, all claiming that the chef inappropriately touched and sexually harassed them.
While one of the charges was dropped because it was outside the statute of limitations, Batali was found not guilty of indecent assault and battery in 2019 in one of the cases, and then settled with two of the victims last August. Batali and Bastianich also agreed to pay $600,000 to 20 former employees in 2021 as a result of a four-year investigation of sex-based discrimination found at the pair’s restaurants by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
In an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News, Gollan said that Batali discovered their business early on, and demanded to meet the baker because he had just had “the best bread he had ever tasted.” Gollan called Batali a friend, fan and “silent business partner” who can provide advice, if needed.
When asked if he is concerned about Batali’s previous behavior of sexual misconduct, Gollan said, “it’s not my place to judge anybody about their past. I have to judge the person in front of me and he’s been nothing but helpful and humble […] we’re focused on being successful as a company and bringing on a partner with access to capital and industry relationships is a net benefit.”
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