Celebrity chef Mario Batali accused of sexual assault: report

New York (AFP) –


Already accused of sexual harassment and groping, US celebrity chef Mario Batali now faces allegations that he sexually assaulted impaired women at a New York restaurant, CBS television's "60 Minutes" reported Sunday.

Batali had already stepped away from his eponymous gastronomic empire over previous allegations of sexual misconduct.

One woman who was employed at one of Batali's establishments said he invited her to a party at "The Spotted Pig" restaurant, in which he had invested, where she drank white wine with him.

"I remember a moment where I was on his lap, kissing him. Like, he was kissing me. And then I remember throwing up -- in a toilet. And that is all," the unidentified woman told "60 Minutes."

"I woke up by myself on the floor, I don't know where I am, of an empty room, wooden floor. I see broken bottles. The first thing I think is, 'I've been drugged.' That was the first thing I thought is, 'I've been -- I've been assaulted.'"

After finding what appeared to be semen on her skirt, she called a crisis hotline and went to a hospital for an examination, but declined to file a police report, and her "rape kit" from the hospital was not processed.

Batali said in a statement that he "vehemently" denies assaulting the woman.

Jamie Seet, a former manager at "The Spotted Pig," said she witnessed via surveillance footage Batali carrying out another assault at the restaurant, and that she intervened to stop it.

"He crossed a line. A huge, a huge line... assaulting someone that's unconscious," Seet said.

"So we all went out there, and we -- we stopped what was going on. 'Hey Mario. How are you doing? Let's get you a cab.' Just -- you know, we were saying something just to snap him out of this," Seet said, adding that she regrets not contacting police.

One of the most famous figures in American cuisine, the 57-year-old Italian-American is a popular TV personality whose empire includes 26 establishments nationwide, as well as cookbooks, cookware and food products.

Controlled by private shareholders, the group does not publish its accounts, but US media has estimated its worth to be at least $250 million.

According to CBS, the New York police confirmed that "there is an ongoing criminal investigation into Mario Batali."