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Women Allege Mario Batali Sexually Harassed Them at Donald Link and Emeril Lagasse’s Fundraisers

Both employees and fans claim to have experienced sexual misconduct

Mario Batali Foundation Hosts A Special Screening Of 'Up' Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Two women are alleging that Mario Batali sexually harassed them at or following the glitzy Bal Masqué held annually to raise funds for Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski’s foundation, according to a report published today by Eater NY. Another woman, previously anonymous, claims Batali harassed her at an afterparty for Emeril Lagasse’s Carnivale du Vin.

For several years, Mario Batali headlined the weekend-long fundraising event for the Link Stryjewski Foundation, cooking an exclusive dinner the day before the big event (a costumed and masked ball meant to kick off the debaucherous Carnival season in New Orleans) with tickets that ran as high as $1000 .

Sara Watson, formerly a Batali fan, says she bumped into him at the Saint, a dive bar in the Lower Garden District, hours after a Bal Masqué event in January 2016. She asked him for a photo, and he “he allegedly made a comment about wanting to give her oral sex, tongued her face and ear and put his hands all over her ‘butt, thighs, the whole vaginal area,’” according to Eater NY’s report.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Marshall says she met Batali at the one of the Bal Masqué events the next year. When she asked him for a photo, he allegedly “motioned for her to sit in his lap.” As the photos snapped, Batali allegedly put his tongue in her mouth. She says she laughed it off at the time (she posted the photo on Instagram with the caption, ‘I didn’t order a tongue with dinner.’), but now regrets putting herself in that position.

In December, sexual misconduct allegations spanning over 20 years were leveled against the mega-watt chef. The NYPD confirmed last week that it is investigating Batali for two separate sexual assault allegations, meaning the case has risen to a criminal investigation. Both women allege that he sexually assaulted them while they were incapacitated. He denies the allegations of nonconsensual sex.

Once the news of Batali’s alleged sexual misconduct was publicized, the Link Stryjewski Foundation acted swiftly to break away from Batali. “Mario let us know that something would be coming out in the news just before it broke. We were not aware of the details. Once the news did break we acted swiftly to replace his role at Bal Masqué which was only weeks away,” a spokesperson for the foundation told Eater New Orleans today.

Eater NY broke the news of Mario Batali’s sexual misconduct on December 11, 2017, at 7 a.m. By 10 a.m., Eater New Orleans had already received an email saying that Batali would be replaced. On December 14, the foundation announced Nancy Oakes as Batali’s replacement.

In Eater’s December story, an anonymous woman claimed that Batali had “vigorously rubbed her breasts” after wine spilled on her chest at the Emeril Lagasse Foundation’s Carnivale Du Vin afterparty, where she made confections. That woman, Jenny McCoy, an esteemed pastry chef and cookbook author, puts her name on the record in Eater NY’s story today.

The quick response by the Link Stryjewski Foundation in December this year stood in contrast to that from other industry events. The South Beach Food and Wine Fest said that “fan favorite” John Besh would keep his spot as a special dinner host despite the report that 25 women were saying that he cultivated and participated in a culture of sexual misconduct at his restaurants. Nearly two weeks later, the festival organizers rethought that position and replaced Besh.

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