Batali Team Makes Huge Apology Faux Pas

As you probably know already, celebrity chef Mario Batali recently became the first of his ilk to be called out over claims that he sexually abused female employees at his restaurants. He issued an apology via his e-mailed newsletter over the past weekend, but it is doing him more harm than good…

Batali on The Chew - © via imagurChewed out: Mario Batali (right) lost his host’s spot on the popular network TV show, The Chew
as soon as the first allegation of sexual misconduct surfaced…

Batali (or, more likely, some hired PR people) wrote a seemingly heartfelt apology for the chef’s ‘past behaviour’. He/they concluded: “I will work every day to regain your respect and trust.” He really had me going, there, for a moment.

Trouble is, he/somebody added a P.S.: “In case you’re searching for a Holiday-Inspired breakfast, these Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls are a fan favourite.”

What I think happened…

I have a background in promotion, marketing and PR as a one-time copy writer and ad designer. That gives me some insight into the Batali apology disaster that I’d like to share…

I have no doubts that Chef Mario hired not one but a whole team of PR people to craft his apology to his fans – the hard core supporters who subscribe to his newsletter. The message had to be crystal clear and unmistakable. And it was. Until it got handed over to a nameless digital media design person for posting.

“What a downer!” the media person probably said. “I’ll add an up-beat, completely non-sequitur P.S. to cheer everybody up.”

Strikingly, the ‘P.S.’ sounds like the voice of a completely different writer than the one(s) who penned the apology. Likewise, I’m betting that Mario and his PR team didn’t know about the ‘P.S.’ until the newsletter had gone out, all over the world.

It’s a much bigger problem…

I wrote in this space about a week ago, when the whole Mario/abuse thing first surfaced, that abuse of minions in the restaurant business is endemic. Not just fetching women, but everybody. Big-time male Chefs seem to share some character traits that lead not only to them working hard, competing to be the best and becoming celebrities, but also to bullying those beneath them to achieve their goals, and to feed their need for adulation. It’s the old power game. And, when someone gets power, he (or she) is likely to wield it.

Mario Batali is just the tip of a huge ice berg.

Poor old Mario…

Batali immediately lost his job as host of the network TV show The Chew and his name-brand products disappeared from stores after the first abuse allegation surfaced. Now, he looks not only like an evil sex abuser, but a stupid goof, after the apology fiasco.

He’s been a star Chef, an Iron Chef and celebrity restaurant owner. He comes across like a nice guy. But I can see him falling into the trap, gradually escalating from high-pressure supervision of his minions to abuse, as the pressure mounted for him to continually justify his star status. He’s only human, and the celebrity food sphere apparently requires that one be super-human to survive – or crash.

My take…

Mario Batali is probably a nice guy. He always seems to be trying hard when we see him cooking on TV. He’s always nice when he appears as a judge on those competitive cooking shows. He seems suitably humble and earnest when he addresses an issue. I believe he was sincere when he authorized use of his name at the bottom of the apology his team crafted for him.

But I also believe he was seduced – like so many other talented Chefs – by the prospect of fame, fortune and celebrity. And he went over to the dark side of his profession under pressure to perform from his restaurant partners, his network masters and his fans. I, personally, will give Mario Batali a second chance, a chance to live up to his carefully-crafted apology. But he definitely has to fire the digital media guy who added the P.S.

~ Maggie J.

Posted under: Food News, Foodie Life Lessons

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