Here's Why The Food Network Canceled Molto Mario

When the Food Network launched in 1993, Mario Batali, the host of "Molto Mario," was among the celebrity chefs who brought early success to the channel. Shows like "Essence of Emeril," with Emeril Lagassé, "Grillin' n Chillin' " with Bobby Flay, and "Barefoot Contessa" with Ina Garten, helped the network to grow its audience long before the channel became known for its many food competition shows.

Batali, a prolific restaurateur and co-founder of the Eataly grocery chain, got his start in food media on the Food Network. After working for a few years as a talented fine dining chef, the Food Network decided to give Batali his own television gig. His first cooking show "Molto Mario," premiered on the channel in 1996 with Batali as its host.

"Molto Mario" made Batali a celebrity in the culinary entertainment world. Its lasting favor (and Batali's post-Food Network superstardom) eventually led to a proposed "Molto Mario" reboot many years later, in 2017. Unfortunately, that reboot coincided with the famous downfall of Batali's career — bringing "Molto Mario" along with it. Here's why the Food Network finally canceled "Molto Mario" for good.

Mario Batali was an experienced chef before Molto Mario

Mario Batali was climbing the ladder of the food world prior to the premiere of his own show. He was the sous chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco and head chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Santa Barbara. Batali even studied cooking abroad during a three-year apprenticeship in a small Italian village.

By 1993, Batali had already opened his own place, , an Italian fine dining restaurant located in Manhattan. By 1996, the Food Network was knocking at his door, and "Molto Mario" premiered later that year.

During episodes of "Molto Mario," Batali explained his cooking techniques and taught guests new recipes. He did so for a handful of guests — often celebrities — who sat and watched nearby. They sipped wine, asked Batali questions, and eventually — tasted Batali's creations on camera.

Batali was then already known for his Italian cuisine. However, the chef's lack of Italian-ness didn't slip under the radar, thanks to his bright red hair. Add to that the fact that he grew up in the Seattle area (note the signature zippered fleece vest that's part of Batali's signature uniform, along with his famous orange crocs). However, Batali's father is of Italian descent, reported The New Yorker. His son's career even inspired him to open a Seattle cured meats shop, Salumi, that was featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain's "The Layover."

The show brought success to the chef and the channel

"Molto Mario" was well received. Viewers appreciated Mario Batali's expertise as well as his personality. The show originally filmed over 75 episodes. A writer for The New York Times, in a review of "Molto Mario," said that Batali was "likable" and a qualified host. "He whips up the kind of elegant Italian dishes he serves at Pó, his New York City restaurant. In fact, it almost feels like I'm in the restaurant kitchen with him," the critic wrote.

Off-screen, Batali, his partner Joe Bastianich and Bastianich's mother Lidia, began making moves. In 1999, the trio founded the Batali & Bastianich Restaurant Group. Together they opened more than 15 restaurants located all over the world.

During the peak popularity of "Molto Mario," Batali was named GQ's Man of the Year 1999, according to Money. His restaurants were also successful — which couldn't have been hurt by his television fame — and Batali began to rack up a handful of his own James Beard awards and nominations.

Molto Mario stopped filming for the first time in 2005

"Molto Mario" continued filming for almost a decade, until 2005. The Food Network stopped producing new episodes, but reruns aired for a few more years, until 2007. With a longtime lack of content, the Food Network announced it would stop airing "Molto Mario" reruns.

Back in 2007, the end of "Molto Mario" wasn't due to any beef between Mario Batali and the Food Network. Batali continued to appear on other Food Network shows such as "Iron Chef America." The chef also got his own travel show the next year on PBS, titled "Spain... On the Road Again," alongside actress Gwyneth Paltrow and food writer Mark Bittman.

If anything, Batali was riding high. He wasn't the only chef to leave the Food Network around that same time. Batali had published several successful cookbooks, and was busy with his own restaurants. And it would be only a few years until Batali would go on to build his famous Eataly empire. The Italian specialty grocery store chain — founded by the B&B company — would by 2012 account for around a third of the company's annual revenue of approximately $250 million

Years later, the Food Network wanted to bring Batali's show back

In November 2017, 10 years after removing reruns of the show, the Food Network began to hint at a new season of "Molto Mario," starring Mario Batali. Six new episodes would soon be released, Food & Wine reported, at the time of the reboot announcement. Production of the new season had already finished, and the show was ready to go.

The food world celebrated the return of "Molto Mario." Food lovers even referred to it as "one of the seminal shows of the early Food Network years." The episodes were rumored to drop the next year, in early 2018.

In a way, Vice's Munchies had already created its own kind of reboot, "Moltissimo," beginning in 2016. The show followed a very similar format to its predecessor, in which Batali cooked for celebrity guests live. However, neither "Molto Mario" nor "Moltissimo" ever broadcast another season.

But the cook's #MeToo scandal made a reboot inconceivable

Just weeks after the Food Network's "Molto Mario" reboot was announced, Mario Batali was accused of sexual misconduct during the peak of the #MeToo movement. On December 11, 2017, Eater published an article that included the testimonies of several women who accused Batali of sexual harassment and assault.

The women who came forward were both former employees and restaurant industry workers. The incidents went back decades, but were as recent as October 2017, just two months prior. To make matters worse, it wasn't the first time Batali made bad press.

In 2012, Batali and his partner Bastianich had agreed to pay $5.25 million to settle a tip-stealing lawsuit filed by former restaurant workers of theirs, according to The New York Daily News. The lawsuit had accused Batali and Bastianich of repeatedly taking money from the worker's nightly tip pool for their personal profits. In 2011, Batali was also criticized publicly for statements comparing bankers to "Hitler." But 2017's news had far worse implications for Batali's career.

ABC first removed Mario Batali from their show, The Chew

ABC was one of the first to react. The same day the accusations against Batali were announced, a spokesperson from ABC's "The Chew" said that Batali would be taking a break from their show — which Batali hosted alongside fellow celebrity chefs Michael Symon, Clinton Kelly and Carla Hall. A few days later, ABC said they'd officially "terminated their relationship" with the former host, the network told The Hollywood Reporter.

Additionally, reruns of "The Chew" featuring Batali were officially removed, so that any episodes featuring the host were effectively banned from the air.

Batali had been a host on "The Chew" since 2011. He was a part of the cast for six seasons, meaning a lot of rerun content and revenue left along with Batali. After the disgraced chef's departure, the show didn't last long. "The Chew" was eventually canceled the following year.

The Food Network squashed plans for their reboot the same day

The Food Network didn't wait long to axe their "Molto Mario" reboot. Also on December 11, the network revealed that the return of "Molto Mario" would be paused. The previously filmed episodes would be held indefinitely.

A spokesperson told Grub Street that "Food Network takes matters like this very seriously and we are putting relaunch plans for 'Molto Mario' on hold."

It seemed the "Molto Mario" reboot would never see the light of day. As many reckoned with Batali's new accusations, they noted how important the Food Network show was in making both Batali's career and reputation, even at times blurring the lines between the chef's on-screen demeanor and his real personality. The Wall Street Journal said Batali's Food Network show, "originally brought him to fame." The Chicago Tribune reported that the cooking show contributed to Batali's reputation as a "master of excess," writing, "no one expects the Orange Croc wearing 'Molto Mario' to work a crowd with the demeanor of a teetotaling accountant." 

Batali's public apology included a cinnamon roll recipe

Mario Batali's first public response to the accusations came in the Eater exposé, in which he told the publication he would step down from his business' day-to-day operations. But a few days later, Batali took a stab at a public apology. It was not go well.

In an email newsletter, Batali addressed the sexual misconduct accusations newly announced against him. At first, it seemed to be an earnest and heartfelt apology. Batali wrote that he took "full responsibility" for his actions. He even wrote "there are no excuses" for his behavior. 

However, the newsletter ended on a very different note, viewers were shocked to find out. Batali also included a recipe for "pizza dough cinnamon rolls" just underneath his apology. The chef actually said, "ps. in case you're searching for a holiday-inspired breakfast, these Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls are a fan favorite." The newsletter's juxtaposition of a cinnamon roll recipe with an apology for workplace sexual harassment was not received well online. One food blogger who tried making the apology rolls even said the recipe itself was not Batali's best.

After all that, many others said goodbye to Batali

The Eataly company responded quickly to the accusations against Mario Batali. Within days, Batali's products were reportedly being removed from Eataly's shelves. Several of Batali's grocery items like olive oils, vinegars, and pasta sauces disappeared from the chain's many locations. Travel And Leisure reported that many of these items also happened to include images of Batali's face on their labels. 

Other companies followed suit, wanting to cut ties with the chef as soon as possible. Within one week of the news, Walmart and Target were also removing Batali's products from their stores, according to the Los Angeles Times. Even the company that produced Batali's grocery items for him, Summer Garden Foods, suggested it wouldn't be working with the chef in the future.

However, all of that couldn't come close to what retaliation Batali would face from inside his own company, the B&B Restaurant Group.

The Italian chef was kicked out of his restaurant empire

In May 2018, the B&B restaurant group revealed they were ending business with Mario Batali for good. Later that month, Batali's partner announced that three of their Las Vegas restaurants would close.

By 2019, Batali's restaurants had dissolved all existing partnerships with the chef. A restaurant representative told The New York Times that Batali "will no longer profit from the restaurants in any way, shape or form."

As more ties were cut, Batali was also bought out of eateries like The Spotted Pig, where he was a minority owner, and where harassment that Batali was accused of took place. Even Batali's restaurants that remained open reported that businesses slowed down after the scandal.

That same year, Batali was bought out of Eataly, giving up his partial stock in the grocery chain. The B&B company would also be dissolved, company leaders said at the time.

Investigations and lawsuits followed Batali for years

As more women came forward to accuse Mario Batali of misconduct, some of the victims appeared on an episode of 60 Minutes to speak about their experiences with the chef. The next day, the NYPD confirmed that they were conducting criminal investigations into the accusations against Batali.

The Boston Police Department also launched their own investigation into a claim that a fan was sexually assaulted by Batali in a Boston bar while trying to take a picture with the chef.

By 2019, the NYPD's criminal investigations had concluded. No charges were filed against Batali. The NYPD claimed they lacked sufficient evidence to arrest the chef in one case, and that the statute of limitations had run out in another, reported CNN.

But in the Boston case, Batali was charged with indecent assault and battery. He pled not guilty to the charges in 2019, according to NPR.

However, the New York Attorney General's office had been conducting their own investigation as well, and in 2021, ordered the B&B Restaurant Group to pay $600,000 for Batali's harassment of around 20 employees. The money was then divided and distributed among those employees.

Mario Batali remains cut off from the restaurant and entertainment industry

Today, Mario Batali's restaurant empire continues to unravel. As recently as April, his former restaurant Del Posto closed, citing reasons like lots of "change in fine dining over the last few years." Not surprisingly, the general manager also said that he wanted a break from the B&B company. The company is now conducting business under a different name, according to Grub Street. 

Batali is rumored to be living at his fish camp in Traverse City, Michigan, away from the spotlight, along with his wife of 27 years, Susie Cahn. He has two children. He once called the Michigan town "the antidote for New York City," during an interview with Bon Appetit.

As for the Food Network, they're making a few changes. On the one hand, they're creating new shows featuring classic Food Network chefs such as Michael Symon of "Iron Chef." On the other hand, celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay, who has been on the network since around the time of "Molto Mario," has announced he's finally leaving the network.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).