The celebrity chef is not a new concept anymore, and one of the world’s biggest has got to be Mario Batali. The Iron Chef master and restaurateur is as well known for his restaurants, cookbooks and kitchenware as he is for wearing plastic Crocs. He has multiple New York restaurants all over the city from high end to casual pizzerias but today I have learned that he has been embroiled in a lawsuit for allegedly cheating his employees out of their hard-earned money. Mario and his associate were sued in a class action by his workers past and present for stealing tips and not paying the required wages, and this week he has agreed to pay $5.25 million to settle the case. Ouch!
Employees at New York City’s Babbo and Del Posto filed suit in July 2010, claiming that Batali, 51, and Bastianich pocketed up to 5 percent from their nightly tip pool. The workers also alleged they were not paid federal minimum wage and did not receive compensation for overtime. The class-action settlement, which has yet to be approved by a judge, may compensate as many as 1,100 waiters, servers and bartenders who work or worked at Babbo, Del Posto, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono, Esca, Lupa, Otto and Tarry Lodge dating back to 2004, according to court documents.
As a New Yorker, I am well aware of Mario’s delicious food and fabulous restaurants but this news was pretty upsetting. I know that the case wasn’t proven, and Mario decided to settle the matter before it went to court, but it sounds to me like at least part of the allegations must be true – or he would have fought it. Stealing tips from works and not paying the required wages is pretty disgusting, especially for someone as rich and famous as Mario Batali. I am still fascinated by the “celebrity chef” who has taken cooking and owning restaurants to a whole new level of fame and stardom. This though is not good for his image. I wonder if it will affect his business though, sadly, it probably wont.