(USA TODAY) -- Chef Mario Batali has been accused of habitually sexually harassing and inappropriately touching women as he ruled his food empire.
Multiple anonymous women alleged in a story by online food-trade publication Eater New York that Batali had groped their breasts or buttocks, amid other allegations.
Batali is stepping down from his company and TV show for an indefinite period.
Without addressing the specific allegations, Batali acknowledged personal "failures" and pledged to try to "regain" the "respect and trust" of his fans, family, business partners and employees.
"I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt. Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted," Batali said. "That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family."
Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group — which services about two dozen restaurants owned by Batali, Joe Bastianich and others — confirmed that it had agreed with Batali that "he will step away from the company's operations."
"We take these allegations very seriously," B&B Hospitality Group said in a statement. "We pride ourselves on being a workplace for our employees where they can grow and deliver great service with equal opportunity and free from any discrimination. We have strong policies and practices in place that address sexual harassment. We train employees in these policies and we enforce them, up to and including termination."
ABC confirmed to USA TODAY that it had temporarily removed Batali as co-host of daytime show, "The Chew."
“We have asked Mario Batali to step away from 'The Chew' while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention," ABC said in a statement. "ABC takes matters like this very seriously as we are committed to a safe work environment. While we are unaware of any type of inappropriate behavior involving him and anyone affiliated with the show, we will swiftly address any alleged violations of our standards of conduct.”
With restaurants such as Babbo Ristorante in New York, B&B Ristorante in Las Vegas and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, Batali has built a sprawling empire that has solidified his name as among the top American culinary icons.
Having built his reputation with a major TV presence, including extensive appearances on the Food Network, Batali published numerous cookbooks, had his name attached to sauces for sale in stores and racked up millions of followers on social media.
A representative declined to make Batali available for an interview.
The Eater NY said it had interviewed dozens of people who had worked with Batali, including former employees.
One woman reportedly said Batali "grabbed both of my breasts" at a party, while another said he "put his hand on half of my butt and he squeezed it."
Others said Batali repeatedly used sexual innuendo, asked women about their sex lives and inquired about their underwear.