Mario Batali is returning to the industry he left half a decade ago after sexual misconduct allegations prompted him to part ways with the Eataly empire and the Manhattan restaurant group he founded with restaurateurs Joe and Lidia Bastianich .
A liquor license application filed this month lists Batali as an applicant for Common Good Bakery, a business with two locations in Traverse City, Michigan. Jason Gollan, who founded the bakery with his wife Linda Gollan, acknowledged Batali’s involvement, describing the chef as an “owner, minority investor, neighbor and friend”.
It’s Batali’s first reported investment in a new restaurant since he was accused of sexual misconduct in 2017. Batali divested from Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, a portfolio that included Del Posto, Babbo, Lupa, Felidia and other Manhattan restaurants, in 2019 and sold its minority stake in Eataly that same year. Batali was also an investor in the Spotted Pig, Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield’s West Village gastropub that closed in 2020.
The partnership between Batali and Common Good emerged in an application for a liquor license for a second location for the bakery, which opened this week at 1115 East Eighth Street.
“We plan to leverage our partnership with celebrity chef Mario Batali to launch a series of events aimed at addressing the issue of food insecurity in northern Michigan,” the Gollans wrote in a motion submitted Jan. 3 to Traverse City commissioners was presented. “Each event will feature a nationally recognized celebrity chef, with whom we will create a once-in-a-lifetime culinary event and raise tens of thousands of dollars to help end hunger.”
Gollan, a 20-year hospitality veteran, opened Common Good’s first location in 2017. He says Batali is a regular at the bakery and has offered his support. “I’ve decided to challenge that cynicism and fear that’s pervasive,” Gollan says, before mentioning Wokes from Oberlin, an Ohio liberal arts college known for student activism.
According to Gollan, northern Michigan has received some national recognition for its wines. “But the food scene is still in its infancy,” he says. “I’m trying to put this city on the map and our wine on the map.” This week marked the reopening of its original location after renovations in addition to the opening of its second; The bakery also goes into the dinner service.
Batali and his wife Susi Cahn own a property in Northport, half an hour outside of the North Michigan area where Common Good is located, and the chef is a vocal fan of the area. He previously said that “Michigan is the America I always thought existed,” while Traverse City made his 2016 list of the top dining destinations in the country. Prior to the misconduct allegations, Batali was set to host a television show in the northern Michigan resort town and was rumored to be involved in the development of a restaurant in the area.
The partnership comes less than two years after Batali and his business partner Joe Bastianich agreed to pay at least 20 of their former employees $600,000 amid a state investigation that found the restaurateurs in their restaurants violated state and city human rights laws. dollars to at least 20 of their former employees.
The New York Police Department investigated three sexual assault complaints against Batali, but those cases were later dropped due to the statute of limitations and lack of evidence. Batali was found not guilty on a count of indecent assault and assault at a trial in Boston last year. In 2022, debate about Batali’s wrongdoing and consequences reignited following the release of the documentary Batali: The Case of a Superstar on Discovery Plus.