Mario Batali is giving up oversight of the daily operations at his restaurant empire following reports of sexual misconduct by the celebrity chef over a period of at least 20 years.

The online site Eater New York reported Monday that the complaints involve at least four women, three of whom worked for Batali. In a prepared statement sent to The Associated Press, Batali said that the complaints "match up" with his past behaviour.

"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 said.

A spokesperson for Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group said an employee reported inappropriate behaviour by Batali in October. The company told Eater it was the first formal complaint against Batali and that he was reprimanded and required to attend training.

Batali will also take leave from his ABC cooking 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," the network said Monday. "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 behaviour involving him and anyone affiliated with the show, we will swiftly address any alleged violations of our standards of conduct."

Batali was well known in culinary circles, taking jobs early in his career as a sous chef at the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

His career took off after opening Po in New York City in the early 1990s, and he skyrocketed to fame with the airing of Molto Mario, a show that ran on the Food Network for eight years, until 2004. It was there that his signature look, a fleece vest, shorts, and orange Crocs, became instantly recognizable to most people.

He co-owns restaurants in a handful of cities. The Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group owns or operates several restaurants, including Babbo in New York, Carnevino Italian Steakhouse in Las Vegas and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. It's also a partner in Eataly, an Italian food hall and grocer, which has locations in New York, Chicago and Boston.

An Eataly outlet is scheduled to open in Toronto in 2019, however it is a venture of Eataly Distribuzione, which operates the franchise worldwide, and not Eataly USA, of which Batali is a minority shareholder.

"The allegations that surfaced this morning concerning Mario Batali's behaviour toward women were extremely troubling to us. We fully support Mr. Batali's decision to step away from any active involvement with Eataly. Sexual harassment of any kind toward anyone in any form is unacceptable and Eataly cares deeply about creating a safe and comfortable environment for all our employees and customers, free of harassment, discrimination and retaliation," an Eataly spokesperson told CBC News.