In 2011, Wollongong chef Marc Anthony Batters was on top of the world.
The aspiring celebrity cook had just landed himself a job featuring in a series of paid TV advertisements which were aired on WIN Television and had his own weekly column in the Mercury; his future looked bright.
Four years on, that future has all but disappeared from sight for Batters, after he failed on Monday to have a criminal conviction lifted for drunkenly groping a colleague while working as the head chef at Wollongong’s Collegians Club in early 2014.
The court heard Batters, 40, grabbed the woman’s buttocks and breasts and tried to kiss her neck while bear-hugging her and trying to ‘‘dance’’ in the club’s car park one evening in March.
He ignored her requests for him to stop, forcing her to push hard against his chest to break free from his grip.
She ran back inside the club and immediately reported the incident to her duty manager.
Batters denied the incident when confronted that night, and later pleaded not guilty to a charge of indecent assault laid against him by police.
A local court hearing held in February at Albion Park was told Batters had been cooking on a barbecue in the club’s delivery dock when the woman came outside to get some items needed in one of the bars.
Batters, who was known for his affectionate demeanour and regularly cuddled both male and female staff members, asked the woman for a hug.
She agreed, but noticed Batters was unsteady on his feet, and believed he was drunk.
He suggested they dance together, however when she laughed him off and said there were CCTV cameras watching them, Batters took her around the corner into the car park, where there was no surveillance.
The woman told the court Batters then groped her, grabbing multiple times at her breasts and buttocks while trying to kiss her neck before she eventually managed to escape from him.
Batters denied touching the woman inappropriately and said he’d simply been showing her his cooking. However, Batters was eventually found guilty of the offence, convicted and placed on a good behaviour bond.
He sought to have the conviction overturned in the NSW District Court on Monday, with his lawyer, Jimmy Singh, saying it was imperative Batters had a clean criminal record if he wanted to pursue his celebrity chef ambitions.
‘‘He’s in the process of setting up a project as a celebrity chef in Wollongong ...’’ Mr Singh said, adding Batters was currently not receiving any payment from WIN Television for his weekly cooking segment, Gypsy Chef, and he and his wife were relying on her $600-a-week income to get by.
He said Batters had chosen to end his 20-year career with Collegians after the incident, despite the club being willing to keep him on pending the outcome of the court case.
‘‘He’s been submitting job applications as a head chef ... several [people] want to employ him, but if he’s convicted they won’t be processing his application any further,’’ Mr Singh said.
Presiding Judge Paul Conlon accepted that Batters had no criminal record and the offence was out of character for him, but said it would be inappropriate not to record a conviction, given Batters had not accepted responsibility for his actions. Judge Conlon confirmed the two-year good behaviour bond.