It’s easy to think television chefs and culinary personalities live idyllic lives and that nothing bad goes on beyond their perfect kitchens. They rarely make tabloid headlines, but that doesn’t mean their lives are squeaky clean. If they’re not facing the flames of a public scandal, they’re often stirring up the drama with other chefs! Here are some of the juicy tales these celebrity chefs would like you to forget.
Dinner: Impossible “Chef” Was A Fraud
Robert Irvine is primarily known as the host of Dinner: Impossible, but in 2008 he was known for being a colossal fraud. Food Network dismissed Irvine from his show for lying on his resume, claiming that he had made Princess Diana’s royal wedding cake and that he was a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
Irvine’s credibility came into question, including claims he’d served as a White House chef. In 2008, the disgraced foodie set the record straight, although it was true that he previously worked in the White House. Food Network reinstated his contract the following year.
Paula Deen Is Truly Living In The Past
Remember when Food Network’s Paula Deen made it clear just how far in the past she’s living? In 2013, she and her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers, were sued by Lisa Jackson, the former manager at one of Deen’s restaurants, Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House.
Jackson accused Deen and Bubba of sexual and racial workplace discrimination. The suit cites Deen’s expressed desire to throw Bubba a “Southern plantation-style” wedding. This included a waitstaff of black men dressed in coats and bowties, except Jackson alleged that Deen used a certain “N-word” to describe “black men.”
A Slip Of The Tongue Made Her Lose Everything
In a deposition for the case, Deen admitted to having used the word in the past, but also said, “That’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the ’60s in the South.” Deen’s attorney said in a statement, “Ms. Deen does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable.”
The case was eventually dismissed, but that didn’t stop Deen’s empire from crumbling. Deen was dropped from the Food Network and many companies. Target, Walmart, Sears, and other stores have cut ties with her. Still, her cookbook sales picked up because of the controversy.
Giada De Laurentiis Stopped Talking To Bobby Flay
In 2014, Giada De Laurentiis divorced her husband of 11 years, designer Todd Thompson. This raised many eyebrows since it was suspiciously around the same time that Bobby Flay split from his third wife, Stephanie March. Though the rumors were false, it was easy to suspect they were shacking up since they spend a lot of time together for work.
De Laurentiis reportedly stopped talking to Flay after competing on Iron Chef against Mario Batali and Rachel Ray. The latter pair won, and De Laurentiis was disappointed that Flay didn’t take the loss seriously.
There Were Many Layers To Flay’s Divorce
Bobby Flay may not have had an affair with Giada, but his third ex-wife Stephanie March would say that he was involved with plenty of other women. Flay’s divorce from March was contentious, to put it lightly. March claimed that Flay had multiple affairs, including one with actress January Jones.
In 2010, Jones crashed her car into other parked cars in Los Angeles. The first person she called was Flay, although no one seems to know why — not even Flay himself. Regardless, he went out to help her, but that only fueled the rumors. Strangely, the father of Jones’ son remains a mystery, and some fingers point to Flay.
Still Promoting Fatty Food With Type 2 Diabetes
In 2012, Paula Deen came clean about her health and her diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. Deen then became the spokesperson for Victoza, a daily insulin injection made by Novo Nordisk. Many were quick to point out Deen’s work with the company hypocritical because soon after her announcement, she released her line of flavored butter. Butter is one ingredient that has become synonymous with Deen’s career.
People criticized Deen for continuing to hawk her unhealthy food products after her diagnosis. It seems it was nothing new anyway since Deen’s unhealthy recipes have long been the ire of her critics, especially this next guy who called her a threat to America!
Bourdain Dubbed Paula A Danger To America
One of the most vocal critics of Paula Deen was chef Anthony Bourdain, who told TV Guide that Deen is “the worst, most dangerous person to America.” Bourdain cited Deen’s unabashed promotion of her fat-laden recipes saying, “I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it is OK to eat food that is killing us.”
Deen defended herself saying that her recipes were family and budget-friendly. Bourdain had a reputation for dragging many Food Network personalities, and thanks to his sharp tongue, found himself at one end of a few celebrity chef feuds.
Bourdain Called Guy Fieri’s Restaurant A “Terror-Dome”
Perhaps one of the most notable feuds was between Anthony Bourdain and Guy Fieri. In 2012, Fieri opened Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in New York’s Time Square. Bourdain appeared on the Opie and Anthony radio show, where he dissed the restaurant and called it a “terror-dome.” He went on to complain, “He single-handedly turned the neighborhood into the Ed Hardy district which I’m a little pissed off about… [Customers] see him eating cheap food on TV, they go in, and it’s what $18? For a [expletive] hamburger?”
Bourdain Apparently Had Something To Say About Everybody
Fieri addressed Bourdain’s repeated taunting during a 2015 interview with GQ: “It’s actually disappointing. I don’t like him making fun of people, and I don’t like him talking [expletive]. And he’s never talked [expletive] to my face. I know he’s definitely gotta have issues, ‘cos the average person doesn’t behave that way.”
It appeared that Bourdain never visited Flavortown, but he seemingly always had something to say about Food Network personalities. In regards to Rachel Ray, for instance, Bourdain once said, “I don’t know why she bothers.”
Ina Garten Isn’t Here To Grant Your Wishes
In 2011, Ina Garten was accused of refusing to meet six-year-old Enzo Pereda, a leukemia patient from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Pereda’s wish was a cooking session with Garten. Garten’s reps told Pereda’s mother that the Barefoot Contessa star was too busy, so Pereda decided to wait but was snubbed again.
When the snub turned public, Garten claimed she was unaware of the wish and that it was an oversight. She tried to make amends by inviting Pereda to the set, but by then he had moved on to his second wish: swimming with dolphins.
The Weinstein Effect Made Its Way Into The Kitchen
Mario Batali’s career is now tainted with sexual harassment allegations. In late 2017 amid the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Batali was just another celebrity who was called out for his inappropriate behavior. In December 2017, four women came forward to Eater accusing Batali of sexual misconduct and inappropriate touching. Some of the claims happened over the span of 20 years.
As a result, Batali was let go from hosting ABC’s The Chew and stepped down from his restaurant management company, Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group. Food Network also canceled plans to revive Batali’s hit show, Molto Mario.
Batali’s Apology Was In Bad Taste
Batali, at least, didn’t deny the accusations. He quickly issued a statement saying, “I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt… much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses.”
Despite his public apology, Batali tried and failed to make things better when he addressed the scandal with his loyal email subscribers. After admitting his wrongdoing, Batali still felt the need to plug his recipe for Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls at the end of his email. The move left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
He And His Partner Were Also Stealing Tips
Before his sexual harassment scandal, Batali was embroiled in a back in 2014. He and business partner Joseph Bastianich were accused of shorting their employees in tips. The employees alleged that they weren’t even making minimum wage and were forced to work over 40 hours. Meanwhile, four to five percent of their tips were taken away to pay the sommeliers.
Batali and Bastianich agreed to pay over $5.25 million, two-thirds of which was split between over 1,000 restaurant staff. They worked at restaurants such as Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono and more in New York City.
She Only Stayed With Him To Do The Show
Pat and Gina Neely were the lovable couple that hosted Down Home with the Neelys which premiered on Food Network in 2008. Despite what you may have seen on camera, there are reports that Pat and Gina hated each other during the entire show.
In 2014, Gina filed for divorce from Pat after 23 years of marriage. Gina told People, “I never wanted to be a TV chef. I was a branch manager at a bank. I was going to divorce Pat prior to the show.” Set to star in a new Bravo show, To Rome for Love, Gina hasn’t spoken to Pat since she left him.
Was Nigella Lawson High On Her Own Show?
English culinary personality Nigella Lawson is known by American viewers as the host of Food Network’s Nigella Feasts. In 2013, Lawson and her ex-husband, art dealer Charles Saatchi, accused two former assistants of fraud.
During the case, part of the assistants’ defense was that Lawson was a repeat drug abuser. They even claimed that Lawson took cocaine and prescription drugs daily and that she allowed the fraud to happen to buy the assistants’ silence on her drug use. While Lawson did admit to the drug use, she wasn’t put on trial for it.
You’d Think There’d Be A Lot Of DUIs In Napa
Michael Chiarello hosts Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello on the Food Network. In 2016, Chiarello made headlines when he was pulled over by a California Highway Patrol officer in Napa, California. The celebrity chef was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance.
Chiarello was booked into the Napa County Jail and released after posting bail. After the incident, Chiarello’s representatives stated his plans to refute the charges. Chiarello’s legal troubles didn’t end there. He was also involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by two of his former employees.
Anne Burrell Needs To Watch Her Mouth
You may have seen chef Anne Burrell as the host of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and Worst Cooks in America. In 2009, Burrell was sued by employees of Centro Vinoteca, a New York City restaurant where she was once the executive chef.
Burrell was accused of verbal abuse and discrimination towards female workers at the restaurant. She allegedly used explicit derogatory terms when talking about the former employees, criticizing their appearance over their work performance. According to her Wikipedia page, Burrell left the restaurant in 2008 and though it doesn’t say why we think it’d be easy to guess.
Ree Drummond Was Accused Of Racism
Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond seemingly lives an idyllic life free of scandal. Perhaps this is true, but that doesn’t mean she’s managed to avoid scrutiny. In a 2017 episode of The Pioneer Woman, Drummond serves her husband and his friends Asian Hot Wings, and they have a less than favorable reaction.
One person even says, “I don’t trust them.” Before anyone is forced to try one, Drummond pulls out a tray of regular Buffalo Wings and says “Just kidding!” Many people believe the episode deliberately expresses anti-Asian sentiment. The instance has labeled Drummond as somewhat racist, though she has yet to comment on the accusation.
Andrew Zimmern Thinks Tyler Florence Is The Least Talented
In 2009, the Bizzare Foods host had a thing or two to say about Food Network chef Tyler Florence. At the time, Florence guest-starred on the short-lived reality show, Momma’s Boys.
Zimmern clearly wasn’t entertained and felt the need to say so on his blog: “Monday’s episode featured the world’s least talented TV chef, Tyler Florence, once again churning out the questionable cooking advice and the leading the ladies through a menu of the Mom’s fave recipes. Watching Florence wolf down the food, stare and ogle every [expletive] that strolled by his cutting board and play the role of local TV stud was high-comedy of the highest order.”
Tyler Florence Won’t Listen To A Guy Who Eats Animal Privates
Naturally, Florence wasn’t going to take that insult lying down. He clapped back on his Facebook profile: “Normally I have pretty thick skin when it comes to blogs and what people think. It is a free country after all, but this guy Andrew Zimmern, the guy who eats dried camel [expletive] for a living, has decided to dis my life’s work… I guess it’s hard to have a sense of humor when you’re on your 10th take of eating Yak [expletive], smiling to the camera, wondering where your life went wrong.”
Then Florence called for an end to chef feuding — just after he dissed another chef.
Martha Stewart Wants Gwyneth Paltrow To Stick To Acting
Home living mogul Martha Stewart wasn’t very happy when movie superstar Gwyneth Paltrow entered her living space. According to Stewart, “If she were confident in her acting, she wouldn’t be trying to be Martha Stewart.” To put a cherry on top of the insult, Stewart created a “conscious coupling” dessert recipe in Paltrow’s honor.
Paltrow didn’t take the vitriol sitting down. In response, she created her own “jailbird cake” recipe. Before the feud, Stewart served time in jail for insider trading. The five-year prison sentence nearly ruined her empire.
Stewart Calls Rachel Ray A Hack
Returning to the public eye after her prison sentence, Martha Stewart immediately went on the offensive, calling Rachel Ray and hack. Specifically, Stewart said that Ray was not a baker or chef. She then doubled down, claiming that Ray’s new cookbook was just a re-issue of her last book with a few updated recipes.
Not one to get into a fight, Rachel Ray accepted the harsh criticism. When asked about Stewarts not so nice words, Ray said, “Why would it make me mad? Her skill set is far beyond mine. That’s simply the reality of it.”
Gordon Ramsay Calls Mario Batali “Fanta Pants”
Gordon Ramsay dislikes Mario Batali so much he once called the former celebrity chef, “Fanta Pants.” The nickname attacked Batali for always wearing brightly colored orange shorts. Considering Ramsay hosts a show fans tune into just for his insults, “Fanta Pants” is not his best work.
It was enough for Batali to ban him from all his restaurants, though. The feud didn’t last. There’s no word on whether Batali lifted the restaurant ban, but he did say after that if he met Ramsay at a bar they would probably get along.
Jamie Oliver Takes The Heart And Soul Out Of A Classic African Dish
Jamie Oliver made a name for himself promoting healthy recipes for healthy lifestyles. In 2014, Oliver created a new version of jollof rice, one of West Africa’s most culturally significant dishes. African food bloggers were quick to attack Oliver for his unrecognizable take on the meal.
Bloggers wanted Oliver to understand that his take on jollof rice was not an accurate representation of their culture. Vera Kwakofi, working for BBC Africa said, “the danger is that in five years, his version will become the official one.”
Jamie Oliver Gets Death Threats Over Paella
When Jamie Oliver added chorizo to paella, Spain reacted with hate rarely seen from an entire country. On the Graham Norton Show, Oliver said they went, “medieval on me.”
At the time Oliver made the food mistake, he was in Canada discussing childhood obesity strategies with the Prime Minister. Try as he might refocus the discussion on what mattered, Oliver trended for weeks because of sausage. At the end of the day he stuck by his guns, letting all of Spain know, “by the way, just FYI, it tastes better with chorizo.”
Jeffrey Zakarian Doesn’t Pay His Employees
Jeffrey Zakarian was sued by his employees in 2011, alleging he failed to pay wages that they were owed. The $1.25 million suit submitted by 150 employees claimed Zakarian did not pay fair wages and overtimes, but instead submitted false pay records to “get out of it.”
The lawsuit nearly ruined the Food Network star. He declared bankruptcy and had to close Country, his restaurant inside the Carlton Hotel. The case was sent to arbitration and is yet to be settled. Somehow, underpaying employees is not the only hot water Zakarian has found himself in!
Donald Trump Sues Zakarian For Breach Of Contract
During Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign he had a deal in place with Jeffrey Zakarian to open a restaurant in one of his properties. After making poor remarks about Mexicans, Zakarian pulled out and is now being sued by Trump for breaching his contract.
About his decision to cut ties with Trump, Zakarian Trump’s views, “do not in any way align with my personal core values. The case is yet to be settled and Zakarian, along with chef Jose Andres, have countersued.
Amy’s Baking Company Is Ruined By Gordon Ramsay And Drugs
Gordon Ramsay found himself in one of the strangest scandals possible after walking out on Amy’s Baking Company while filming Kitchen Nightmares. The episode, which aired in 2013, was the first time Ramsay gave up on trying to help the restaurant. The aftermath that followed was more than anyone could expect.
It was reported shortly after that one of the owners, Sony, faced deportation for drug distribution in Israel. His wife Amy also spent time in prison for misusing her social security number. Sony later tried to smear Ramsay’s reputation, posting a video online claiming he made a move on Amy and every other restaurant owner’s wife. That’s a bold statement!
Guy Fieri Thinks Gay People Are Weird
Guy Fieri does an excellent job playing Mr. Nice on screen, but behind the screen he has issues. According to a producer from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives Fieri needs to be told beforehand if a chef he is working with is gay. A producer on the show quoted Fieri saying, “you can’t send me to talk to gay people without warning! Those people weird me out.”
The producer, David Page, made his claims to City Pages. Guy Fieri and his representative deny Fieri ever said those words or used any derogatory language or inappropriate behavior.
Gordon Ramsay’s Father In Law Hacks His Email
Another slide, another weird scandal involving Gordon Ramsay. This time it involves his father-in-law and former business partner. Chris Hutcheson worked with Ramsay until 2010, when it was discovered he had a mistress and was probably stealing money from the chef.
Looking to get the upper-hand on Ramsay, Hutcheson hacked his email to get all the dirt on the celebrity chef. His plan failed, and Hutcheson was sentenced to six months in jail. There is no word on whether he got out in time for the most awkward Thanksgiving dinner ever.
Giada De Laurentiis Never Eats Her Own Food
Giada De Laurentiis came under a few years ago when a source told Page Six that the chef refuses to eat her food. Even on her show when you see what looks like her eating is just a clever guise. After every take the camera cuts and she spits out her food into a “dump bucket.”
Of course, this is not the biggest scandal De Laurentiis has found herself. It does give a fascinating insight into the workings of her show and answers the question of how she stays so skinny eating so decadently!
Richard Nelson Stole Recipes For His Book
In the 1980s few chefs were as popular as Richard Nelson. After publishing his cookbook Richard Nelson’s American Cooking in 1984 it was revealed he stole over 40 recipes. Learning his trade under James Beard, there was no conceivable reason Nelson did this except for as an easy cash grab.
The move blew up in his face, and the book was pulled from shelves immediately. With over 500 recipes included in the book, you’d think Nelson would be willing to credit the 40 he stole as someone else’s work.
Juan-Carlos Cruz Hires The Homeless To Kill His Wife
In 2010, the host of Calorie Commando and Weighing In was arrested for allegedly hired two homeless men to kill his wife. Amazingly, Juan-Carlos Cruz didn’t deny the attempted murder. He pleaded no contest and is currently serving time at the California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi.
By pleading no contest to the charge of soliciting murder, Cruz avoided being charged with attempted murder. His bail was set at $2 million and after the conviction began his nine-year prison sentence.
The Frugal Gourmet Is Sued By Seven Men For Sexual Harassment
In 1997, the Frugal Gourmet, also known as Jeff Smith, was sued by seven men alleging he sexually abused them as teens. According to reports an eighth victim nearly surfaced but was paid hush money.
Smith settled the lawsuit out of court, but his reputation never recovered. The Frugal Gourmet was swiftly canceled, and his behavior behind the scenes was revealed as cranky. His recipes were called “unreliable” too! In 2004 Smith died in his sleep.
Graham Elliot Mishandled Employee Tips
Rising to stardom as a contestant on Iron Chef, Graham Elliot was sued by several employees in 2012 for tip pooling. Waiter Gregory Curtis claimed that service staff was forced to combine their tips at the end of the night. Those tips would then be redistributed among all of the staff.
This is where it gets tricky. While the practice of tip pooling is legal, allowing every employee a portion is not. Curtis says food runners and cooks do not usually get tips. Under Graham’s employ, they were given tips regularly. Since filing the lawsuit, 13 total employees joined hoping to recoup lost wages because of this.
Sandra Lee Makes A Racist Cake With Corn Nuts And Apple Pie Filling
On her television show in 2009, Sandra Lee made what she described at the time as Kwanzaa cake. The cake, meant to celebrate the African American culture, was made with angel food cake, store-bought frosting, pumpkin seeds, corn nut for acorns, and apple pie filling.
After the episode, the AV Club called the cake, “a pile of ridiculousness slathered in despair and sprinkled with nonsense nuggets.” Queens College Professor Jessica Harris, an expert in the African diaspora, confirmed the lack of authenticity of the cake.
John Besh Can’t Keep His Hands Off Employees
In 2017, John Besh was accused by 25 of his employees for sexual harassment. They said part of working for Besh was tolerating regular sexual advances. Besh tried to apologize, but the damage was too far-reaching.
Having just filmed an episode of Iron Chef the Food Network had no choice but to air the episode. Editors for the show used every trick they knew to keep Besh out of as many frames as possible. If you watch the episode, you can see him in the background, but never centered in the frame.
Bobby Flay Quits Iron Chef Mid Episode
Bobby Flay created headlines in 2017 when pulled off his chef’s jacket while filming Iron Chef revealing a shirt with the words, “THIS IS MY LAST IRON CHEF BATTLE EVER.”Flay thought the move would be a great publicity stunt for him and the show. The network, who was not warned of his antics, did not agree.
The words were impossible to edit out and the episode aired. Afterward, Flay said he was not quitting the Food Network and would return to Iron Chef if asked. Conflicting reports claim he told friends he was indeed done with the show because the schedule is too physically demanding.
Cat Cora Gets Into A Drunken Fender Bender
In 2012 Iron Chef star Cat Cora was caught driving with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit after getting into an accident with a BMW. The call to 911 described Cora as, “wavering around the road… she’s just been very aggressive.” Cora was given a breathalyzer on the scene and taken to the drunk tank.
For her punishment, Cora was given a fine, three years’ probation, nine months of DUI school, and a suspended jail sentence. She apologized publicly, saying she learned a valuable lesson and planned to hold herself accountable in the future.
Married Man Michael Symon Takes Pictures With Models On His Lap
Michael Symon found himself caught in a scandal after taking a picture with supermodel Chrissy Teigen sitting his lap in 2014. The picture was taken during a beach volleyball tournament held to benefit the Armed Forces Foundation. His first mistake was posting the photo on social media.
Once the photo went public, Symon’s inbox was stuffed with messages saying he was a pig and terrible husband. He brushed it off, writing, “wow some ppl have 2 chill a bit… liz [his wife] is WITH me… & chrissy is a friend…” English wasn’t his best subject in school.