Every industry has its own set of scandals. In fact, we tend to expect juicy storylines from the likes of the Kardashians, the Jersey Shore cast, or even the Real Housewives ladies. But it turns out chefs can be just as spicy.
The Food Network brought cooking to the forefront for television audiences. And since 1993, the station created its own set of stars. Since then, we observed how temperatures in the kitchen can rise and get out of control quickly. Humble television chefs have gone on to lead empires, from product lines and television shows. Some even garner cult followings across the world. Chefs have, in some ways, become the new rockstars.
But with instant name recognition comes its own set of problems.
Over the years, we watched celebrity chefs become embroiled in affairs, DUIs, and even bankruptcy. While there’s nothing quite like relaxing on the couch and watching a cooking competition show, realizing the dark underbelly to these pristine white kitchens is unsettling.
In the last decade, some of food’s biggest stars have gone down in flames due to allegations of sexual harassment, fraud, racism, and even homophobia.
We looked at some of those nasty food scandals, and TBH they’re anything but wholesome.
While his on-screen charm gained the chef a slew of television shows, his off-screen behavior seems downright ugly.
The Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives star got into a whole bunch of trouble in 2011 when his homophobic and racist comments were revealed. According to David Page, one of Guy Fieri’s former show producers, Fieri felt uncomfortable around gay people. Page also alleged the spiky-haired chef harbored anti-semitic sentiments. Supposedly, Fieri said “those people weird” him out. Additionally, the former producer claimed that Fieri was extremely crude and sexually inappropriate around women.
This celebrity chef has a long list of indiscretions.
Notwithstanding Paula Deen’s diabetic scandal, where she revealed her diagnosis alongside her vested interest in a major drug campaign, Deen has been riddled with a long line of accusations of racism. In 2012, Deen was sued for discrimination. One of the chef’s former Uncle Bubba Black employees alleged she was subjected to sexual harassment and racist rhetoric. Deen subsequently lost her contract with Food Network and a slew of her endorsement deals. It all got a lot worse when her company released a statement defending the use of the N-word. Yikes!
The host of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa might not be the sweet old woman she makes herself out to be.
The seemingly loving and sweet grandmother to all, Ina Garten, became the center of a sick six-year-old child’s final hopes as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The boy, who was battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia, requested the chance to cook along with Garten. However, she turned him down not once, but twice. Citing a busy schedule, the chef shocked the child’s family. They wrote about their experiences on a blog that got picked up by the media. But after being scrutinized publicly for her decision, Garten invited the child to the set of The Barefoot Contessa.
The Dinner Impossible host proved that his own resume was also a little impossible.
We’ve all padded our resume to make it seem a little more impressive. But have you ever claimed to have a hand in creating the late Princess Diana’s wedding cake? Well, Robert Irvine did. In 2008, sources revealed shocking about his resume. The document mentioned a knighthood, a castle in Scotland, a friendship with Prince Charles, and ties with four United States presidents. Apparently, though, all those claims were false. Irvine told The St. Petersburg Times that he had made it all up because he felt pressure “to keep up with the Joneses” and that he was “truly sorry.” He ended up leaving Dinner Impossible in light of the scandal.
The former Iron Chef contestant was accused of skimming his employees’ tips.
A total of 14 former servers at Graham Elliot’s eponymous Chicago restaurant claimed the celebrity chef mishandled their tips. Plus, allegations surfaced that suggested staff members weren’t being compensated for overtime. The wait staff had to pool their tips, which were then redistributed among food runners, bartenders, bussers, and cooks. That may be fairly normal. But then servers only were paid less than minimum wage. According to Grub Street, this is only legal if your income is based on tips. Eliot ended up settling in court
The Chopped judge filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
Kitchen workers at the now-closed Country restaurant in New York sued Geoffrey Zakarian for $1 million. His list of failures included not paying his staff overtime, falsifying pay records, and even docking paychecks for meals that employees never even ate! Zakarian filed for bankruptcy soon afterward, claiming he couldn’t afford to defend himself.
What started as an Angel Food Cake ended in disaster.
When Sandra Lee revealed a recipe for a Kwanzaa cake on the Food Network website, she faced a lot of criticism. The late Anthony Bourdain described the video as, “the most terrifying thing [he’d] seen.” Bourdain also notably remarked, “Watch that clip and tell me your eyeballs don’t burst into flames. It’s a war crime on television. You’ll scream.” Pretty scathing remarks if you ask us.
The Iron Chef star quit without warning – on television.
While filming an episode of Iron Chef Showdown, Bobby Flay did something that shocked the entire production team. Mid-battle, he ripped off his apron, revealing a T-shirt that read: “THIS IS MY LAST IRON CHEF BATTLE EVER.” The live cooking competition had no choice but to keep rolling. No one knew about his actions beforehand, though. Flay later claimed it was a joke and that he’d be “excited to return.” But in 2018, the chef did not, in fact, return.
This scandal involves Beyoncé, Lemonade, and Rachel Roy.
When Beyoncé released Lemonade, the song, “Sorry” garnered a lot of attention. The single references Jay-Z’s infidelity and seemingly suggests that Jay-Z cheated with “Becky with the good hair.” Understandably, the internet went insane. And somehow determined that Rachel Roy, the fashion designer, was involved. But Rachel Ray (see the name similarity?) accidentally got caught up in the drama. She experienced an onslaught of strongly-worded tweets and comments in the confusion.
Giada De Laurentiis
This chef’s announcement came with its own set of revelations.
When Giada De Laurentiis announced that her 11-year marriage with Todd Thompson was coming to an end, it wasn’t long before rumors of infidelity started flying. The celebrity chef claimed she never cheated on her husband. However, accusations that she hooked up with playboy John Mayer and fellow celebrity chef Bobby Flay surfaced. She told US Magazine:
Well, we’re very good friends… but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen because I’m smarter than that.
The English celebrity chef revealed her secret drug use on the stand, and everyone went reeling.
When revered English cook Nigella Lawson married art collector and multimillionaire Charles Saatchi, no one could have predicted how the union would end. But after a paparazzo captured images of Saatchi violently choking Lawson at a restaurant, the marriage quickly dissolved into a nasty divorce. Unfortunately, the scandal didn’t end there. After being questioned on the stand, Lawson revealed that she also took drugs daily. Cocaine, as well as other class B drug and prescription medications, were in her arsenal for over a decade. The entire world seemed astounded, especially considering Lawson’s virtually spotless media reputation. But this didn’t affect her career. She since bounced back to doing what she loves most, spreading her love of food!
The British chef got caught up with poor marketing tactics.
When Jamie Oliver released a microwavable product, punchy jerk rice, lots of people accused the chef of cultural appropriation. The product which didn’t even contain most of the ingredients traditionally used in a Jamaican jerk marinade was brought into question. But Oliver resisted the claims. He stated, “When I named the rice my intention was only to show where my inspiration came from.”
The chef got drunk and rear-ended someone’s car.
Drunken mistakes don’t have to ruin a career. But Iron Chef star Cat Cora didn’t just send a few thirsty text messages. The chef was arrested for a DUI after she rear-ended another vehicle. While Cora told police that she had three bottles of beer, her blood alcohol levels told a different story. Apparently, those blood alcohol levels reached .19. That’s more than twice the legal limit. Coincidentally, the star avoided jail time.
Marcela Vallodolid And Paul Hollywood
When the Great British Bake Off made its way to the States, the show faced immediate tragedy.
Food Network execs picked Marcela Valladolid to reinvent Mary Berry’s role in the American version of Bake Off. But things got a little intense on set. Paul Hollywood, the current judge on the Great British Bake Off, starred alongside the celebrity chef. And it wasn’t long until rumors of an affair started to bubble. The fling, which almost ended Hollywood’s marriage, also seemed to destroy The American Baking Competition. The network didn’t renew the show for a second season.
In 2017, Mario Batali’s career came to a screeching halt after sexual assault allegations surfaced.
Four women accused Mario Batali of inappropriate touching during the height of the Me Too revolution. And it seemed as though everything was over for the once-revered cook. The celebrity chef eventually stepped away from his restaurants and television appearances in light of the accusations of sexual harassment. However, he pleaded not guilty in court. Soon after, the police closed the case without laying any charges down.
The chef who worked alongside Mario Batali on Iron Chef America had her own scandal.
In 2009, Anne Burrell faced a lawsuit for her poor treatment of female employees at Centro Vinoteca, the now-closed New York restaurant. According to the complaint, only women in the organization were treated this way. Supposedly, Burrell hurled misogynistic slurs and slut-shamed. She may have even made vile references to their cleavage and bodies. The case reached an end when both parties reached a settlement. However, Burrell never commented on the truthfulness of the complaints.