From journalist Allen Salkin comes From Scratch, a new tell-all history of the Food Network that details the egos, and feuds of the people that made a fledgling upstart a cable TV empire. The precipitous fall of Paula Deen earlier this year wasn’t the first time celebrity chefs found themselves in the midst of scandal. It wasn’t even the first time for Deen. As messy as making food is, making food on TV is messier.
Anthony Bourdain vs. Paula Deen
After Deen’s 2012 diabetes scandal, an audience member at a food festival asked Anthony Bourdain if the constant smoking on his own program was comparable to Deen’s gratuitous use of butter. “You’re right. I did smoke cigarettes for a lot of years on my show. But I wasn’t selling you motherfucking cigarettes!” Bourdain said to the crowd. “And when I found a spot on my motherfucking lung, I didn’t wait three years to sell you the patch!” Deen fired back, saying, “I don’t think he has the ability to make or break my career. Especially when he’s going around eating unwashed anuses of wildebeests.” Paula Deen weathered the diabetes scandal, coming out of it an even bigger name with a bigger market share. She would not be so lucky in 2013, when she admitted in court to using racial epithets, and was subsequently dropped by the Food Network.
Anthony Bourdain vs. Tyler Florence
When chef Tyler Florence became the face of Applebee’s, he should have known Bourdain would have something to say about it. At a satirical food awards show, The Golden Clog Awards, Bourdain gave Florence the “worst career move” award. Onstage he added, “At least you can get really fucked up at Applebee’s for cheap. You can’t do that shit at Dunkin Donuts.” In From Scratch, Florence fires back: “If you take a look at Anthony Bourdain, have you ever seen that guy put anything on a plate? What gives him the right to say anything about anybody?”
Drinking With Rachael Ray
Emeril Lagasse once said Rachael Ray “doesn’t know anything about food...I would not put her on,” but, like any chef, she proved her bona fides after hours. Ray apparently has a legendarily high tolerance for booze, second only to Mario Batali’s. Producer Marc Summers remembers one night of drinking that ended in Batali and Ray ordering 25 shots at a strip club—with lap dances, naturally. In the morning both appeared at a food festival, seemingly unaffected.
Sandra Lee’s Kwanzaa Cake
Sandra Lee, of Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee, made Emeril Lagasse look “like Escoffier,” as Bourdain put it. “She seems to suggest that you can make good food easily, in a matter of minutes, using cheese whiz and chopped up Pringles and packaged chili mix.” Her low point, however, was the Kwanzaa Cake. It was made with traditional Kwanzaa ingredients like store-bought angel food cake, apple pie filling, corn nuts, popcorn, pumpkin seeds, and liberal amounts of vanilla frosting. Lee’s assistant, Denise Vivaldo, said, “I feel bad as a professional cook that I was involved in that abortion.”
Destroying the Barefoot Contessa
Before finding success on the Food Network, Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, attempted to sell a cooking show to Martha Stewart Living, and shot some pilot episodes for the channel. Stewart, however, reportedly did not like the idea of another woman finding success on her channel. “I don’t want to be representing Ina,” Stewart declared to her team, according to Salkin. “I don’t want this shown. I want the tapes of this whole series destroyed.”
Martha Stewart Millions
In the early days of the Food Network, when the channel was still scrambling for content, president Eric Ober negotiated with Martha Stewart Living to buy old episodes of the lifestyle magnate’s daytime cooking show. Stewart was disdainful of the upstart network, and in the final meeting to sign the contract, would not even look at Ober. She signed the papers and strode out of the office without a “handshake or a glance” despite making millions on the deal. Ober told his lawyer, “The only other thing I want in this agreement is I don’t want to have to see that woman again for the life of this contract.”
Guy Fieri “Regarding Minorities”
David Page, a producer on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, had a falling out with host Guy Fieri, and vented in a blog post. “Perhaps as Guy matures in his career he will come to realize that even Hemingway had an editor. And that listening to notes is something that can make a big difference in one’s longevity. Along the way he may also learn it isn’t good to get a reputation for plundering a company’s budget or for wanting to be surrounded only by sycophants, and he might even adopt more tolerant social views regarding minorities.” Page also alleged that Fieri once told him, “You can’t send me to talk to gay people without warning. Those people weird me out,” and, “You know, it’s true: Jews are cheap.”