The Food Network is such a great network to watch if you’re looking to understand how to get better at cooking or improve your culinary skills. With all the soft-spoken and easy-going personalities, it’s really a nice option to throw on either in the background or when you’re just in the mood to relax. Additionally, the shows and all the recipes and advice you get for the kitchen really make for wholesome programming. Little did we know that behind the scenes of all that, there have actually been some crazy scandals that certain hosts and the network itself have had to figure out how to get around.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest scandals that have rocked the Food Network.
Guy Fieri Is Kind of Homophobic
Guy Fieri, the hyper famous show host Food Network made the face of its station in the mid 2010s made his name as a brash and rowdy host who brought in significantly more male viewership than any other shows on the network. But it hasn’t all been happy go lucky for Fieri. There was a major falling out that took place between Fieri and David Page, co-creator of the show that made Fieri famous, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. During this scandal, there were lawsuits filed in both directions, but some of the comments that Page made about Fieri off camera were the most eye-popping.
Page let the world know that he thought Fieri had developed an abnormal sense of self as he reached stardom, surrounding himself by sycophants he would tell him everything he wanted to hear. He went on to describe Fieri’s apparent discomfort with gay guests, at one point even saying “You can’t send me to talk to gay people without warning! Those people weird me out!”
Graham Elliot – Another Greedy Restaurateur
Graham Elliot became well known as a contestant on Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters. He also served as a judge on MasterChef for six years. He also is a restaurateur in his own right like most other Food Network personalities. And also – like many other personalities that we have already covered in this article he faced some serious trouble with his employees as it pertained to mismanaging (i.e. stealing) their tips and wages. In reality the lawsuit alleged that Elliot actually required all tips to be pooled together, and then paid them out to all employees including staff that should not have been receiving part of the tip pool. They also alleged that he was not giving them minimum wage earnings. Elliot was able to settle the lawsuit outside of court with the staff, but it left a black mark on his reputation.
Robert Irvine Made Up Everything On His Resume
Robert Irvine was a British chef that showed up and became part of multiple Food Network shows including Dinner: Impossible, Worst Cooks in America, and Restaurant: Impossible. He had a lot of talent and major accolades from before he came to The Food Network and was able to make a major name for himself. He had claimed to be a traveling chef who had worked for Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and was actually knighted by the Queen herself! He also claimed to have cooked for President Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. Ultimately, it was discovered that actually none of that background held any truth and though he was a talented chef, all that experience was falsified. He was ousted from his shows shortly thereafter.
Mario Batali Accused of Harassment and Misconduct
Mario Batali became extremely famous for his Italian cuisine in a number of restaurants, and for appearing in his show Molto Mario, which aired from 1996 to 2004. He also was one of the “Iron Chefs” that contestants competed with in Iron Chef America during his main time on the Food Network. As a major chef and Food Network in America, he co-owned restaurants all over the country and became a superstar in the industry. Unfortunately, it all came crashing down in 2017 when the restaurant review site Eater revealed a number of allegations of harassment and misconduct against the star. Batali subsequently lost just about everything he had. He was fired as co-host of his show The Chew, had to surrender his ownership shares in his hospitality company, and ultimately sold off what he owned of all his restaurants as well.
What a fall from grace!
Oh Also, Batali Stole From His Employees
As upsetting as all the harassment and misconduct chargers were, they weren’t even the first time Mario Batli found himself in a heap of trouble. In 2010, 117 employees sued the celebrity chef for stealing tip money they should have received. The employees said that Batali and his partner were skimming around 5% of their wine tips off their income and keeping it for themselves. After two years of fighting, Batali finally settled the lawsuit for a whopping $5.25 million!
Paula Deen Uses Racial Slurs
Paula Deen, the queen of extremely fattening southern home cooking, made news in 2013 for publicly admitting that she used the “N” word in a deposition that took place during a lawsuit alleging that she and her brother participated in racial harassment. Deen admitted to using the word long ago, but said she hadn’t used it in a very long time. Her publicists also went out of their way at the time to explain that she grew up in the south and lived through times of segregation making it clear that use of that language – while not able to be condoned of course – was not uncommon for people her age in their younger years.
She also released an apology video on the internet, which left less of a bad taste in the mouth of the public than the excuses her company tried making on her behalf.
Paula Deen Hid Her Diabetes
We mentioned before that Paula Deen sure likes to make fattening foods for everyone. When you watch her cook and look at her recipes, it’s obvious her main focus isn’t really the healthfulness of the food. Her heaps of butter and margarine were easy to make fun of for a long time, so when she announced that she had Type 2 diabetes, it wasn’t really an earth shattering piece of information. But it was revealed she actually had diabetes for 3 years prior to her announcement and then things got a little dicey.
Dean was slammed by the public who said she should not have kept publicizing and cooking her amazingly unhealthy dishes knowing that it had such great health risk that she, herself, was suffering from.
Bobby Flay Shocked Iron Chef Audiences
Bobby Flay is one The Food Network’s most iconic chefs, hosting dozens of Food Network shows, generally on the subject of grilling, and also appearing in multiple episodes of Iron Chef as one of the “Iron Chefs.”
In 2017, on an episode of Iron Chef Showdown, Flay stunned the world when he wore a shirt that said “This is my last Iron Chef battle ever.” That was it. He quit the show on the spot, and they couldn’t even edit it out because it was just written on his shirt the whole episode. The workload was becoming too much for him so he bowed out, but what a way to go!
Geoffrey Zakarian Files for Bankruptcy
Geoffrey Zakarian is one of the main judges on the show Chopped and also became one of the “Iron Chefs” after winning The Next Iron Chef back in 2011. In addition to all the shows he has participated in on The Food Network though, he has had a long career as a chef and restaurant owner. He describes his style as modern with French roots, which he likes to call “Dynamic American.”
In 2011, Zakarian was forced to file for bankruptcy, which on its own is probably not much of a scandal but the reason he had to file for bankruptcy is what presents a more interesting story. A class action lawsuit was filed against him by his employees stating that he engaged in repeated and gross violation of labor laws and sued for back pay.
The lawsuit sought $1 million in damages and $250,000 in penalties. He ended up having to file for bankruptcy as a result of the exorbitant legal bill he was racking up.
Cat Cora Was Caught Driving Under the Influence
In 2012, Cat Cora got into a minor car accident while she was under the influence of alcohol. When the police arrived she was given a breathalyzer test which showed that Cora was two times over the legal limit. She admitted to having three beers before getting behind the wheel and was taken to the Santa Barbara Sobering Center.
She received three years probation, a fine, a suspended jail sentence, and nine months of DUI school. On her DUI, she said, “I learned a very important lesson from this experience and take full accountability for my actions. This will never happen again.”
Wolfgang Puck Outed the BBB For Fraud
Wolfgang Puck is one of the best chefs in the business and one of the world’s greatest restauranteurs. However, when David Lazarus, a Los Angeles Times reporter, saw that the Better Business Bureau gave his restaurant Spago a B- rating despite no complaints, he started asking some questions.
Doing some more digging, Lazarus asked Puck about how he had received such a low review although nothing bad was said about the restaurant. Puck explained that he received the B- because he didn’t pay for a higher rating. In the end, it was revealed that The Better Business Bureau had indeed been accepting payments to give restaurants higher reviews.
Anthony Bourdain Ripped The Network And Its Hosts
Anthony Bourdain was never known for being modest when it came to speaking his mind. On more than one occasion, he personally attacked chefs that work with the Food Network, specifically Guy Fieri.
He expressed his feelings saying “I sort of feel in a heartfelt way for Guy [Fieri] […] I wonder about him. He’s 52 years old and still rolling around in the flame outfit . . . What does he do?” He also took jabs at Rachel Ray and Sandra Dee in the past yet had some nice things to say about Ina Garten for some reason.
Ina Garten Said No To A Child’s Make-A-Wish Request
On her Food Network show, Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten comes off as a loving and caring woman with a passion for food. Yet she showed her less-caring side in 2011 when Enzo Pereda, a six-year-old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, asked to meet her through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Garten denied meeting with the sick child, claiming she was too busy on the road promoting her new book.
A year later, Pereda asked again and was turned down for the second time. The parents wrote about it on their blog where the media picked up the story. Garten tried to cover her tracks by inviting Pereda on her show, but the family denied the request, saying Enzo had moved on.
Giada De Laurentiis and Her Marriage
De Laurentiis is the Italian chef and host of Giada at Home on the Food Network and also often appears on The Today Show showing off her cooking and food lifestyle. In 2014, it was announced that Giada and her husband would be separating and eventually divorcing and the rumors began to fly. People suggested that she had numerous affairs with numerous partners, from another Food Network host, Bobby Flay, (who was also getting divorced at the time) to stars like John Mayer.
De Laurentiis denied all accusations, but the rumor mill seems to love sprouting up about her as there are new relationship rumors about her swirling what seems like all the time.
John Besh Was In, and then Edited Out Of ‘The Iron Chef’
Although filmed in 2017, John Besh was edited out of Iron Chef before its release in January 2018. He was taken out of the episode after he was accused of harassment by 25 different employees at his various restaurants. The employees claimed that the harassment was a regular thing at the Besh Restaraunt Group.
Another employee came forward claiming that she had an affair with Besh, who cheated on his wife and urged their relationship forward. All of this new information led him to not only be edited out of Iron Chef but Bravo’s Top Chef as well.
Bobby Flay’s Crazy Divorce Situation
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.
‘The Pioneer Woman’ Had Some Issues With Racism
On an episode of the second season of The Pioneer Woman, host Ree Drummond experienced some backlash when she made a racist comment on the show. In the episode, Drummond made Asian hot wings for her family and friends. When she took them out of the oven, they were all clearly confused by the fact that they were Asian hot wings.
She then said “I’m just kidding guys, I wouldn’t do that to you,” and exchanged the wings with American Buffalo wings. That episode was later pulled from the air in 2017, a whole five years after it first aired.
Anne Burrell Was Accused of Female Discrimination
Besides being on Iron Chef America, Anne Burrell has had several of her own shows on the Food Network and is a frequent guest on numerous others. However, in 2009, she ran into some issues after she was sued for supposedly discriminating against females at Centro Vinoteca, the restaurant where she was a chef.
She was cited for calling the employees derogatory names, making comments about their bodies, and openly discussing their private lives. When the women originally complained, Burell had them fired. While they settled outside of court, further details are still unknown.
Nigella Lawson May Have Had An Addiction Problem
Nigella Lucy Lawson is world renowned English food author, chef and, of course, cooking show host. She has sold millions of copies of her books and is a famous personality that has starred on The Food Network in multiple shows. In 2013 it came out that she believed that her ex-husband’s former assistants had stolen thousands of dollars from them. The response of the assistants was that they hadn’t stolen the money, but instead, Lawson actually gave them the money to keep her addiction a secret from her husband at the time.
The claim she regularly used various party substances which Lawson actually ended up admitting to and the assistants were acquitted.
Sandra Lee Offended Everyone With A Kwanzaa Cake
Back in 2009, Sandra Lee tried her hand at making a Kwanzaa cake, which was insulting to many people. The cake seemed completely thrown together with store-bought frosting, corn nuts, pumpkin seeds, and apple pie filling. While the look (and most likely taste) of the cake was horrendous, what really caused an uproar was that she declared the cake a celebration of Kwanzaa.
African diaspora expert and cookbook author Jessica Harris commented: “The thing that’s potentially offensive to me is characterizing/determining a holiday about which neither the cake preparer nor the recipe designer has the first clue.”
Bourdain Not A Fan of Paula Deen
One of the most vocal critics of Paula Deen is 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 has a reputation for dragging many Food Network personalities, and thanks to his sharp tongue, has found himself at one end of a few celebrity chef feuds.
Pat and Gina Neely’s Marriage Was Really Pretty Bad
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.
Michael Chiarello Has Gotten Into A Slew of Police Problems
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 harassment lawsuit filed by two of his former employees.
Mario Batali Made A Lame Apology
Batali, didn’t deny any of the accusations brought against him. 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.
Giada Won’t Even Eat Her Own Cooking
Giada De Laurentiis came under fire 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!