I’ll admit it- I’m a foodie. I love to eat, I love to cook, and I even love to watch others cook- especially celebrity chefs who made their names creating dishes that I could never hope to copy and opening restaurants I could never afford to patronize. But that’s why we have TV- so that we can watch these guys and gals demonstrate both the art and the science of cooking in a fun, informative, and entertaining way. Oh yeah, and so we can also see them dish out insults, dish on perceived insults, and revel in the sort of catfighting we usually reserve for our viewings of Housewives of Beverly Hills.
You see, being a celebrity chef is a tough job for a tough kind of person. The kind of person who doesn’t mind being in charge, doesn’t mind hollering at others when they screw up, and doesn’t mind alienating peers and competitors who stand in their way. A celebrity chef’s kitchen is like a cross between a military invasion and the stock market floor on Black Monday. So it’s no wonder the job draws a certain amount of strong-willed people. Or, in other words, jerks. Asses. “Little Napoleons.” These are the kind of people who will put you through the blender and throw you down the garbage disposal if you fail them or even so much as look at them the wrong way. The kind of people who it’s best to answer with a “Yes Chef!” and “No Chef!” and nothing else. These guys can be vicious and you surely don’t want to get them steamed.
With all that being said, I can’t say for sure what your average celebrity chef is like when the cameras go black and they go home to their families. Perhaps they are wonderful, kind, caring people who love babies and puppies. Or perhaps they are all horrible Hitlers in their own homes as well. I can’t tell you that but, in any case, here are the 15 celebrity chefs who have shown themselves to be jerks in public.
15. Bobby Flay – Smug And A Douche
Here’s how you know Bobby Flay is a jerk, apart from the smarmy, fake smile that’s always plastered on his face and the cocky “I’m the baddest of the bad” attitude he presents to the world. Bobby had a show called Throwdown! with Bobby Flay that ran for years. The premise was the epitome of douche-dom. First, the Food Network would call a locally-renowned chef and tell them they were doing a special on them. Soon enough Bobby and the cameras would arrive, Bobby would challenge the chef to a cook-off of their own signature dish and then Bobby would decimate them. How could he do that, you ask? Because Bobby spent weeks in the Food Network test kitchens with an army of assistants perfecting the dish before he ever went on camera, that’s how. What a pr**k.
14. Paula Deen – Still Living In Colonial America
Apart from the fact that she serves up the kind of food that causes immediate heart attacks and ballooning obesity- Anthony Bourdain once said “She’s proud of the fact that her food is f**king bad for you”- Paula makes our list for being a full on racist horror. Back in 2013 (not so long ago, really) she got in trouble for admitting to using the N-word- even though she stated at the time she used it “worlds ago.” Which makes it OK how, Paula? She also catered a Civil War era-themed wedding reception where she dressed the waiters up as slaves! And, just last year posted pictures of her adult son dressed in brownface. Ummm, Paula? The 21st century is calling you…
13. Emeril Lagasse – Cusses His Fans
Emeril is cool, for sure. He basically put the Food Network on the map and reinvented the whole celebrity chef shtick- or maybe even invented it; Julia Child wasn’t really a working chef/restaurateur as Emeril is. I mean after all, who didn’t like shouting “Bam!” back in the day- honestly, Emeril’s signature catchphrase was equally at home in the kitchen or on the basketball court. But it seems like Emeril might not be such a nice guy to his fans. According to meanstars.com, Emeril has a tendency to get a little red-faced, as it were, when his fans get too close. He’s also been known to swear at them. Of course, out of the three reviews on the site, two of those fans either knocked over a camera on Emeril’s set or knocked over Emeril himself! Which is a good enough reason not to put him higher on this list.
12. Martha Stewart – Too Good For The Food Network
The queen of home decor makes our list mostly because of her involvement in insider training, for which she actually served time in jail. Which is definitely not something you would have expected to happen to the woman who could landscape your yard, decorate your house, throw a party, and then serve brunch the next morning. While Martha isn’t just a celebrity chef, per se, she has been known to show us, on many an occasion, how to coddle an egg and whip a stiff peak. The kicker is that Martha didn’t even seem to understand that insider trading is actually wrong and illegal. She served her time and picked up right where she left off when she got out, which is to say, running a multi-million dollar empire. Must be nice. Oh yeah, she was also mean to Food Network execs back when that channel was in its infancy and just wanted to give her millions of dollars to air reruns of her show. Tsk tsk, Martha.
11. Sandra Lee – Semi-Homemade???
Lee was the host of Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. That should be your first clue right there that Lee is not the coolest person you’re ever going to meet. What the hell is “semi-homemade” cooking? I can make semi-homemade cooking- it’s called taking the Egg Mcmuffin I left on the passenger seat of the car this morning and throwing it in the microwave when I get home. Adding pre-packaged ingredients together is kind of a jerky way to get a professional cooking show. Even worse, Sandra once made a Kwanzaa cake on her show. That’s right, a Kwanzaa cake. Why Lee thought she was qualified to make one is beyond me but she surely did- and she used store bought cake mix, canned filling and a tub of frosting to do so. Her own assistant was quoted as saying “I feel bad as a professional cook that I was involved in that abomination.” Ummm, yeah, you should.
10. Guy Fieri – Personality As Fake As His Hair Color
While perhaps not quite as much a jerk as his arch enemy Bourdain (on whom there will be plenty more later), Fieri has certainly had his moments of jerkdom. According to one of his former producers, Guy is NOT a fan of gays or Jews. Apparently Guy once said to the producer “You can’t send me to talk to gay people without warning. Those people weird me out.” That’s not exactly a shining beacon call for tolerance, Guy. He also reportedly told the same colleague “You know, it’s true: Jews are cheap.” You know what else is cheap? Making fun of a guy for being named Guy. But hey, I figure if Guy can vent his homophobic, anti-Semitic feelings, then I should be allowed to say what a stupid name he has.
9. Rachael Ray – Treatment of Audience
Everybody loves Rachael, even Oprah (well, especially Oprah) and why not? She’s made a hugely successful career out of just being herself. Which seems pretty cool, actually; she doesn’t try to look like a starving supermodel, she’s crazy cheery, and apparently she can drink you, I, and Mario Batali under the table- awesome! Rachael’s problem stems more from her hiring and management skills. Getting a ticket to be in one of her studio audiences sounds like a cross between breaking into Fort Knox and breaking out of Alcatraz. Her staff, I guess, treats audience members like lepers and thieves from the moment they begin standing in line outside the studio, at 9:30am until releasing their captives back into the streets of NYC at 3:30pm. That’s right- Rachael’s people subject innocent fans to six hours of torture and verbal abuse for a one-hour taping. C’mon Rachel, you’re nicer and better than that- don’t be so mean, get some new staffers who have some semblance of humanity!
8. Christy Tania – Mean Australian
She’s a pastry chef so we already know Christy Tania, a judge on Australian cooking shows like MasterChef Australia, is, shall we say, a perfectionist. But she’s also famous for her rude and belittling comments to contestants. She has been known to say things like “I’ll just chuck it out and you can do it again.” Wow Christy! That’s maybe not on the level of Gordon Ramsay (nothing’s on the level of Gordon Ramsay) but it’s still damn cold. C’mon Christy, you can be a little bit nicer can’t you? You’re already a star. Even if it’s just in Australia. Oh shoot, now I’m being a jerk. See what writing about jerks can do to you?
7. David Chang – The Biggest Diva?
Chang’s certainly not in the same league as Gordon Ramsay when it comes to dishing out verbal abuse (no one is) but for a while there it certainly seemed like he was trying to top the master. His invective and diatribes in the kitchen led to a huge turnover from his staff, even as he grew his culinary empire from his first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar. Supposedly this guy can be vicious when ripping apart his staff, flying off the handle at the smallest perceived failure. Who says celebrity chefs aren’t all divas?
6. Ellie Krieger – Most Obnoxious Recipe…Ever
OK, I almost put this “chef” right at the top of the list. I honestly don’t know who Ellie Krieger is. Alright, I lied right there. I didn’t know who she was until I Wiki’d her and found out she is a nutritionist and host of some healthy eating show on the Food Network (I didn’t really know they had those). I stopped reading after that as I don’t want or need my celebrity chefs to be healthy. I need them to be insane, self-promoting, bacon and butter-spreading asses. The reason she makes this list and is so high up is for a recipe of hers called “Dark Chocolate as a Snack.” To make this stunningly complicated recipe, all your average home chef needs is 1 oz. dark chocolate, fingers to pick it up, and a mouth to put it in. I sh*t you not- this recipe is on the Food Network website. She gets screen time for culinary masterpieces like this. And lots and lots of money. Ellie Krieger? Jerk.
5. Rocco Dispirito – Ego Is His Middle Name
Rocco’s on this list for one reason and one reason only- I don’t like him. He’s certainly not an aggressive, full-on pr**k like some of the guys above him but, wow, talk about smug, smarmy, and egocentric. I’m not even sure if the guy can really cook or not since his failed “reality” show The Restaurant mostly featured a freaked out and very overwhelmed/underprepared Rocco screaming at the wait staff, the cook staff, the bartenders, his partners and even his own mother. Rocco- don’t be an ass; if you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen!
4. Delia Smith – Takes Audience For Fools
Delia Smith has seemingly been around forever and, like Martha Stewart, was always been much beloved and seemingly impervious to criticism (she’s like Teflon, you know). I’ll admit I don’t know much about her, as she’s British and not named Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver, but she’s been so well regarded in the UK that her nickname of St. Delia seems only half tongue-in-cheek. However, it seems she got herself involved in a furor over her 2008 cookbook How To Cheat at Cooking, which, apart from the awful title, may (or may not have) been basically one giant advertisement for various grocery chains and pre-packaged products. What really gets me, though, is her insistence that the use of tinned mince beef is a perfectly acceptable ingredient in serious cooking. No it’s not Delia! That’s terrible! That’s like me saying I’m going to make corned beef hash from a can and my family applauding me for all of my hard work in the kitchen. She’s not the biggest jerk on this list by far but St. Delia sure got this ingredient wrong.
3. Mario Batali – Allegedly Skimmed 5% Off Workers’ Tips
He’s big, he’s cheery, and he’ll feed you the best Italian food you’ve ever had. More of it than you can possibly eat, really. But he’s also one king-hell of a tip skimmer- whoops… Mario Batali has the big name and a consortium of restaurants and TV shows and, one would think, a ton of money coming in. The only problem is, a bunch of that money was tips for his wait staff, bartenders, and busboys. But I guess Mario didn’t see it that way, as back in 2014 he and his partners lost a lawsuit claiming that they skimmed 5% off workers’ tips to pay their sommeliers, of all people. Now it’s not like Mario was skimming money off the top and lining his own pockets with it but he was still, ahem, stealing. A lot- like $5 million worth of settlement money a lot. This from a bunch of extremely hard-working employees (c’mon, Mario, dishwashers?) to give in turn to a bunch of guys who walk around decanting wine. Not cool Mario, not cool at all.
2. Anthony Bourdain – Picks A Fight With Other Celeb Chefs
I’ll admit it; I like this guy a lot. He’s smart, funny, charming, and a great writer. He travels to places most of us only dream of and reports back on the food with the fervor of a convert. He also feuds with everyone. There are too many Bourdain feuds to list here but the one I like the most is his ongoing spat with Guy Fieri. Bourdain has thrown so much shade Fieri’s way that Guy could provide heat relief for a whole country, but his best line has to have been when he asked “How does Guy Fieri de-douche?” He also said Fieri’s twin would be what happened if “Ed Hardy F**ked a juggalo.” Bourdain has also lashed out at Rachael Ray, Alton Brown, Paula Deen, Emeril and just about any other celebrity chef you can name.
1. Gordon Ramsay – Well Yell At Just About Everyone
If you don’t know why Gordo is #1 on our list then you haven’t been watching much food-related TV the past fifteen years. The insanely popular host of Hell’s Kitchen (and about 50 other shows) is, on TV at least, a brash, overloud, overbearing, in-your-face kind of guy. How in your face? Try the spittle flying, obscenity screaming, drill sergeant kind. Ramsay has probably dashed more culinary dreams than the rest of the restaurant world put together and seems to have no qualms about it- his multi-media culinary empire just keeps rolling along. He’s supposedly nicer than advertised but, anyone who’s ever seen Kitchen Nightmares (either version) knows that he can be equally horrible to the poor people who are trying to keep their local, family restaurants afloat. He even sometimes abused the diners in The F Word. Now that’s cold.