{Poll} FOF celeb chefs: ingenious or insane?

These FOF celeb chefs are a polarizing bunch. Women either love them with a cultish fervor, or love to, well, hate them with a cultish fervor. So where do you stand?  Are they FOFabulous Foodies–or the FOFurthest thing from it?



The good, the fab: Yum-O! Say what you want, but almost-FOF Rachael Ray is one of the most powerful celebrities in the world according to Forbes magazine and one of the top 100 most influential people in the world according to Time. The maven of easy weeknight cooking has three Emmy awards under her belt, her own daytime talk show, a magazine, cookbooks and a product line. Her fans love her no-frills approach: anyone can be a good chef, just grab your “EVOO” and get cooking.

The ugly: Rachael Ray has repeatedly come under fire for “her cooking skills, her overreliance on chicken stock, her kitchen hygiene, her smile (often compared to the Joker’s), her voice, her physical mannerisms, her clothes, her penchant for saying ‘Yum-o’ and so on” as noted in a 2006 New York Times article. Famous for teaching viewers how to make meals in less than 30 minutes, many critics claim that the concept doesn’t include preparation time. I’m “a cook, not a chef,” Rachael once admitted to fellow celeb chef Alton Brown. She has also said that measuring “takes away from the creative, hands-on process of cooking” and instead favors approximations such as “half a palmful.”

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The good, the fab: Entertaining empress Martha Stewart is a nine-time Emmy-award winner, talk show host, magazine editor, New York Times bestselling author, business magnate and pretty much the worldwide personification of perfection. That is, of course, until she went to jail for a highly-publicized insider trading scandal. Critics predicted her fall from grace would trigger the demise of her media empire. Instead, she launched a successful comeback campaign–her company turned a profit again just one year after she was released from prison. In or out of jail, she consistently sets the standard for haute home keeping.

The ugly: This “ice queen,” as she’s been dubbed by editors, viewers and industry insiders, took major heat when she served time in jail. But even before that, Martha was the butt of many jokes. Said Newsweek, “Her detractors say, ‘Sure, I could have made millions teaching people how to make marzipan kumquats–but I’m too busy thinking about world peace.’ Her fans just want the kumquats.” In 1997, an unauthorized biography, Just Desserts, claimed that she once sued her gardener over pennies, ignores her own daughter, plagiarizes recipes and humiliates her own staff. “Naturally, people hate Martha Stewart,” wrote Patricia McLaughlin in a New York Times article. “She’s rich, she’s blond. And now, she’s even thin.”

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The good, the fab: Sandra’s semi-homemade cooking method, which involves 70 percent pre-packaged products with 30 percent fresh items, has struck a cord with busy women everywhere. The self-made star (she was raised on food stamps) is now a semi-homemade millionaire. Her show, Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Cooking, remains one of the longest-running and top-performing programs on the Food Network. She has written 23 cooking and entertaining books. Kurt Suller of Newsweek even likened her to Julia Child, adding that although her show “is the furthest from Child’s methods,” both women “filled a niche that hasn’t yet been explored.”

The ugly: A “frightening Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker,” Anthony Bourdain once called his fellow celeb chef, Sandra Lee. The goddess of all things semi-homemade has been berated for her rampant use of shortcuts and store-bought ingredients loaded with preservatives. She “seems more intent on encouraging people to create excuses for not cooking than on encouraging them to cook wholesome simple foods,” writes Amanda Hesser of The New York Times. But nothing was more controversial then a episode of Sandra Lee’s show during which she created a “Kwanzaa cake” topped with corn nuts. Critics have called it “an abomination,” “disrespectful” and “offensive.” Even Sandra Lee’s “possible future mother-in-law,” (according to the New York Times) doesn’t subscribe to her semi-homemade theory. When asked by a NY1 reporter about Sandra Lee’s lasagna recipe (which uses Campbell’s tomato soup and cottage cheese), Matilda Cuomo replied, “That’s not how you make a lasagna.”

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The good, the fab: Queen of southern cuisine, FOF Paula Deen, has charmed fans and restaurant customers for nearly fifteen years. Paula is an  Emmy-award winner for her Food Network show, Paula’s Home Cooking. Her restaurant, Lady and Sons, in Savannah, Georgia, was named by USA Today as the “International Meal of the Year.” (It’s famous for it’s buffet which features sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, deep-fried Twinkies, fried chicken and cheesy meatloaf).  Her memoir, It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, published in 2007, shot to the top of the charts and eventually become a New York Times bestseller. Fans love her folksy banter, decadent recipes and slightly bawdy sense of humor.

The ugly: “The mistress of mayonnaise” has been harshly reprimanded for reckless use of butter, mayo and other fattening foods and techniques in her cooking. In a Huffington Post story, called “How Can Paula Deen Sleep at Night?”, author Christina Pirello writes, “In the name of southern hospitality and tradition, she has fried her way into the clogged hearts of America.” Soon after she released Lunch-Box Set, her cookbook for kids, Paula appeared on The View. “Obesity is the number one problem for kids today,” Barbara Walters said to her. “Everything you have here is enormously fattening. You tell kids to have cheesecake for breakfast… does it bother you that you’re adding to it?”

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Images via Examiner, East Hampton Historical Society, Chicago Now, Huffington Post, NY Daily News, Food Network Fans, Food Network and Deceiver

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