{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.”

Is Martha Stewart:

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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?”

Is Paula Deen:

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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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12 Responses to “{Poll} FOF celeb chefs: ingenious or insane?”

  1. Diana says:

    These women are television personalities and what they cook reflects it. We would have a healthy, slim nation if we all ate fresh, simple food like Alice Waters advocates. Shop in the outside aisles of the grocery store and skip the processed stuff.

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  2. fran says:

    SOme o them seem SO phoney- it makes my stomach trun just to litento them. NO one can be that perky or sweet- it’s disgusting.

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  3. Marcia says:

    None of these women is a true chef. They all have their gimics, and they have something that appeals to someone or they wouldn’t be entertaining. Even Paula Dean who looks drunk most of the time. I’m waiting for a woman chef that presents a social side of food, working with nutrition for diabetes, poverty, and the elderly with recipes that work for them. That would be ingenious and actually helpful.

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  4. Cynthia says:

    Agree with Jane – sell better food! Just think how much money was spent by the food industry researching and creating monster additives that are killing our hearts, arteries and waistlines – all so their product can sit longer on a store shelf and make money
    .

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  5. Crewmom says:

    My som, who was in elementary school at the time, happened to catch Sandra Lee when I had her show on in the kitchen and asked “Why can’t that lady cook without drinking, Mommy?” Out of the mouth of babes…I always used to marvel how she could stir anything on the counter in front of her w/o those implants getting in the way. Amazing how only in America do those with little or no talent rise to the top – and who has time to do a ‘tablescape’ and change one’s kitchen decor to match the meal?? Martha Stewart’s a smart woman – smart enough to employ an army of minions to keep her franchise going, even though a NYT book/food critic tested recipes from her ‘Entertaining’ book and they didn’t turn out! I happen to be a very good cook and tried one of Rachel Ray’s recipes (Thai noodles) – not only did I refuse to serve it to my family, but my dogs – who will try almost ANYTHING (gorgonzola-stuffed olives are a fav), wouldn’t even venture a taste, and one of the main ingredients was peanut butter – their favorite food group! Am waiting for Ms Dean to feature deep-fried bacon fat and/or butter on an upcoming segment. Ina Garten beats these ladies hands down – recipes are filled with easy-to-find fresh ingredients and always turn out perfectly!Come to think of it, didn’t Ina used to write a food column for Martha’s magazine years ago – wonder what happened? Hhhhhmmmm…..

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  6. Linda says:

    Martha has helped me create fablous costumes,center pieces, and decorations for all season. Rachel has made me feel that my cooking techniques are not so bad. Paula makes me feel good because butter really makes a difference in how food tastes wheather you fry it or bake it butter makes the difference. Sandra, she has great ideas for the busy moms of today but her ideas are for during the work-week . Thank you ladies we all have a little bit of you in all of us

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  7. Mamavalveeta03 says:

    Maybe there should be a 3rd option: Ingenious AND Insane?

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  8. Marie Miller says:

    I enjoy Rachel Ray, she cooks like I do, a little of this, a little of that, taste is the key, not the exact measurement. Martha is a brilliant sales person, but I expect that the talent for all her ideas, projects and recipes come from other talented people that she surrounds herself with. One of her first cookbooks had a gorgeous cover, beautiful photos, but many of the recipes did not work. I remember particularly making a huge punchbowl of homemade eggnog. Very expensive to make, tasted horrible, tossed the entire thing before the party started. Paula…love to watch her, she is a great performance artist…and I’m sure that her dishes are delicious, but I would never make any of her recipes…too much butter and fat…trying to keep my husband alive! But again, I watch her, she is fun and fresh, and a joyful cooker!

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  9. jane says:

    I try and cook from scratch and stay away from processed anything but there are tomes when you haven’t made chicken stock or the freezer can’t hold any more and u have to buy it. Lazagna with soup no, I don’t think so. I have working mom friends who will buy what ever but need help using regular stuff to get those cookies to the schools bake sales. It ticks other mom’s off but after caring for her daughter and a 12 or more hr. work day, some sleep is needed, buy the cookies, be real; sell better more pure versions fresh or frozen.

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  10. Diane says:

    Love them or hate them, they all are laughing all the way to the bank! All millionaires I am sure!

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  11. belindabg says:

    Rachel Ray is over the top sometimes, she’s just too enthusiastic for me and her voice can get on my nerves. Too bubbly, too cutesy, argh.
    Martha is the quintessential ‘do it all and do it right’ woman, I enjoy watching her show but would never ‘be’ her, I don’t have the inclination or the time.
    Sandra Lee seems like a nice lady but I wonder, where is her life outside of the show? Any husband? Boyfriend? I see nieces and nephews a lot, but not much else. And she likes her cocktails a bit much for my taste.
    As for Paula, she and Ina Garten are my ALL TIME FAVORITES, these are the women I’d want as Aunts or neighbors, the gals I feel comfortable with, the go-to gurus of the kitchen that have both a down-home sensibility and the raucous sense of humor to pull off a Cooking Show with style and grace. Paula, you go, girl!

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  12. Bonnie says:

    Rachel Ray Loved her, but can only take so much bubbly wacky woman and her words are like fingernails on a chalk board
    Martha Stewart might be the queen of the house but with out her staff who do it all for her she is nothing.. she is just the front woman, it is her staff who are the talent behind the queen
    Sandra Lee while at times she comes off a little snobby, she does what most nomal women do and that is to take what we have in a box or bag, mix in a little fresh and produce a better tasting meal for our family. I also worry about Sandra being a little of a lush as each meal she makes she HAS to make and taste the cocktail…. not in the real world Sandra
    Paula Deen, while she is the queen of butter and fatty foods, she is the best personality on the air. She is the type of woman you would love to be neighbors with.. You go Paula, keep the Southern cooking alive.

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