30 Of The Biggest Food Network Chef Dramas

Most people turn on the Food Network to educate themselves about the culinary arts, watch their favorite competitive cooking shows. The network makes itself out to be one of the most innocent channels on television, suitable for viewing for all ages.

While there’s no shortage of the expected scandals and drama on other channels, few would guess that the Food Network harbors some serious scandals of its own.

Read on to learn some of the secrets behind the scenes of the Food Network.

He Ripped Off His Employees, Too

On top of the harassment allegations against Batali, he was also sued by his former employees in 2010 for issues regarding tipping. A total of 117 people from his different restaurants were involved in the lawsuit, which claimed that Batali would steal four to five percent of tips in order to pay the restaurants’ sommeliers when they should have gone to the servers.

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Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

The lawsuit went on for years until a settlement was reached in 2012. Batali paid $5.25 million to those named on the lawsuit as well as any employee who had been a victim of his scheme.

Geoffrey Zakarian Filed For Bankruptcy Due To A Lawsuit Against Him

You may primarily know Geoffrey Zakarian as a judge on Chopped, but he’s actually appeared on four Food Network shows and is an acclaimed restaurateur. It seems that being famous didn’t help him with his finances, as he filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after his former employees at his now-closed restaurant Country sued him.

Geoffery Zakarian
Dylan Rives/Getty Images for SOBEWFF
Dylan Rives/Getty Images for SOBEWFF

Apparently, Zakarian had shorted his staff on overtime pay, faked pay records, and docked paychecks. The employees demanded $1 million in damages and an extra $250,000 in penalties. Although he denied the allegations, fighting the lawsuit drove him to the point of bankruptcy.

Andrew Zimmern Thinks Tyler Florence Is The Least Talented Chef

In 2009, the Bizzare Foods host had a thing or two to say about Food Network chef Tyler Florence. At the time, Florence guest-starred on the short-lived reality show, Momma’s Boys.

andrew zimmern food network
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Zimmern clearly wasn’t entertained and felt the need to say so on his blog: “Monday’s episode featured the world’s least talented TV chef, Tyler Florence, once again churning out the questionable cooking advice and leading the ladies through a menu of the Mom’s fave recipes. Watching Florence wolf down the food, stare and ogle every [expletive] that strolled by his cutting board and play the role of local TV stud was high-comedy of the highest order.”

Guy Fieri Has Made Homophobic Remarks

After having a fallout with Guy Fieri, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives co-creator David Page claimed that Fieri wasn’t the greatest guy off camera. Apparently, he is known to make a lot of inappropriate comments and has a wandering eye when it comes to women. He also expressed his dislike of the LGBT community when he decided that two male restaurant owners “were life partners.”

Guy Fieri
Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Caesars Entertainment
Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Caesars Entertainment

Page also claimed that Fieri said, “You can’t send me to talk to gay people without warning! Those people weird me out!” From then on, the show’s researchers were instructed to look out for “indications of homosexuality” during the interview process.

Robert Irvine Used A Fake Resume

Chef Robert Irvine came onto the scene as the host of Food Network’s Dinner Impossible. His resume for the show was incredibly impressive and convincing. His accomplishments included having been knighted, cooking for four U.S. presidents, and being good friends with Prince Charles, among other things.

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John Parra/Getty Images For SOBEWFF
John Parra/Getty Images For SOBEWFF

However, in 2008, it was exposed that his resume had been significantly puffed out. He was swiftly let go from Dinner: Impossible and was replaced by Michael Symon. After some time, though, Irvine was invited back to host the show once again.

Graham Elliot Ran Into Trouble With His Former Employees

Graham Elliot is a former Iron Chef contestant who ran into some trouble with his former employees who accused him of interfering with their tips. Former waiter Gregory Curtis filed a lawsuit in 2012 and was backed by 13 other other former employees from Elliot’s self-named restaurant Graham Elliot in Chicago.

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Santiago Felipe/Getty Images
Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

Curtis claimed that the wait staff was forced to pool their tips. The money was then split up between elements of the restaurant that don’t usually receive tips, such as food runners and cooks. Elliot was sued for the wages that were lost during the tip pooling. He didn’t deny the claims and he settled with the former waiters outside of court.

Paula Deen Admitted To Using A Slur

Paula Deen made the news in 2013 when she admitted to having used a racial slur at one point. She openly admitted that she had said the word in the past ,although acknowledged that she hadn’t said it in some time. She then released an apology video on the Internet.

Paula Deen
John Lamparski/WireImage
John Lamparski/WireImage

While the public was ready to let the issue go, her company tried to defend her. They said, “She was born 60 years ago when America’s South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants, and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today.” That didn’t go over as well.

Paula Deen Hid Her Diabetes

It’s no secret that Paula Deen’s food is more about taste than it is about being healthy. So when she announced that she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, the public wasn’t exactly shocked. What was shocking, however, was that she announced her condition three years after she had been diagnosed.

Paula Deen Diabetes
Aaron Davidson/Getty Images
Aaron Davidson/Getty Images

Apparently, she was waiting for a deal with the pharmaceutical company Norvo Nordisk, which wanted her and her sons to be the new faces of a Type 2 diabetes drug campaign. People condemned her for continuing to encourage people to cook unhealthy food, with chef Anthony Bourdain even tweeting, “Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.”

Bobby Flay Quit Iron Chef

On an episode of Iron Chef Showdown in 2017, Bobby Flay left judges, audiences, and the Food Network speechless when he revealed a shirt saying, “This is my last Iron Chef battle ever.” He didn’t tell anyone what he was going to do and it was impossible to edit out, which Flay explained by saying, “I know. That’s the point.”

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Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

He claimed that he just wanted to ruffle some feathers and it was all a joke, but by 2018, it was clear that he actually wasn’t coming back. He was doing six to eight battles a week and said the workload was crushing although the Food Network wasn’t happy about him leaving.

Nigella Lawson Was Accused Of Having A Substance Problem

Nigella Lawson is not only a famed chef but an author as well, having written eight books and selling millions of copies. In 2013, she and her ex-husband Charles Saatchi claimed that sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, her former assistants, had stolen thousands of dollars from them. The sisters defended themselves, saying that they had been given the money from Lawson to keep her supposed addiction from Saatchi.

Nigella Lawson
Francesca Yorke/Getty Images
Francesca Yorke/Getty Images

The sisters said that Lawson used narcotic and prescription pills frequently. At trial, Lawson admitted to using substances but only in a party setting and never frequently. The Grillo sisters were later acquitted of the charges.

Cat Cora Got A DUI

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.

Cat Cora
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

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.”

Ina Garten Turned Down A Sick Child’s Make-A-Wish,Twice

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 a meeting with the sick child, claiming she was too busy on the road promoting her new book.

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Paul Zimmerman/WireImage
Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

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.

John Besh Was Edited Out Of 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.

John Besh
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images for Jeep
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images for Jeep

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.

Anne Burrell Discriminated Against Her Female Employees

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.

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Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for NYCWFF
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for NYCWFF

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.

Sandra Lee’s Failed 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.

Sandra Lee
Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Taylor Hill/Getty Images

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.”

Anthony Bourdain Spoke Out About The Food Network

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.

Anthony Bourdain
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

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.

There Were Many Layers To Bobby Flay’s Divorce

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.

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Denis Contreras/Getty Images for SOBEWFF®
Denis Contreras/Getty Images for SOBEWFF®

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.

Bourdain Dubs Paula Deen A Danger To America

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.”

anthony bourdain food network
Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Fairfax Media via Getty Images

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.

She Only Stayed With Him To Do The Show

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.

down home with the neelys scandal
Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images
Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

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.

You’d Think There’d Be A Lot Of DUIs In Napa

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.

michael chiarello food network
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for NYCWFF
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for NYCWFF

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.

Tyler Florence Won’t Listen To A Guy Who Eats Animal Privates

Naturally, Florence wasn’t going to take that insult lying down. He clapped back on his Facebook profile: “Normally I have pretty thick skin when it comes to blogs and what people think. It is a free country after all, but this guy Andrew Zimmern, the guy who eats dried camel [expletive] for a living, has decided to dis my life’s work…

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Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images
Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images

“I guess it’s hard to have a sense of humor when you’re on your 10th take of eating Yak [expletive], smiling to the camera, wondering where your life went wrong.” Then Florence called for an end to chef feuding — just after he dissed another chef.

Giada De Laurentiis Never Eats Her Own Food

Giada De Laurentiis came under a few years ago when a source told Page Six that the chef refuses to eat her food.

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Manny Hernandez/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival
Manny Hernandez/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival

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.”

Juan-Carlos Cruz Hired The Homeless To Take Out His Wife

In 2010, the host of Calorie Commando and Weighing In was arrested for allegedly hired two homeless men to kill his wife. Amazingly, Juan-Carlos Cruz didn’t deny the attempted murder. He pleaded no contest and started serving time at the California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi.

juan carlos cruz food network
Myrna Suarez/WireImage via Getty Images
Myrna Suarez/WireImage via Getty Images

By pleading no contest to the charge of soliciting murder, Cruz avoided being charged with attempted murder. His bail was set at $2 million, and after the conviction he began his nine-year prison sentence.

Martha Stewart Called Rachel Ray A Hack

Returning to the public eye after her prison sentence, Martha Stewart immediately went on the offensive, calling Rachel Ray a hack. Specifically, Stewart said that Ray was not a baker or chef. She then doubled down, claiming that Ray’s new cookbook was just a re-issue of her last book with a few updated recipes.

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Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images
Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

Not one to get into a fight, Rachel Ray accepted the harsh criticism. When asked about Stewart’s not-so-nice words, Ray said, “Why would it make me mad? Her skill set is far beyond mine. That’s simply the reality of it.” Martha did eventually apologize to Rachel Ray.

Jamie Oliver Took The Heart And Soul Out Of A Classic African Dish

Jamie Oliver made a name for himself promoting healthy recipes for healthy lifestyles. In 2014, Oliver created a new version of jollof rice, one of West Africa’s most culturally significant dishes. African food bloggers were quick to attack Oliver for his unrecognizable take on the meal.

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Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images
Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Bloggers wanted Oliver to understand that his take on jollof rice was not an accurate representation of their culture. Vera Kwakofi, working for BBC Africa said, “the danger is that in five years, his version will become the official one.”

Jamie Oliver Got Death Threats Over Paella

When Jamie Oliver added chorizo to paella, Spain reacted with hate rarely seen from an entire country. On the Graham Norton Show, Oliver said they went “medieval on me.”

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Emma Peios/WireImage via Getty Images
Emma Peios/WireImage via Getty Images

At the time Oliver made the food mistake, he was in Canada discussing childhood obesity strategies with the Prime Minister. Try as he might refocus the discussion on what mattered, Oliver trended for weeks because of sausage. At the end of the day, he stuck by his guns, letting all of Spain know, “by the way, just FYI, it tastes better with chorizo.”

Donald Trump Sued Zakarian For Breach Of Contract

During Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, he had a deal in place with Jeffrey Zakarian to open a restaurant in one of his properties. After making poor remarks about Mexicans, Zakarian pulled out and is now being sued by Trump for breaching his contract.

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Dylan Rives/Getty Images for SOBEWFF
Dylan Rives/Getty Images for SOBEWFF

About his decision to cut ties with Trump, Zakarian said Trump’s views, “do not in any way align with my personal core values.”

Masaharu Morimoto Questioned Bobby Flay

When chefs take cooking serious, things can get personal. One big-time chef had some choice words for another chef during their time of competing against each other on Iron Chef America. Masaharu Morimoto didn’t like what Boby Flay did at the time.

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Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NYCWFF
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NYCWFF

When the competition came to a close, Flay did something to trigger Morimoto. He stood on his cutting board, “raised the roof,” and said he was going to win. Morimoto responded to this in an interview by saying Flay, “wasn’t a chef” and that “cutting boards and knives are sacred to [chefs].”

Bourdain Let His Feelings Be Known

Anthony Bourdain was an outspoken man. Bourdain didn’t hold his tongue for much and was great at what he did. Those are a few of the reasons he became so popular. And at one point, he and the Food Network didn’t see eye to eye.

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Mike Pont/WireImage
Mike Pont/WireImage

“Their brand is really, I think it’s clear, not chef-driven,” Bourdain said in an interview. “For a period of time, the last thing they wanted, it seemed, was anyone who actually worked in a restaurant or cooked professionally or was authoritative on the subject of food.”

Sometimes The Drama Is Staged

Not all the drama on Food Network’s reality shows can be natural. Sometimes the producers have to create a little trouble to give an episode a little spice. Such is the case for a show like Restaurant Stakeout.

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Food Network
Food Network

In one episode, a restaurant owner revealed that the producers of the show hired someone to be a waiter. The guy was instructed to drop food and drink on the job, just so he could purposefully get fired. Not all restaurants featured on that show are total disasters, apparently. But don’t you forget, it is reality television.