HGTV’s wholesome real estate and home improvement shows are easy to get sucked into – whether you’re looking for tips to do up your own property or just channel flicking on a Friday night. Behind the scenes, though, the stars of the network have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. And any one of these 30 scandals could have put the HGTV brand in jeopardy – or maybe even shut it down for good…
HGTV’s wholesome real estate and home improvement shows are easy to get sucked into – whether you’re looking for tips to do up your own property or just channel flicking on a Friday night. Behind the scenes, though, the stars of the network have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. And any one of these 30 scandals could have put the HGTV brand in jeopardy – or maybe even shut it down for good…
30. House Hunters’ supposed fakery
Allegedly, some HGTV series are not all they seem. And in 2010 the finger of fakery was pointed firmly at House Hunters. That year, a post on a blog called Hooked on Houses claimed that one woman’s experiences on the show had been heavily guided by the production team.
Intriguingly, HGTV has largely refrained from responding to rumors of such chicanery. And maybe the network isn’t too concerned with the news getting out. At one point, it even ran a spoof promo for House Hunters in which the behind-the-scenes team could be seen writing an episode’s storyline. Nice joke, or a little too on the nose?
29. The Love It or List It lawsuit
A couple in North Carolina certainly didn’t love their experience appearing on one of HGTV’s longest-running home renovation shows. In fact, they were so disgruntled about the treatment their house received that they ended up suing the makers of Love It or List It. And now you may be wondering exactly what their beef was…
Well, in the lawsuit, the pair claimed that the show had left their property “irreparably damaged” during filming. They also alleged that they’d been ignored when it came to the choice of contractor. And, shockingly, the couple argued that the series wasn’t anywhere near as real as it claims to be. Say it isn’t so…
28. The Flip or Flop scam
In an attempt to capitalize on their increasingly high profiles, Flip or Flop hosts Christina and Tarek El Moussa decided to stage a series of seminars in 2016. Yet while the husband-and-wife team were supposed to give those who paid the costly fees the benefit of their house-flipping wisdom, their teaching skills apparently left a lot to be desired.
According to the Associated Press, a dozen of the people who had signed up to the seminars believed that they’d been short-changed. Not only were the El Moussas notably absent from the classroom, but their stand-ins also spent much of the allotted time trying to sell further expensive workshops. HGTV soon issued a statement to distance itself from the burgeoning scandal.
27. Jonathan Scott’s bar brawl
The Scott brothers present themselves as the squeaky-clean all-American heartthrobs of HGTV. And that’s why Jonathan’s involvement in a 2016 bar brawl came as such a surprise. The contractor became involved in a scuffle in North Dakota after he and his friends were told that their drinking session had to come to an end.
After voicing his disappointment at being informed that it was closing time, Jonathan was then reportedly put in a headlock by the venue’s security guard. And while the star subsequently phoned the cops to claim that he’d been attacked, an apparent shortfall of supporting evidence meant that the case wasn’t pursued further. In an interview with Fox News, Jonathan insisted that he hadn’t been to blame for the incident.
26. The anti-LGBT hosts
David and Jason Benham ended up having their 2014 show Flip It Forward canceled prior to a single episode being aired. Why? Well, the twin brothers got into trouble when it was revealed they’d organized an anti-LGBT rally two years previously. And according to E! News, David had reportedly spoken about stopping “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation” in an interview with a right-wing radio show. Hmmm…
The siblings may well have been influenced by their father Flip Benham – the leader of an anti-abortion organization named Operation Save America. And after learning about the pair’s activist backgrounds, HGTV decided to pull the plug on their renovation show immediately. The brothers later defended themselves by claiming that HGTV had already been aware of their views prior to signing them up.
25. Dream Home’s tax burdens
HGTV’s annual Dream Home project has kept America crossing its collective fingers for more than two decades now. And the contest is immensely popular, too. Tens of millions vie for the chance to win the top prize of an immaculate new property located somewhere within the United States. Far too often, though, the dream has become a financial nightmare.
Country Living has claimed that just six of the 21 winners up to 2018 had stayed in their “dream” properties for more than 12 months. Why did most of those folks move out so fast? Well, the problem with large, ritzy houses is that they also come with high taxes – ones that many people simply can’t afford.
24. The Gaineses’ lawsuit
In 2016 Fixer Upper stars Joanna and Chip Gaines were sued in a dispute over a parking spot. Yes, you read that right. The drama began when the TV hosts erected a gate on an alleyway at the side of their Magnolia Market at the Silos complex. And although the Gaineses didn’t actually own this space, they’d come to an agreement with the original leaseholder to use it for free customer parking.
Then, when the alleyway was sold, its new owners wanted customers to fork out for the privilege of using the spaces. And after learning that a gate had been erected by the Gaineses to divide paying and non-paying spaces, these folks then took legal action. The suit could have been costly for the Gaineses, too, as the owners believed that they’d been wronged to the tune of up to $1 million.
23. Ellen’s Design Challenge plagiarism
Long before Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show made headlines for all the wrong reasons, her HGTV venture had courted controversy. In 2015 Tim McLellan was crowned the winner on Ellen’s Design Challenge, picking up a cool $100,000 for his efforts. His victory was taken away from him within days, however, over accusations of plagiarism.
Katie Stout, another finalist, was belatedly handed the prize after McLellan’s winning furniture was said to be a little too close to an existing design. But the disgraced man fought back. In a later appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, McLellan refuted all claims that he’d copied someone else’s work. And the host partly defended him, responding, “Most furniture is a derivative of something. Maybe something starts it, but chairs, tables, everything – it’s similar.”
22. Nicole Curtis’ secret pregnancy
Rehab Addict may sound like a reality series about substance abuse, but it’s actually a show about restoring rundown homes to their former glories. And its host, Nicole Curtis, has gone above and beyond to make sure that the focus stays on her renovation talents rather than her private life.
We’ll give you an example. When Curtis was pregnant in 2015, she decided to hide her baby bump with various judiciously placed items while filming Rehab Addict. And the star later explained herself to People, saying, “Having my newborn child’s face plastered all over social media on a Facebook post where someone could cut and paste it and make it a meme… that wasn’t for me.”
21. The El Moussas’ turbulent relationship
Flip or Flop’s Christina and Tarek El Moussa stunned fans in 2016 after a spat that appeared to have got out of hand. According to reports, Tarek was seen brandishing a firearm during the incident, which saw the cops being called to the scene. And before the year ended, the once-happy couple revealed to little surprise that they were going their separate ways.
You may have expected that to be the end of Flip or Flop. Not so: just four months after announcing their split, the El Moussas confirmed that they’d continue producing their hit HGTV show. In fact, the drama may have even boosted the exes’ careers, as the network green-lit a number of other ventures for the El Moussas, too.
20. The misjudged American flag tip
The lesson of this story is that you should never advise Americans to use the flag simply for decorative purposes. To help the public with their Independence Day celebrations in 2013, HGTV aired a segment titled “Classic Fourth of July Table Setting Ideas.” And, incredibly, one concept was to make a table runner out of the Stars and Stripes. To say this bombed hard is an understatement.
Within short order, the network was bombarded with complaints from patriotic viewers appalled at the idea of the flag being covered in barbecue food. And this forced HGTV to quickly issue an apology, reassuring folks that the people behind the scenes were indeed proud Americans. The statement read, “This was a regrettable use of our flag, and it never should have happened.”
19. The Gaineses’ anti-LGBT controversy
Back in 2016, Fixer Upper stars Joanna and Chip Gaines found themselves in hot water after some of their pastor’s more controversial views came to public light. Jimmy Seibert is a proud conservative who has often spoken about his dislike of the LGBT community, and the Gaineses were therefore seen as guilty by association.
But the couple declined to comment on the matter at the time, leaving it up to HGTV to inform viewers that it was completely against any form of discrimination. The network asserted, “HGTV is proud to have a crystal-clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.”
18. Meredith Baer is sued
Meredith Baer became yet another HGTV star heading to court in 2016 following a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled client. Adam Piekarski had hired the home stager to work her magic on his apartment in Manhattan, dishing out more than $50,000 for the privilege. Alongside that huge sum, there were extra monthly costs of close to $5,000. But, unfortunately, Piekarski wasn’t impressed with the results.
The client claimed the items that Baer had chosen for his pad were damaged. Then, when he had tried to alert the Staged to Perfection star’s company to the problem, he had reportedly been met with a resounding silence. So, Piekarski decided to sue Meredith Baer Home for in excess of $1.3 million, as you do.
17. The Kitchen Cousins’ bankruptcy
In the wake of a lawsuit, Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, a.k.a. the Kitchen Cousins, were forced to file for bankruptcy in 2015. The home renovators had ended up in financial difficulties after two clients from New Jersey had been left unimpressed with their handiwork. Peng and Robert Avery claimed that the stars had been dishonest about inspections and had walked away without finishing the job.
The property in question, which reportedly had previously belonged to baseball legend Don Mattingly, was purchased by the Averys for $1.3 million in 2012. However, the couple had to wait an extra three years to move in properly following their contractor problems. So, the Averys wanted compensation for all the inconvenience. And they certainly got it – to the tune of more than $800,000, in fact.
16. Vanilla Ice is charged with theft
Best known for his early 1990s chart-topper “Ice Ice Baby,” Vanilla Ice became an unlikely HGTV star in the late ’00s. However, TMZ subsequently reported that the man born Robert Van Winkle may have taken a few too many liberties with his second career.
You see, in 2015 Vanilla Ice was accused of stealing items from a home that was unoccupied at the time. That property had been close to one that he’d been working on for The Vanilla Ice Project. And once the owner realized that certain things had gone missing, he had naturally contacted the cops. The rapper was eventually apprehended on charges of grand theft and burglary. Maybe he should’ve stuck to the day job…
15. Windy City Rehab’s multiple lawsuits
Windy City Rehab has been hit with a whole host of lawsuits since its debut in 2019. Alongside two of the show’s contractors, host Alison Victoria Gramenos was sued by a couple who’d purchased a property on the first season as the house allegedly had issues with its windows, roof and bathroom. Chicago authorities have also filed several cases against producers for “dangerous and unsafe conditions” in the homes they’ve worked on.
If that wasn’t enough, two of Windy City Rehab’s stars then became embroiled in their own court battle. In late 2019 Space Builders, a company owned by contractor Ermin Pajazetovic, brought a suit against colleague Donovan Eckhardt’s firm Greymark Development Group. Eckhardt had allegedly failed to pay the full amount for a property in Lakeview that Pajazetovic had finished working on.
14. The polygamous home renovation show
HGTV showed that there really is a home renovation show for everyone with their 2019 venture House Full of Spouses. The one-off special saw married couple Rachel and Greg Hansen renovate properties for a very niche type of family: the polygamous. And, unsurprisingly, the premise didn’t go down well with the more conservative members of the network’s audience.
“This is not family-friendly television,” argued a particularly disgruntled viewer on Twitter. Another simply demanded, “Please remove House Full of Spouses from the air.” Unfortunately for those who may have enjoyed the show’s unique concept, that second commenter got their wish. House Full of Spouses hasn’t returned to TV screens since.
13. Tarek El Moussa’s steroids admission
Not exactly a stranger to controversy, Tarek El Moussa shocked Flip or Flop fans in 2018 when he confessed to consuming steroids. The home renovation star claimed that he’d been advised to do so by an apparent expert in defying the aging process – even though the amounts of testosterone in his body were perfectly fine. El Moussa admitted, too, that the steroids had only ever had a negative effect on his mind and body.
In an interview on The Dr. Drew Podcast, El Moussa revealed, “I would find myself just sitting alone and just being depressed. It’s all because of all the s**t that was being pumped into my body just turned me into someone that wasn’t me. In 20/20 hindsight, I think, ‘How in the hell did I film a show, start a company? How did I do all these things?’ I was so spun out from all the s**t they gave me.”
12. The Property Brothers file for bankruptcy
Jonathan and Drew Scott may be experts on the property market, but their handling of financial matters apparently leaves a lot to be desired. The brothers’ 2020 book It Takes Two: Our Story saw both siblings admit to facing major money issues. Drew had somehow amassed losses in the region of $100,000, while Jonathan had once gone bankrupt.
But the brothers are now able to take something positive from such disastrous experiences. They wrote, “[Losing money] really turned out to be a game-changer for us, because we realized how any reckless decision you make can leave you vulnerable. Now we’ve put due diligence in and strengthened our financial situation.”
11. Nicole Curtis’ court troubles
Rehab Addict’s Nicole Curtis has seemingly spent almost as much time in court as she has on camera in recent years. The home-renovating star was once at war with her youngest child’s father in a bitter custody conflict. And in an even more shocking twist, Curtis’ own mother has taken legal action against her.
If that wasn’t nearly enough to be dealing with, Curtis previously fell foul of an entire city. Yes, Minneapolis officials decided to bring a suit against the HGTV regular after she failed to redevelop a site that she had bought for just $2. In return, Curtis claimed that she was subjected to intimidation during her feud with the City of Lakes.
10. The El Moussas are hit with a lawsuit
In 2017 the then-married stars of Flip or Flop, Christina and Tarek El Moussa, became the latest HGTV stars to face the prospect of legal action. An unnamed man from North Carolina alleged that he’d been appointed by the couple to scout homes in his home state that they could then flip. But according to the plaintiff, the El Moussas failed to pay him a cent for his work.
The complainant claimed that he’d worked nearly 1,300 hours for the pair’s Next Level Property Investments company. As a result, he was seeking back payments of $12,800 and a commission totaling $25,000. The El Moussas have never commented on the accusations themselves. But an anonymous insider told TV show E! News’ website that they’d never so much as met the plaintiff and that his claims were “absurd”.
9. The Gaines are fined by the Environmental Protection Agency
Seems like nothing gets past the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). In 2018 one particularly eagle-eyed employee was watching an episode of Fixer Upper when they noticed an environmental no-no. According to the subsequent official ruling, Chip and Joanna Gaines failed to take all possible steps to prevent or reduce to a minimum the “risks of lead paint exposure during removals and failed to cover floors and vents with plastic in order to catch paint chips.”
This proved to be a costly mistake for the husband-and-wife team. Yes, the Gaines were landed with a fine of $40,000 by the EPA. An official statement released by the regulator revealed that Magnolia Homes, the production company behind Fixer Upper, also “took immediate steps” to rectify the matter.
8. House Hunters exposed as a sham?
In 2012 general manager Kathleen Finch told website Slate that HGTV was “very conscious of not allowing any kind of fake drama.” Just months later that same network was forced to backtrack a little, amid allegations that House Hunters was a sham. Yes, Bobi Jensen, a one-time participant, wrote on the Hooked on Houses website that her experience on the show was marred by producers’ constant interference.
Jensen claimed that her family’s narrative on the show was entirely scripted after producers found their real plans “boring and overdone.” In fact, the Jensens had already purchased their property by the time the cameras started rolling, making their screened tour of other houses completely redundant. HGTV admitted to magazine Entertainment Weekly in its response that families already in the later stages of the house-buying process were favored due to time constraints.
7. Donovan Eckhardt files defamation suit
In 2021 Windy City Rehab once again found itself at the center of legal action when one of its former co-hosts sued the show for defamation. Donovan Eckhardt sought damages of more than $2 million after claiming that the HGTV hit had deliberately made him look like its second-season villain. The contractor cited depression, sleep deprivation and appetite loss as some of the emotional side effects he’d experienced as a result.
Eckhardt departed Windy City Rehab halfway through its second season amid rows with Alison Victoria Gramenos over a number of schemes that hadn’t worked out quite as well as planned. And he maintained that his one-time business partner had subsequently been portrayed in a far more favorable light. Eckhardt also claimed allegations of financial theft were unfounded and blamed the demands of production company Big Table Media for the problems he and Gramenos had faced.
6. Fixer Upper’s homeowners don’t get to keep the furniture
It seems as though the homes that are lovingly displayed at the end of each Fixer Upper episode look very different once the camera crew leaves. That’s right: much of the furniture that co-host Joanna Gaines uses for the big reveal are all just for show. And surprisingly, the style expert was all too happy to admit this on her own blog.
In 2018 Gaines wrote in a Magnolia post, “Our show features real clients with real budgets. The furniture budget is not part of the renovation budget. It’s something some clients add at the end. About half of our clients already have all their own furnishings, some of which I use for the reveal, and others buy the items I decorate the home with.”
5. Chip Gaines is accused of fraud
Where there’s a hit show, there’s often a lawsuit! And HGTV’s Fixer Upper is no exception. In 2017 Chip Gaines was sued by two of his former business partners for fraud. Richard L. Clark and John L. Lewis had received just $2,500 each from the host in exchange for their shares in Magnolia Realty four years earlier. The pair were aggrieved when they discovered that Fixer Upper went into the production stage just two days later.
Clark and Lewis claimed that Gaines didn’t make them aware of the realtor firm’s small-screen ambitions. The pair subsequently sought damages of $1 million as well as their company shares back in the lawsuit. Gaines wasn’t having any of it, though. Few saw it as coincidental when he posted on Twitter, “I’ve had the same cell 15 years. Same email for 20 years. No one called or emailed? Four years later “friends” reach out via lawsuit… humm.”
4. David Bromstad is sued by his ex
One of the juiciest legal battles involving an HGTV star came in 2017 when David Bromstad was sued by his ex-boyfriend. The Color Splash host was said to have left Jeffrey Glasko both financially and emotionally devastated due to his hedonistic lifestyle. Bromstad’s partner of 11 years claimed that the star had used their joint savings to pay for his hard-partying.
A circuit court judge in Miami-Dade County, Florida, not only threw out these scandalous accusations but he also dismissed a contract breach claim filed by Glasko. Bromstad went out of his way to stress that there was no substance to these lurid stories. His lawyer William V. Roppolo also added, “These salacious claims were made by a desperate person.”
3. The Gaines are accused of deceit
Kelly Downs learned the hard way that you need to be careful what you wish for. The Fixer Upper fan had always dreamed of appearing on the HGTV show. But by all accounts she later regretted agreeing to be guided by Chip and Joanna Gaines during the process of choosing her new home. For Downs subsequently likened the daily routine in her new neighborhood to living in the Wild West!
In 2017 Downs and husband Ken were rudely awakened by a drunk driver who’d crashed through their Waco home’s front wall. Thankfully, the pair weren’t injured. But Downs argued that Fixer Upper deceived her by obscuring the local neighborhood’s true nature. She told the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper, “There’s been a lot of commotion coming from the bars and the store across the street. It’s been a problem from the beginning.”
2. The Property Brothers’ reaction shots could be faked
Property Brothers became yet another HGTV show to be questioned over its authenticity in 2017 thanks to a revealing article in newspaper The New York Times. The piece referred to two occasions when Drew and Jonathan Scott allegedly told audiences white lies. Firstly, the latter was said to have feigned surprise at a toilet being pulled out of a bathroom.
Secondly, Drew apparently told the show’s construction team to stop working because of severe winds – but 24 hours after the adverse weather conditions had actually occurred. The brothers didn’t exactly seem too concerned about these particular tricks being exposed to the wider public. Jonathan told the newspaper, “At the end of the day, it has to be interesting television. But when we find a load-bearing wall, we are really finding a load-bearing wall.”
1. Fixer Upper accused of fakery
Is there any show on HGTV that hasn’t been accused of fakery? In 2016 Fixer Upper became another of the network’s staples to face allegations about its selection process. David Ridley, a participant in its third season, told the Fox News website that he’d already bought his property before appearing on the show. In fact, he also alleged that this was actually a requirement.
Ridley added, “You have to be under contract to be on the show. They show you other homes but you already have one. After they select you, they send your house to Chip and Joanna and their design team.” According to Fox News, the questions on the Fixer Upper application form appears to back up these allegations.
So, HGTV’s stars haven’t always had an easy time of things. But they’re certainly not the only TV personalities to have been involved in some less than squeaky clean behavior. In fact, the Food Network’s hosts may outdo their home-improvement counterparts when it comes to dubious shenanigans – allegedly, anyway…
There’s a reason why cooking has been described as the new rock and roll. Yep, when it comes to controversy, scandal and tabloid-baiting drama, the music world arguably has nothing on the current crop of celebrity chefs. And unfortunately for the once-squeaky clean Food Network, it seems to have employed many of the biggest offenders – putting its good name into real jeopardy as a result. Here’s a look at 25 cases that made the headlines.
25. Bobby Flay’s financial scandal
In 2009 Bobby Flay became one of several restaurateurs-turned-Food-Network-stars to be sued by their own employees. Yes, while the regular face of flagship show Iron Chef may present himself as an all-round good guy on screen, staff at his Mesa Grill, Bolo and Bar Americain joints claimed that Flay hadn’t treated them fairly from a financial point of view.
The disgruntled employees of the three restaurants in question argued that they had been “cheated out of wages and tips and [sought] to recover minimum wages, overtime compensation and allegedly misappropriated gratuities.” And while the celebrity chef strenuously denied these damaging allegations, he did agree to pay out a whopping $800,000 settlement.
24. Gordon Ramsay’s demeaning comments
Gordon Ramsay has never been one to hold back, but the hot-headed chef arguably crossed the line when he verbally abused a broadcaster live on stage. The Kitchen Nightmares star was at a 2009 event in Melbourne when he showed audiences a Photoshopped picture of a pig’s face attached to a naked woman crouching on all fours. Ramsey told the crowd, “That’s Tracy Grimshaw. I had an interview with her yesterday. Holy crap. She needs to see Simon Cowell’s Botox doctor.”
Grimshaw later fought back on her show, stating, “I’m not going to sit meekly and let some arrogant narcissist bully me.” And her remarks impressed Kevin Rudd, Australia’s Prime Minister, who went on to describe Ramsay as “a new form of lowlife.” A spokesman for the chef later issued an apology, admitting that “with hindsight, he realizes that his comments were inappropriate and offensive.”
23. Paula Deen’s employee
Since becoming a Food Network star, Paula Deen hasn’t been short of bad publicity. In 2013, for example, employee Dora Charles claimed to The New York Times that the chef had continually taken advantage of her. Reportedly, Charles had been instrumental in helping Deen build her cooking empire, but she was allegedly never financially rewarded as promised.
Charles said, “It’s just time that everybody knows that Paula Deen don’t treat me the way they think she treat me.” Apparently, Deen paid the woman she described as her soul sister under $10 per hour – even as she ascended through the Food Network ranks. Charles added, “I’m not trying to portray that she is a bad person. I’m just trying to put my story out there that she didn’t treat me fairly.”
22. Alton Brown’s harsh words for Anthony Bourdain
Alton Brown took particular umbrage with Anthony Bourdain’s claims that most Food Network stars can’t actually cook. The Kitchen Confidential star made the remark during his “Close to the Bone” tour in 2015, but Brown soon fought back, telling People, “I don’t have to defend my skills against anybody. I’ve got 14 years and 252 episodes of a show called Good Eats that I’m pretty sure I can use as a résumé for my skills.”
Brown then turned the tables, asking, “When was the last time you saw Anthony Bourdain actually cook anything? I’ve spent 14 years cooking my own food on television, and I’ve never seen him cook a meal.” He did acknowledge, however, that Bourdain was “the best writer about food.” And in response, the New Yorker clarified on Twitter that he had “zero beef” with Brown. In fact, the TV personality was apparently a “hero to [Bourdain’s] daughter.”
21. Jamie Oliver’s apparent hypocrisy
In 2008 Jamie Oliver was accused of hypocrisy when he blasted the sale of chickens raised in “morally wrong conditions.” The self-styled “Naked Chef” also implored viewers of one of his U.K. TV shows to boycott stores that relied on factory farming for their eggs and chickens. But his point was undermined by the fact that he was the face of just one such retailer.
Oliver had previously inked a lucrative contract with Sainsbury’s, and the British supermarket chain confirmed at the time that it wasn’t planning to change the way it sourced its chickens. After further pressure from animal welfare groups, however, Sainsbury’s later performed a U-turn. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Oliver believed that he’d been instrumental in this decision.
20. Robert Irvine’s résumé lies
It’s not exactly uncommon to add the odd white lie to a résumé to impress a prospective employer. However, Dinner: Impossible star Robert Irvine took embellishing career achievements to another level. For example, in 2008 it was revealed that the chef had claimed to have worked on Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding cake – a total fabrication. And yet this wasn’t the only untruth that Irvine had told.
Irvine asserted, you see, that he’d been responsible for feeding no fewer than four U.S. presidents – not only that, but apparently he’d been knighted by the Queen. Once the news emerged, the Food Network replaced him with Michael Symon; eventually, though, he returned to our screens and has remained a fixture there ever since.
19. Paula Deen’s diabetes
As is the case with many Food Network dishes, Paula Deen’s recipes are often laden with sugar. Few may have been particularly shocked, then, when the cook revealed in 2012 that she had Type 2 diabetes. But the plot thickened when The New York Times discovered that Deen had been diagnosed three years before her announcement.
Furthermore, it emerged that, alongside her sons, Deen had signed a deal with pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk in the same year that her diagnosis went public. That company was behind a new injectable and non-insulin form of treatment for diabetes, and so many criticized Deen for appearing to profit from a condition her own food could have exacerbated.
18. Graham Elliot’s tip-pooling controversy
In 2012 Graham Elliot, a one-time contestant on Iron Chef, was accused by no fewer than 14 waiters of pooling tips at his eponymous restaurant. Gregory Curtis – a former employee who went on to file a lawsuit – alleged that staff at the Chicago eatery were required to put their tips together, with this money then evenly distributed among all staff.
However, the practice is only legal under federal law when it involves employees who would normally receive tips. And, unfortunately for food runners and cooks, they don’t fall under this category and so shouldn’t have benefited. Ultimately, Elliot settled with the disgruntled waiters who believed they’d lost a significant sum of money.
17. Ree Drummond’s culturally insensitive remarks
The Pioneer Woman episode that got Ree Drummond into trouble actually first aired in 2012. But it took a rerun screened five years later for the chef to be called out for the culturally insensitive remarks she made on screen. And the whole drama revolved around a plate of chicken wings.
In one scene, you see, Drummond dishes out some wings of the spicy Asian variety to her family. After they turn their noses up at the food, however, the star retorts, “I’m just kidding, guys! I wouldn’t do that to you!” before bringing out some Americanized wings instead. And, unsurprisingly, this led to calls for better depictions of Asian culture on the Food Network.
16. Anne Burrell’s alleged employee discrimination
Fans may know that Anne Burrell fronted several Food Network shows, including Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and Worst Cooks in America. She first found fame, however, on Iron Chef America as a sous chef under Mario Batali. And it seems as though his temperament rubbed off on her, judging by a lawsuit filed in 2009.
In the legal documents, Burrell was accused of making derogatory remarks about many of her employees’ private lives and physical appearances at the West Village eatery Centro Vinoteca. And, interestingly, she appeared to take aim solely at her female members of staff. Burrell has never spoken publicly, though, about either the allegations or the settlement she reached with those affected.
15. Ina Garten’s Make-A-Wish snub
Ina Garten has built her reputation on being the kind of eternally cheerful and comforting mother figure who could solve any problem with a decadent and calorific pie. Yet the Barefoot Contessa perhaps isn’t as sweet as we assume, as she’s actually turned down the Make-A-Wish Foundation twice.
Yes, in 2011 the charity contacted Garten to arrange a meeting with Enzo Pereda – a six-year-old diagnosed with leukemia. At the time, though, the chef was busy on the promotional trail for one of her books and so gave a “no” in response. And she once again disappointed her young fan when she refused on a second occasion a year later. It was only when Garten’s refusals went public that she relented, and by this point Pereda had decided that he’d rather swim with dolphins.
14. Geoffrey Zakarian’s bankruptcy
Geoffrey Zakarian’s 2011 victory on Iron Chef: Super Chefs was perhaps slightly soured by the fact that he’d already declared bankruptcy. The Food Network regular had found himself in financial difficulty after being sued by several ex-employees at his Country establishment, with the lawsuit ultimately forcing him to dish out a reported $1.25 million in damages and penalties.
In particular, Zakarian was accused of tampering with pay records, skimping on overtime money for his staff and even docking wages for food that employees never actually consumed. Yet while each and every allegation stemming from the now-closed restaurant was refuted by the Chopped star, he didn’t have the funds to fight the lawsuit – and so was forced to file for bankruptcy.
13. Anthony Bourdain’s criticisms
The late Anthony Bourdain was never afraid to tell it like it is, and he appeared to take particular delight in blasting the stars of the Food Network. Sandra Lee, Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri are just some of the famous faces who have found themselves at the receiving end of Bourdain’s sharp tongue over the years.
Even when Bourdain was offering a compliment to a Food Network star, he couldn’t resist throwing in a sly dig. In 2016 the star revealed to Atlanta magazine that he was a big fan of the Barefoot Contessa, a.k.a. Ina Garten, before adding, “She’s one of the few people on Food Network who can actually cook.”
12. Giada De Laurentiis’ rumored affair
Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay certainly got tongues wagging when they both left their respective partners in around the same period in 2015. De Laurentiis had initiated a divorce from Todd Thompson, while Flay had split from Stephanie, his third wife. And while the Giada At Home star had previously been linked to famous faces such as John Mayer and Matt Lauer, her fellow Food Network star was the one whom tabloids believed had prompted the end of her marriage.
Nevertheless, while speaking to Andy Cohen on his Bravo show, De Laurentiis refuted all the rumors about herself and Flay. She told the host, “Well, we’re very good friends. We’ve worked for many years together, but I don’t think [a relationship is] ever going to happen because I’m smarter than that.”
11. Guy Fieri’s supposed sexism
Guy Fieri doesn’t appear to be the most politically correct Food Network star. For one, the host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has previously been accused of making homophobic and sexist remarks away from the cameras. And according to former producer David Page, editors had to work overtime to ensure that Fieri’s wandering eyes never made it to air.
In 2011 the insider told City Pages, “Any time any woman mentioned ‘cream,’ Guy went into a sexual riff. When cutting the show, you had to tell the editors to watch Guy’s eye line, because it’s always on breasts.” And Page also appeared to reference Fieri when he summarized, “Almost everyone who becomes a star in television develops an abnormal sense of self.”
10. Bobby Flay quitting during filming
Iron Chef Showdown star Bobby Flay certainly knows how to make an exit. Halfway through the 2017 filming of an episode of the Food Network hit, the celebrity cook suddenly took off his apron to reveal a shirt emblazoned with the surprise message “This is my last Iron Chef battle ever.” And according to Vanity Fair, no one but Flay himself knew about the stunt beforehand.
Furthermore, while Flay later told People that the apron-yanking had simply been done in jest, he never returned to the show. A year later, he reportedly explained to fellow Food Network star Michael Symon that Iron Chef Showdown’s relentless schedule had prompted him to make the attention-grabbing statement.
9. Mario Batali’s lawsuit
Mario Batali has been one of the Food Network’s most troublesome stars over the years. In 2010, for instance, he made headlines for his alleged involvement in a tip-skimming scandal. Specifically, the chef was accused by several employees at his various Big Apple restaurants of taking up to 5 percent of the tips that servers had received. This cash was reportedly then used to help top up the salaries of his sommeliers.
The resulting class-action suit took two years to resolve, ending with Batali and his business associates agreeing to pay those affected a total of $5.25 million. No fewer than 117 different plaintiffs were involved in the legal proceedings, which had been launched by ex-waitress Stephanie Capsolas and former kitchen runner Hernan Ricardo Alvarado. Both had previously worked at Batali’s restaurant Babbo.
8. Cat Cora’s DUI
Cat Cora was lucky to avoid a stint behind bars following a DUI conviction in 2012. After all, the Food Network star had been twice over the legal alcohol limit when crashing her vehicle into a BMW in Santa Barbara. For this, Cora was given a suspended prison sentence, probation for three years and a fine; she was also ordered to attend DUI school for nine months.
But Cora apologized for her conduct in a statement released after the verdict. She said, “I deeply regret my decision to drive that evening after my designated driver became unavailable. I learned a very important lesson from this experience and take full accountability for my actions. This will never happen again.”
7. Josh Adam Garcia’s lies
Many viewers of The Next Food Network Star’s third season found themselves rooting for Josh Adam Garcia. The contestant, also known as JAG, claimed that he’d served in Afghanistan with the marines and was now attempting to transfer his skills to the kitchen. But it turned out that the then-25-year-old had somewhat embellished his military experience.
The Army Times reported, “[Garcia] didn’t spend nearly two years in the infantry. He didn’t deploy to any war zone. And while it’s unclear whether he was ever a corporal, what is clear is that the Corps showed him to the door nearly eight months early as a private. Oh yeah, and he never finished culinary school in New York.”
6. Giada De Laurentiis spits out her own food
Giada De Laurentiis may look like she enjoys tucking into her own dishes on her Food Network shows. However, according to an insider quoted by Page Six, the chef rarely lets her lips get anywhere near the food on camera. In fact, when it comes to close-up shots, De Laurentiis allegedly uses a double to eat for her.
Of course, there are moments when De Laurentiis is filmed eating a forkful of food with her entire face in view. But reportedly, instead of swallowing, she will spit the food back out into a bucket off camera. And while De Laurentiis’ representative has branded the claims “absurd,” they did concede that “she doesn’t eat and swallow every time” – as, apparently, there are up to ten takes for some scenes.
5. Rachael Ray’s questionable dog food
Rachael Ray is renowned for her love of animals almost as much as her passion for food. In 2018, though, she came under fire for combining the two. You see, while the Food Network star’s own brand of dog food, Nutrish, claimed to be full of natural ingredients, a lawsuit was ultimately brought over concerns that this wasn’t actually the case.
Glyphosate – a type of herbicide found in weed killers – was alleged to be one of the ingredients, contradicting the brand’s natural claims. Thankfully for Ray, the case was later dismissed, and pet retail giant Petsmart announced that it would be standing by her product. But even so, the media attention surrounding the lawsuit undoubtedly damaged the chef’s dog food venture.
4. Marcela Valladolid’s affair
You get two Food Network stars for the price of one in this particular scandal. Mexican Made Easy host Marcella Valladolid was married when she was appointed a judge on CBS’ The American Baking Competition in 2013. She was joined by the also-attached Paul Hollywood, who would later appear on the Food Network U.K.’s Paul Goes to Hollywood. And the pair soon had more than sweet treats on their minds.
Yes, Valladolid and Hollywood reportedly wasted little time in making their professional relationship a romantic one, with both of their respective partners filing for divorce once word got out. Valladolid would later find love with a new man; Hollywood’s wife, by contrast, ultimately agreed to take him back. But the British baker would once again be sent packing after having been caught kissing a TV show contestant.
3. The Neelys’ fake happiness
For 11 seasons, Down Home with the Neelys presented its husband and wife stars Pat and Gina as happily married. Everyone was left stunned, therefore, when the couple announced that they were going their separate ways – both personally and professionally – in 2014. And it turns out that their picture-perfect relationship had all been just a front.
Yes, in 2018 Gina told People that she’d been on the verge of divorcing Pat before they landed the TV show. The former bank manager also revealed that, in reality, she’d found the whole experience of being a TV personality highly stressful. Yet even so, Gina popped up on Bravo dating show To Rome for Love following her split with Pat.
2. Jamie Oliver’s cultural appropriation
A simple Jamaican-inspired dish saw Jamie Oliver accused of cultural appropriation in 2018. Apparently, the Naked Chef was attempting to showcase his love of Caribbean food by launching a product named Punchy Jerk Rice; the ingredients and Oliver’s lack of Jamaican heritage saw many come out in protest, however, over its authenticity.
Even a British MP waded in on the argument, with Dawn Butler – whose parents hailed from Jamaica – calling Oliver out for his apparent cultural theft. The chef who claimed to have taught Oliver how to make jerk chicken also voiced his displeasure. In response, though, the Brit said that he was only trying to pay tribute to the cuisine he loved.
1. Nigella Lawson’s drug use
Nigella Lawson is viewed by many as one of the most prim and proper TV chefs on our screens. It came as a shock, then, when the domestic goddess admitted to having taken cocaine. The star told a U.K. court, “I have never been a drug addict. I’ve never been a habitual user. There are two times in my life when I have used cocaine.”
Interestingly, Lawson made the confession during a court case involving two of her ex-assistants. Sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo had been accused of stealing a six-figure sum from the chef, although they claimed in turn that Lawson had given them permission to take the cash if they kept news of her drug consumption a secret. The pair were later found not guilty.