From time to time, I’ve wondered what the food desk at The New York Times thinks of the celebrity chefs of The Food Network.
Mario Batali could probably open a hot dog stand and get at least two stars, but he seems to have moved out of the network’s harsher glare. I don’t know if they’re still producing new episodes of Molto Mario or not, though he is an Iron Chef. Nigella Lawson used to contribute a delightful column to the Times food pages, and her relationship to the network seems limited to rebroadcasts of her charming BBC programs. (I can’t see her taking a gig as a guest judge on Food Network Showdown: Puddings!)
The Times takes the occasion of the imminent publication of Paula Deen’s autobiography to fry her up in a stick of butter. (Free registration may be required.)
“‘Now I’m done fightin’ and I’m done hidin’,’ she said last week, gazing raptly into a mound of ham salad as if it might contain an offer to be a guest host on ‘The View.’”
The whole article is characterized by bemused, horrified admiration. If you’ve seen Deen flailing her grandchild at you from the cover of her lifestyle magazine, you can’t help but sympathize with writer Julia Moskin’s perspective.
And Deen isn’t the only target of Moskin’s questionably affectionate contempt:
“Rachael Ray, who is hardly known for hermit-like tendencies, conducted her 2005 wedding off-camera; not so Ms. Deen, who married for the second time in 2004 with a Food Network crew filming every moment from bridal shower to prenuptial spray tan.”
“Like her Food Network colleague Sandra Lee, Ms. Deen is an unabashed fan of cake mix and instant pudding.”
I admit to liking Deen initially, before The Food Network machine decided that, if a little Paula was good, a lot of Paula was better. But she has become the queen of the over-share, going so far beyond merely communicating a culinary technique that it’s hard to remember anything she’s actually cooked.
At the same time, Deen seems like the celebrity chef least likely to be bothered by this kind of derision. Heck, she could probably make a special out of it.