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The Top Food Feuds

Published in Gourmet Live 11.02.11
Foster Kamer dishes on the biggest fights in the culinary world
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THE CATFIGHT


COMBATANTS: Martha Stewart, Domesticity Deity vs. Rachael Ray, Girl-Next-Door Cuisine Queen

LOWDOWN: In an ABC News interview in 2009, post-prison Martha’s younger, newer competition was brought up. Martha—who had just appeared on Rachael Ray’s show—responded by explaining that Ray’s cookbook consisted of her old recipes, simply reworked, noting “that’s not good enough for me.” Also, that Rachael Ray can’t bake, and that she’s “more of an entertainer” than a “teacher like me.”

RETURN FIRE: Rachael Ray kills ’em with kindness: “It’s true. It’s 100 percent true. Why would that make me mad? Her skill set is far beyond mine. It’s simply the reality of it. That doesn’t mean that what I do isn’t important.”

AND THE WINNER IS? Ray. Martha took to her show to downplay any bad blood between the two in light of Ray’s response, noting that she “applaud[s] Rachael’s enthusiastic approach to cooking.” Yeah, right. Martha looked stone-cold delivering the initial sound bite, and Ray volleyed it back with all the charm that’s made her the enormous success she’s become today. How can Martha not hate that?

THE MEGASTAR TITLE BOUT


COMBATANTS: Mario Batali, Celebrity Chef Featured on Television Shows with Celebrity Friends vs. Gordon Ramsay, Celebrity Chef Featured on Television Shows Where He Screams at Lesser Humans

HISTORY OF FEUD: At the height of his Hell’s Kitchen television prominence, Ramsay was dismissed by Batali in Guardian dining critic Jay Rayner’s 2008 book as someone who didn’t “get” New York City’s dining scene, a hard dis considering Ramsay’s numerous Michelin stars. In a 2009 interview with Rayner, Batali admitted the words had sparked a feud, and that he had consequently personally banned Gordon Ramsay from his restaurants.

BEST SHOTS: Ramsay went around calling Batali “Fanta Pants.” For a guy who screams on television for a living, you’d think he could do better. Batali, of Ramsay: “Nothing’s changed with [Ramsay’s] food since his second year at Aubergine [in the mid-90s].” Burn.

AND THE WINNER IS? Batali, who was never refuted when he told Rayner that Ramsay had tried to score reservations at one of his restaurants and was promptly rebuffed. For those who keep score on what the New York critics say, Batali got his first four-star review from The New York Times in 2010 with Del Posto (Batali co-owns the restaurant with Joseph Bastianich and Lidia Bastianich; the chef is Mark Ladner). Ramsay has yet to accomplish that feat; his two New York restaurants have not been massive successes.

THE CRITIC AND THE CITY (RICHMAN VS. NOLA)


COMBATANTS: Alan Richman, GQ Dining Barbarian vs. The City of New Orleans

THE NOT-SO-BIG EASY: Richman’s a notoriously curmudgeonly critic. What do you think happened when he visited New Orleans a little over a year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Big Easy? “I’m not saying we shouldn’t rescue the city,” began one paragraph of the November 2006 screed. Yes, folks: Less than a year after Katrina, Alan Richman laid into New Orleans culinary heroes like Susan Spicer and Donald Link, and NoLa standbys such as Galatoire’s, Restaurant August, and Jacques-Imo’s. He also tried to debunk the entire being of a Creole people. Nice timing, no?

A DOWN-HOME CAJUN STOMPIN’: One blogger called Richman’s piece a “cruel, callous, ignorant, poorly researched and factually vacant piece of trash.” The New Orleans Times-Picayune restaurant critic Brett Anderson rallied: “He mucks around in exhausted clichés with the pride of someone who has uncovered hidden truths.” Needless to say, New Orleans was not about to welcome Richman back any time soon. The national food press was about as kind. The New York Times noted: “The man essentially called New Orleanians fat, lazy and too hung over to recognize good food.”

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