Ina Garten – The Heartless Contessa?

I never understood the hullabaloo Food Network threw over Robert Irvine slightly fudging on his resume.  After all none of what he listed was false just exaggerated; still he was suspended.  JAG was pulled from the finale of NFNS 4 for the same thing although his “exaggerations” were a bit more exaggerated.  Worst Cooks in America host Beau MacMilan had a minor traffic violation that resulted in his job being pulled, ironically he was replaced by Irvine.

On the grand scheme of things these are not serious infractions.  Not in the least but it does make one wonder how Food Network and parent company Scripps Networks will handle the recent actions of Barefoot Contessa hostess Ina Garten.  After all, punching up your resume or rolling through a stop sign are nothing compared to telling a dying child you’re too busy to meet them.

Apparently that is exactly what Garten did.  On March 25th TMZ and about three dozen other media sources reported that she repeatedly snubbed the dying wish of a terminal Leukemia victim.  Here’s an excerpt from TMZ’s report:

… a little boy named Enzo was approached by the (Make-A-Wish) organization after he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia three years ago.

Enzo told Make-A-Wish … he really wanted to cook with the “Barefoot Contessa” host because he would often watch the show with his mother while resting in bed.

M.A.W. approached Garten with the wish last year … but at the time, she was unable to meet with Enzo due to a book tour.  The organization urged Enzo to pick another wish, but he told them he wanted to wait until she becomes available.

We’re told the organization went back to Ina this year … but her team responded with a “definite no” … once again, citing scheduling conflicts.

A member of Enzo’s family says the 6-year-old is heartbroken … and asked parents, “Why doesn’t she want to meet me?”

Now I have acknowledged that I think Garten’s food and creativity are quite good but I’ve also gone on record as not being a fan of the Barefoot Contessa program.  To me it is one of the most boring cooking shows around.  I am not alone in my belief that if Ina Garten were not Martha Stewart’s best friend no one would know who she was.  She damned sure wouldn’t have a nationally televised cooking show.  That being said, she does score exceptionally well in one demographic – well-to-do housewives from the Hamptons.

However, I don’t see that trend remaining after telling a dying child they aren’t important enough to meet her.  It sounds like someone is taking their “Contessa” title a little too seriously doesn’t it?  It would appear Garten thinks she is something more than just another well-to-do housewife from the Hamptons.

I might could swallow the “scheduling conflicts” excuse but who has a year worth of scheduling conflicts?  I’ll tell who wouldn’t – Bobby Flay.  Flay is an actual chef who runs nearly a dozen restaurants from Vegas to Nassau, owns a production company, makes countless personal appearances and stars in four TV series.  That certainly demands more time than just shooting one TV show from your home and doing the occasional book signing but I’m willing to bet that had Make-A-Wish called Flay would have been on the next flight out.

Since the story has hit the public spotlight, Garten has miraculously found a little time in her busy stay-at-home schedule to honor Enzo with her presence.  For his part Enzo says he no longer cares to spend his last few days on earth cooking scones with her royal highness.  His new last wish is to go swimming with dolphins.  Good for him.

I cannot help but contrast Garten’s callousness with what I witnessed firsthand in tiny Dauphin Island, Alabama.  Dauphin Island is a resort town of 1300 people on the Gulf of Mexico that has two industries – tourism and fishing.  Both of those were eliminated a year ago when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill struck.  Both BP and the White House have essentially Contessa’d the Gulf Coast but Good Eats host Alton Brown managed to spend an entire weekend of his time helping the Island rebound from an ecological, economic and bureaucratic nightmare.

Now if saying you cooked an entire meal for the Royals when it was only dessert results in one year of TV exile and saying you were stationed on the Afghan-front when you were actually stationed at a support facility miles from the action means you don’t ever get a cooking show at all then anything short of Food Network pulling all affiliation with Garten is unacceptable.  She’ll be okay, she still has her pal Martha Stewart to prop her “career” up.  I understand that celebrities cannot honor every single request for their time but when a dying six-year-old says that their last wish is to spend a few minutes cooking with you how do you say “no” and still sleep at night?

2 Responses to Ina Garten – The Heartless Contessa?

  • Annie says:

    I don't understand how anyone can ignore the wish of a dying child. How heartless. However, I agree that if the request had been made for Bobby Flay–he would have been there instantly! I sometimes watch Garten's show, but the atmosphere is a bit stuffy and her husband is like milquetoast….I almost always end up falling asleep halfway through the program. Maybe it's time for a change, Food Network!

    • lukebandit says:

      Bobby Flay would be there! He found out a boy around 10 or 11 was very very sick and all he wanted was Bobby to come to his house and cook a hamburger on the grill. I guess he watches Boy meets Grill. Well, he found out that morning and he was on his way to another city, he pushed that flight later on that evening and then flew to his home and cooked and stayed and hour and a half! He took pictures with him, and the smile on that childs face was priceless. Then sadly, 2 and a half weeks later, the boy died. God Bless the family, and God Bless Bobby Flay for making a sick little boy's dream come true. I know you sleep like a baby at night. Because I am sure Ina doesn't.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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