Chef Ina Garten Responds to Criticism

March 28, 2011

Ina Garten

Update: The Barefoot Contessa first learned about Enzo's request this weekend and was "devastated" by criticism leveled against her. She receives around 100 requests per month, and was not aware of Enzo's request (nor that it had been rejected twice). Today, Garten called Enzo and invited him to her Food Network studios, according to a prepared statement. The statment also speaks to the demands of being a public figure:

"She contributes both personally and financially on a regular basis to numerous causes, including to Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sadly, it’s of course not possible to do them all. Throughout her life, Ina has contributed generously to all kinds of important efforts and she will continue to do so."

Garten works for charitable causes that benefit battered women, cancer patients, AIDS awareness and animal rights. The family also took to their blog and said they wished no ill will against her.

Unfortunately, this episode underscores the peril of reporting news in today's media environment. The original blog post came from a variety of news information and was certainly not based on "rumor." I still maintain that Garten's publicist did a poor job handling the situation and certainly inflamed emotions.

Food Network celebrity chef Ina Garten is in the midst of a public relations nightmare. You see, the host of "Barefoot Contessa" refused a request by a six-year-old cancer patient from the Make-a-Wish Foundation not once, but twice. Over two years.

Six year old Enzo has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and often watched Garten's "Barefoot Contessa" from his hospital bed. His wish was to cook with her. After his first request, the chef responded that her schedule was too busy. Enzo opted to wait. After the second request, he received a "definite no" from Garten, again citing scheduling conflicts. When his mom told him the news, the little boy offered simply, "why doesn’t she want to meet me?"

Her publicist offered a statement about the situation: "despite her demanding schedule, [Ina] participates and helps as many organizations as she can throughout the year, helping children and adults like Enzo with life threatening and compromising illnesses." Make-A-Wish confirmed that Garten is, and remains, a good friend of the foundation. Business Insider turned up a particularly disheartening event she did find time to do. Six people from the Hamptons each paid $100,000 for a charity lunch with Garten.

Thankfully, there is some good news from all of this. Two other Food Network chefs have stepped up to cook with Enzo. Beau MacMillan wants to fly Enzo's entire family down to a fancy resort and treat them to a complimentary meal in his five star restaurant. Oh, and he wants Enzo in the kitchen to help him prepare it. "Iron Chef" Michael Symon promised that he could stop by Enzo's house in Oregon to cook a dish with him as well.

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