Chef Ina Garten Responds to Criticism

March 29, 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. Photo by



Vanessa's picture

Boo to her. How truly heartless. I hope this little boy gets better and that he gets to meet the other cooks on the Food Network. How sad that this lady has no time for this little boy. Is she just too greedy?? Too busy making money to care for people?? I am saddened.

Beth Hirsch's picture

PR person did not handle that well at all.

Kiki's picture

Why the heck does anyone care if she turned this boy down? I mean really maybe she just doesn't like kids and doesn't want to do this. Or maybe she has other reasons that are her own and are none of our business. It's not like she's spent her career trying to hold herself up as a humanitarian. She's a cook. Leave her alone.

Stuey's picture

Her career will not recover from this. Bigger stars with hectic schedules are making time for these kids. The sad thing is that this 6 year old boy won't really understand why she doesn't want to meet him. She is a class act introducing a negative feeling in a child as they have limited time here.

Even if she turned it around, it would only be to save face and be for selfish reasons. Facebook and all sites posting this are calling for blood. Rightfully so in my opinion.

Stuey's picture

On your death bed I hope someone turns down you dying wish.

Linda's picture

I always thought she seemed rather uppity. With her jet-setting traveling husband, whom seems to be the center of her life. I really never enjoyed her show very much anyways. Mario and Emeril have better presence with the camera, and are do much more fun to watch! Gladia is much more fun, as is Rachel and Paula,I am sure thry all have more heart then Ms. Ina. Maybe someday, after something tragic happens to her or her family, she will realize that money is not everything.

Janice Harper's picture

On the surface, this sounds like a very sad story and I do hope the little boy has a wonderful time with the gracious chefs who have volunteered their time.

But I see no place on this site for professional attacks, smears, or rumor-mongering that can affect someone's career. "Calls for blood," and the like do nothing but foster aggression, and usually with little or no accurate facts.

My heart goes out to the little boy, but I want no part of any smear campaign.

Lauren T's picture

I am amazed at people's responses to this. How about it's none of your effing business what she does with her charity work. She does more for charity and good causes than ALL of us put together... give her a break. Not only is it NONE OF YOUR EFFING business... but you have no idea why she is declining to cook with this little boy.... Gawd people... work on your own lives rather than attacking other people.

Lauren's picture

you're nice (NOT)

Janice Harper's picture

Before further critique of The Barefoot Contessa, LA Times reports she was unaware of the request, the boy's family is requesting a sto to the "Media Madness" against her, and she has been "devastated" by the attacks: