Everyone has to make a living, even celebrity chefs. That disclaimer aside, the last few years have seen more than a few celebrity chef endorsements that raise an eyebrow or three.
We hear about the most egregious ones in the press -- like butter-evangelist Paula Deen's deal with a diabetes medication that went public just as she announced her own diabetes diagnosis -- but there are plenty other questionable deals out there. Did you know that Tom Colicchio shills for Diet Coke, or Edward Lee for KFC?
Anthony Bourdain certainly had a few choice words for Rachael Ray's endorsement deal with Dunkin' Donuts in an interview with Outside magazine:
“She’s got a magazine, a TV empire, all these best-selling books -- I’m guessing she’s not hurting for money ... She’s hugely influential, particularly with children. And she’s endorsing Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s like endorsing crack for kids.”
We wonder what he would say about her dog food line?
UPDATE: We've added a couple more endorsements, thanks to some great suggestions in the comments section. Keep 'em coming!
Click through the below slideshow for 13 celebrity chef endorsements that have us scratching our heads, then tell us what you think.
Michael Symon And Lay's Potato Chips
Earlier this year, Food Network star and James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Symon <a href="http://www.marketwatch.com/story/lays-potato-chips-teams-up-with-eva-longoria-and-iron-chef-michael-symon-to-invite-consumers-to-create-the-next-great-potato-chip-flavor-2012-07-20-1218310" target="_hplink">announced a partnership with Lay's potato chips</a> as the company launched a contest to find its latest chip flavor. "I am constantly impressed with the range of flavor combinations possible in the culinary world, which presents an exciting variety of options for the next great potato chip," Symon said in a release. But would Symon ever serve it in his restaurant?
Paula Deen And Diabetes Medication
No one knows how to turn heads quite like Paula Deen. The Southern cooking star timed her announcement that she was <a href="http://www.nj.com/entertainment/celebrities/index.ssf/2012/01/paula_deen.html" target="_hplink">shilling for Novo Nordisk's medication diabetes medication, Victoza,</a> with the revelation that she suffered from Type 2 diabetes, which can result from eating too much fattening food.
Rachael Ray And Dunkin' Donuts, Dog Food
Yes, <a href="http://nutrish.rachaelray.com/" target="_hplink">Rachael Ray's dog food line</a> is called "Nutrish." It's technically not an endorsement -- it's part of Ray's huge line of products -- but it's too crazy not to include. When was the last time a major food personality created his or her own line of dog food? It's not new either; the Food Network personality has been <a href="http://www.seriouseats.com/2008/07/rachael-ray-launches-line-of-dog-food-nutrish.html" target="_hplink">offering the line since 2008</a>. Maybe we should feel bad for making fun of it: all proceeds go to a charity that helps at-risk animals through adoption, medical care and training. We don't, however, have qualms about taking a dig at her other endorsement: Dunkin' Donuts.
Edward Lee And KFC
When KFC <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/31/colonel-sanders-autobiography-free-download-facebook_n_1560165.html" target="_hplink">unearthed the supposedly long-lost manuscript</a> by founder Colonel Sander's, the chain <a href="http://eater.com/archives/2012/05/29/edward-lee-now-shilling-for-kfc-because-why-not.php" target="_hplink">enlisted <em>Top Chef</em> Texas contestant Ed Lee </a>to help out with videos showing modernized interpretations of classic Colonel Recipes. "I really wanted to make this one recipe, it's called the upside down peach cobbler," Lee explains in one of the videos. "Which is great because I actually make a peach cobbler at my restaurant." Would the <em>Top Chef</em> judges approve?
Spike Mendelsohn And Acid Reflux Medicine
In May, <em>Top Chef</em> star Spike Mendelsohn made the controversial decision to <a href="http://dc.eater.com/archives/2012/05/02/spike-mendelsohn-now-hawking-acid-reflux-medication.php" target="_hplink">hawk acid reflux medicine Dexilant for Takeda Pharmaceuticals</a>. His duties include offering "lifestyle tips" and cooking with people who suffer from acid reflux disease. At least Mendelsohn can personally relate to Dexilant users -- he suffers from acid reflux himself.
Marco Pierre White And Knorr Stock Cubes
In his heyday, Marco Pierre White was the youngest chef ever to have been awarded three Michelin stars. Although that distinction has since been surpassed by younger chefs, White retains a certain level of fame even as his disciples Gordon Ramsay and Curtis Stone take up most of the spotlight. That remaining cache seems to have <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2009/oct/13/gadgets-chefs-product-endorsements" target="_hplink">secured him an endorsement deal with Knorr homestyle stock</a> -- though we can't imagine White ever using the jellied cubes in his own kitchen.
Dale Talde And Sam's Club
<em>Top Chef</em> star Dale Talde has a deal too, with Sam's Club. A member of the store's "Simply Delicious Chef Brigade," Talde is featured in <a href="http://www3.samsclub.com/meals/see-whats-cooking/korean-grilled-ribeye" target="_hplink">several how-to cooking videos</a> on Sam's Club web site. Our question: is that where he does his produce shopping?
Tom Colicchio And Diet Coke
Speaking of <em>Top Chef</em> judges, Tom Colicchio has had a long-time endorsement of his own...with Diet Coke. We think Epicurious' blog posed the question in our minds best with its post titled "<a href="http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/blogs/editor/2009/02/tom-colicchio-a.html" target="_hplink">Tom Colicchio and Diet Coke: Standout or Sellout?"</a>
Lorena Garcia And Taco Bell
Gourmet Taco Bell? That's what Lorena would have you believe. The Miami chef, who stars on season 4 of <em>Top Chef Masters</em>, recently <a href="http://eater.com/archives/2012/07/13/taco-bell-chef-lorena-garcia-breaks-her-legendary-silence-on-molecular-gastronomy.php" target="_hplink">helped the fast food chain design its Cantina Bell menu</a> -- though some say it's just a <a href="http://eater.com/archives/2012/01/11/taco-bell-vs-chipotle.php" target="_hplink">rip off of Chipotle offerings</a>.
Alex Guarnaschelli And I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
I can't believe it's not butter? More like we can't believe Alex Guarnaschelli is <a href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2011/01/alex_guarnasche_1.php" target="_hplink">shilling for the fake butter company</a>, as is <em>Sex and the City</em> star Kim Cattrall. Are we to believe Guarnaschelli -- who cooks at the restaurant Butter in Manhattan -- actually serves this stuff? Ads featuring Guarnaschelli say that the chef "always has I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! on hand for wherever her culinary inspiration may take her." Sure...
Alton Brown And Welch's Grape Juice
Food Network star and kitchen tech guru Alton Brown famously <a href="http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/alton-brown-food-lists-weight-loss" target="_hplink">dropped about 50 pounds</a> by changing his diet, so his <a href="http://gothamist.com/2011/10/05/alton_brown_is_learning_to_love_twi.php" target="_hplink">grape fruit juice endorsement</a> has us scratching our heads a little bit. Sure, Welch's is adamant that its product is made with 100% juice -- but even so, some health experts say that <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-204_162-673229.html" target="_hplink">fruit drinks can be almost as bad as soda</a> when it comes to weight gain. We admit, this is not the most egregious chef sponsorship, but come on, does anyone even like grape juice?
Aarón Sánchez And Bud Light
We're not sure Bud Light is often a chef's first choice when he or she orders at a bar, but that didn't stop TV chef Aarón Sánchez from teaming up with the beer for a summer grilling campaign aimed at a Latino audience, "Amigos y Carne Asada." Sánchez, who's appeared on shows like Iron Chef America and Chopped, signed on to host a series of parties, cook-offs and giveaways. In a release, he called the partnership "a perfect match."
Fabio Viviani And Domino's
Oh, Fabio. You were one of our favorites on <em>Top Chef</em>. What would Tom Colicchio say about your <a href="http://eater.com/archives/2011/09/26/fabio-viviani-now-starring-in-a-dominos-pizza-commercial.php" target="_hplink">Domino's endorsement</a>? (Probably nothing, since he's working with Diet Coke) All the same, we're flabbergasted by Viviani's move to promote "artisanal"-quality pizza. Sheesh.