American Pickers is undoubtedly one of History’s greatest ever finds. From its humble beginnings in 2010, the reality TV series has become one of the most-watched television shows today, with fans captivated by the adventures of Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they look to turn unloved trinkets into cash. Not everything is as clear-cut as it seems, though. And here are 50 untold truths that the cast and crew would prefer you never knew about – including the rumors that Danielle Colby has left Antique Archaeology for good.
50. Pricey items may be planted
It appears that the guys on American Pickers have a magpie-like talent for finding one-of-a-kind pieces on the show. Often, their curiosity is piqued by items that the majority of us would walk straight past. What’s more, these things sometimes end up selling for a fortune. But it has been alleged that certain items on the series are staged, leading some to question how much they see on screen is real.
49. Wolfe and Fritz may not be as close as they appear
Judging from what we see on screen, Wolfe and Fritz enjoy a jovial friendship, happily working side by side. But there are some rumors to suggest the pair are not the bosom buddies that the show would have us believe. Whatever the story, we really hope that their bond isn’t faked for just the cameras.
48. The History Channel didn’t want Colby-Cushman at first
Colby-Cushman is now an integral part of the American Pickers cast, but History had to be persuaded into hiring her. Apparently, big bosses weren’t convinced by the vivacious burlesque dancer and only wanted Wolfe and Fritz on the show. The boys on the other hand, wanted Colby-Cushman on their team and put their foot down.
47. Fritz is successful outside of the show
It might come as a surprise to some fans of the show to learn that Fritz is actually worth a pretty penny himself. Thanks to his skill in picking out vintage items – particularly automobiles – and selling them for a high price, he has been able to earn a decent living away from the screen. He’s also a businessman in his own right, running his own store.
46. A number of names were on the table for the show
Before the series became known as American Pickers, there were a number of names being tossed around by production staff. One idea was apparently to have Wolfe, Fritz and Colby-Cushman known as “the American Picking crew.” Other names such as “Flip This Junk” and “Mr. Picker” are also believed to have been contenders.
45. Wolfe started filming the show on his own
When it was just starting out, Wolfe started making the show on his own before realizing that the set-up was lacking something. He believed what he needed was a sidekick. And he found his reliable-yet-charismatic copilot in the form of Fritz. The pair had actually known one another since childhood, meaning the chemistry between them was already there.
44. Wolfe’s picking skills came from his impoverished upbringing
Wolfe was one of three siblings brought up by their single mother and apparently credits his picking skills to not having much as a child. Growing up poor, he learned to haggle for stuff from an early age. Turns out, the skill would come in handy for his picking career, and he doesn’t have to worry about money any more.
43. Wolfe sold the show without making a pilot
Usually, in order to win a full-season deal with a network, shows are required to make a pilot. But in the case of American Pickers, Wolfe was able to convince History to take a chance on his series without making a single episode. It’s the only show the channel has ever launched without a pilot.
42. The stars of the show don’t actually work at the store
Major fans of the show may be tempted to visit the Antique Archaeology store in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the American Pickers stars. But, chances are, you won’t see them there. That’s because, since getting famous, Wolfe, Fritz and Colby-Cushman can no longer work on site as they end up doing no work.
41. Wolfe has a thing for old phones
For the show’s stars, not all antiques are equal. For instance, in 2016 Wolfe told Country Living magazine, “I’ve always loved old phones.” In fact, he likes the retro devices so much that he has a vintage-style booth in his home. That being said, he’s always on the lookout for more. He revealed, “I’m still on the search for the perfect phone.”
40. Fritz has Crohn’s disease
Over the years, Fritz’s appearance has changed somewhat. He’s lost a great deal of weight, for one. But in 2013 the reality personality revealed that he was dealing with some health issues. Fritz wrote on Facebook, “I have an illness called [Crohn’s disease], which at times is difficult to deal with.” Fortunately, he was still feeling well. Fritz also claimed that he had “started losing weight and ran with it” by eating better and exercising.
39. Wolfe and Fritz apparently drive a hard bargain
While Wolfe and Fritz may seem as nice as pie, they’re still experts at getting the deal they want. It’s even been alleged that sellers agree to a price off-camera only to have the buyers attempt to haggle them down further when filming begins. And while driving a hard bargain is of course part and parcel of being a good picker, some sellers have reportedly left the show feeling a little hard done by.
38. Hobo Jack is an accomplished musician
Fans of American Pickers will be all too familiar with eccentric Hobo Jack. They may even be aware of his talents as a singer and guitarist from the show. What’s less well-known, however, is that Hobo Jack is actually a pretty serious musician. He’s also released an album featuring a number of original tracks.
37. Wolfe used picking to woo his wife
Wolfe met his wife Jodi Faeth in 1994 – so, long before he became famous. But even back then, picking played a key part in their romance. In 2011 Faeth told The New York Times, “When I met [Wolfe], he used to disguise picks as dates. He’d say, ‘We’re going to Wisconsin to a bed-and-breakfast.’ We were really going to Wisconsin to meet Speedo Joe.”
36. Danielle Colby and Wolfe have been friends for years
Danielle Colby and Wolfe became buds long before American Pickers hit our screens. In 2010 Colby told Yuppie Punk, “Mike has been a really dear friend of mine for almost ten years, and he has helped me on all of my projects for about ten years.” Speaking highly of her pal, she added, “He’s just a really f**king cool guy.”
35. Wolfe handpicked Colby for the show
Wolfe was eager to get Colby involved in American Pickers because she didn’t look like your average antique dealer. Speaking at a Q&A session in 2010, he explained, “I wanted someone that did not look like they would work in any antique shop because I wanted our show to be looked at in a different way. I wanted people to look at antiques like they’re fun, they’re rad, they’re killer, they’re awesome.”
34. Colby wasn’t convinced she was right for the show
While Wolfe was convinced that Colby was the perfect woman to join the American Pickers line-up, she wasn’t so sure. Speaking at a Q&A in 2010, Wolfe revealed, “I asked her to do it, and she’s like, ‘Are you guys nuts?!’” But despite Colby’s reservations, she eventually came on board. “And it worked out really well,” Wolfe added.
33. American Pickers was an instant success
It didn’t take long for American Pickers to become a hit with viewers. In fact, its first episode alone attracted an audience of 3.1 million, breaking History’s record for the highest-rated debut. And while looking back on the show’s success, Wolfe wrote on Instagram in August 2020, “When we aired in 2010, we became the number-one non-scripted show on all of cable television.”
32. Celebrity friends
Over the years, a few famous faces have popped up on American Pickers. White Stripes and Raconteurs frontman Jack White has come on board, for instance, as well as Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame. But perhaps the show’s biggest famous fan is Dolly Parton, who apparently reached out to producers so that she could make an appearance on screen.
31. Pickers international
While the show is “American” by name, that hasn’t diminished its appeal overseas. The series airs across the world in countries including the U.K., Israel, Romania and Spain. Australia and Canada even took their picking passion a step further, creating their own spin-offs. These shows failed to replicate the success of the original, however, as they aired for just two and four seasons, respectively.
30. Colby is a history buff deep down
On her website, Colby wrote, “My work on American Pickers reflects my real-life passion for history. The beauty lies in the story. Without a back story, there is little value to vintage… My goal is to bring to light all sides of history, lay them out in front of you, the viewer, and allow you to become an involved steward of history yourself.”
29. Wolfe became a dad late in life
While they’ve been together for many years, Wolfe and Faeth didn’t welcome their first child together until 2012. And while celebrating Father’s Day 2020 on Instagram, Wolfe wrote of his daughter, Charlie, “Becoming a dad late in life is never a dull moment, but I know how special these moments are with her. I cannot believe how fast she is sprouting up. I’m loving being a dad to my brown-eyed baby girl.”
28. Picking isn’t Wolfe’s main income stream
While there’s no denying that Wolfe’s a skillful picker, that’s not how he earns the majority of his income. In 2015 he told Fast Company that he was practically a clothing retailer, although he’s also a real estate investor. Wolfe also renovated an old car-manufacturing plant in Nashville that plays home to “a craft beer brewery, photography studios, a boutique candy store and, of course, a coffee shop.”
27. Fritz won’t let fame change him
In 2016 Fritz told The Columbus Dispatch, “When the show’s over, I will get rid of my stuff… I’ll go back to just being Frank, still living in my town. I haven’t bought a big house, no fancy cars. I still drive my ’86 Ford Ranger, still live in the same house I’ve lived in for 26 years.”
26. Wolfe supports a cause close to his heart
After Wolfe’s daughter, Charlie, was born, she needed corrective surgery to fix a cleft lip and palate. And since then, the TV star dad has supported Operation Smile, which funds surgery for children across the world who are born with defects to the mouth and face. To raise money for the cause, Wolfe commissioned Isabel Bloom to make statues of his little girl and subsequently donated part of the proceeds of their sale to the organization.
25. Wolfe wants to inspire the next generation of pickers
Wolfe started picking at an early age, and it seems that he’s keen to help others to do the same. Alongside writing his book Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk into Treasure, the TV personality set up a message board and website to show youngsters the ropes. He’s also put on some child-friendly events where he has shared his tricks of the trade.
24. Wolfe’s impressive pad
When American Pickers first hit our screens, Wolfe owned a house near to the store in Iowa. But he and his family have since relocated to the suburbs of Nashville, where they own a 5,100-square-foot home nestled in 32 acres of woodland. The impressive pile also boasts a fairytale turret, front doors that are 150 years old and gates dating to the 1860s.
23. Colby may have left the show for a life in Puerto Rico
In 2020 rumors circulated suggesting that Colby had said goodbye to American Pickers. And a quick glance at her Instagram page may have only bolstered that speculation, as it seemed to suggest that she was in fact living in Puerto Rico. At time of writing, however, there has been no official word that Colby has left the show.
22. Colby has hinted at her own spin-off in the past
It’s not clear what the future has in store for Colby, but her own show could be on the cards. In 2012 she told the Miami New Times, “I highly doubt that Antique Archaeology is the last job I’ll ever have in my life… My plan is just to stick around and see what happens. But I have a contract, and I’ll of course honor that contract. I guess that’s a sugar-coated way of saying I’d love a spin-off.”
21. Fritz was arrested for a DUI
In 2017 Fritz was arrested after reportedly driving on the wrong side of the interstate and swerving over the road. He then went on to fail a sobriety test after being pulled over by the police. And although the TV star has claimed that too much has been made of the incident, he still received a fine. Fritz also had to attend a rehabilitation program and was placed on unsupervised probation for a year.
20. Colby was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness
Colby’s life in the limelight is a far cry from her very strict upbringing. Born and bred in Davenport, Iowa, Antique Archaeology’s office manager was, in fact, raised among Jehovah’s Witnesses. But despite the stringent rules in her family home, Colby has said that there was also plenty of love around when she was growing up.
19. Wolfe started picking at a young age
The art of picking has always been in Wolfe’s blood. In fact, the show’s creator and host has been on the hunt for a bargain ever since he made his first pick at the tender age of six years old. The entrepreneurial basement rummager found an old bicycle on a scrap heap, and after sprucing it up, he managed to shift the rusty two-wheeler to another kid for $5. Well played, sir.
18. Fritz lost a court judgment for an unsent antique
When antique collector Jerry Bruce saw a polarimeter – an old device used for testing the sugar levels in alcohol – on American Pickers, he contacted Fritz about purchasing the apparatus. Apparently, Fritz then agreed to sell Bruce the object for $300 – before the reserved seller decided to back out. Fritz lost the ensuing court case in 2014, with a judge awarding Bruce compensation of $1,000.
17. Hobo Jack has a literary background
Based on his name alone, you probably wouldn’t guess that Hobo Jack is an accomplished author. But to date, he’s penned three books – all of which operate within the realms of fantasy. Discussing his literary style, Hobo Jack told The Telegraph in 2015, “It almost falls into the category of The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, but it’s not a fairy tale.”
16. Wolfe has written a book for children
Hobo Jack isn’t the only writer in town, either. Yes, it transpires that Wolfe is an author, too, and he doesn’t want the pursuit of dusty loot to be limited to just adults. Released in 2013, Kid Pickers: How to Turn Junk into Treasure is a children’s guide on how to be the best picker. And really, who’s more qualified to give advice on the topic than the Big Bad Wolfe?
15. Do Wolfe and Fritz take a backseat?
While Wolfe and Fritz appear to do all of the wheeling and dealing on the show, some believe that the people behind the scenes are the real masterminds responsible for their finds. There have been a number of allegations claiming that it’s actually the show’s researchers who find many of the sellers and items before the two hosts swoop in and take credit for their hard work.
14. The hosts allegedly travel in separate vehicles
Those doubters of the show’s “reality” claims also say that while Wolfe and Fritz are often seen driving together, the hosts actually travel in separate cars. Conspiracy theorists allege that most of the duo’s car conversations are filmed before they set off on their quests for gold. Wolfe and Fritz are said to then jump into separate vehicles before making their way towards their destinations – along with a truck convoy containing all the necessary equipment.
13. American Pickers drove a wedge between Colby and her ex-husband
Even though stardom has its perks, it can also cause a whole assortment of problems – something Colby came to realize after the success of American Pickers. Having shot to prominence on the show, she claims that her newly-found fame contributed to the disintegration of her previous marriage. Speaking to WQAD-TV in 2012, Colby said, “Fame and notoriety are not easy for [my ex-husband] to deal with at all, so the relationship ended up not working out.”
12. The show wasn’t picked up for five years
It’s safe to say that American Pickers has been a roaring success up to this point. So much so, in fact, that you wouldn’t have thought there would’ve been any problems in getting it commissioned in the first place. But what if we told you that the show was in something of a developmental hell for five years? Well, that’s exactly how Wolfe’s brainchild started out before it was eventually picked up by History in 2010.
11. Others have tapped into the show’s success
Despite only appearing on one episode, Mole Man Ron certainly made quite the impression. And such was his impact that others have tried jumping on the bandwagon. In 2011 an advertisement for a yard sale began circulating that claimed to feature an appearance from Mole Man – although to this day no one’s sure whether or not he had anything to do with it.
10. Colby has enjoyed a burlesque career
When she’s not searching for treasure, Colby has been known to take part in a far more racy activity: burlesque dancing. Having grown up in a devout household, she told the River Cities’ Reader that she “went into that [first] evening thinking that burlesque was taboo and wrong and bad.” Soon, though, the inked-up beauty found herself enjoying it. Oh, and Mike’s “Dannie D” nickname for her? That’s the stage name she uses.
9. They’ve netted a cool $10 million between the three of them
Thanks to the program’s insane popularity, the three hosts’ finances are none too shabby. While Wolfe has an estimated net worth of around $5 million and Fritz $4 million, it’s believed that Colby has about $1.5 million to her name. Between them, then, the trio are worth just over $10 million.
8. Colby has had dubious dealings with the IRS
Given Colby’s considerable wealth, it’s perhaps surprising that a large question mark still hangs over her tax affairs. In 2013 the IRS slapped her with a $6,000 bill for her unpaid taxes; as of 2015, however, this sum was yet to be paid. And this was all despite Colby having been sent multiple tax notices to remind her to clear the debt. Maybe she simply lost them amid a sea of junk. In her line of work, it’s quite plausible.
7. There’s no place like (an uncluttered) home
Wolfe may enjoy the process of picking, but that doesn’t mean he’d like to live in the cluttered places in which he scavenges. Speaking to The New York Times in 2011, he said, “I love this stuff, but I would never live in a place that looks like the places we pick.” Maybe he’s just being a bit picky. Too obvious?
6. Prince Mongo wants to be Mayor Mongo
Remember Prince Mongo? The wacky guy who lives in a decrepit castle? Well, it turns out that his aspirations go much further than his kingdom of junk. The eccentric self-proclaimed “King of Zambodia” has been throwing his tatty hat into the political ring since 1991. During this time, he’s made several bids to become the mayor of Memphis.
5. Colby is a Jack of all trades
As if it weren’t enough being a reality TV star and working as a burlesque dancer, Colby is also a successful clothing outlet owner. She runs a store called 4 Miles 2 Memphis, which specializes in vintage and retro clothes as well as handmade fashion accessories. Proprietor of the swanky boutique, Colby also serves as one of its primary designers.
4. Picking the right theme song was an exercise in reuse
American Pickers’ opening theme song is the perfect introduction to the show – and even more so once you know that the tune is itself recycled. Yes, the track was created by taking a section of a song by Reckless Sons and repurposing it for the hit series. The theme was produced by the head honcho of music licensing company Jingle Punks, who was hired to deliver a rock ‘n’ roll treat – and certainly delivered.
3. American Pickers could be leaving our screens soon
Seven years after the show’s inception, its future was put into question. How? Well, in a 2016 interview with News 8, Wolfe said, “I think I’m going to do one more season and I’m done,” before adding, “I’ve got a four and a half-year-old little girl who wants me at home.” Wolfe carried on, of course, as the show was still going strong in 2020 – but nothing lasts forever.
2. Several rumors have circulated about Fritz’s sexuality
Rather unfairly, some spectators have made unfounded claims that Fritz is in fact gay. Why? Because he spends a lot of his time around co-star Wolfe. Logical, right? Well no, not really, although it hasn’t stopped some sites from citing the bizarre rumor as if it were fact. Oh yeah, and he’s apparently dating a woman named Diane, while Wolfe is married with a kid, so the burden of proof lies with the perpetrators of this make-believe theory.
1. American tricksters?
As with many reality shows, there are murmurings that American Pickers is staged. In particular, people have questioned the viability of trekking across the country to make a small profit – often less than $100 at a time. But there’s no concrete evidence to support the allegations. And Wolfe told Script, “I want people to know this show is not fake.” He added, “I’ve always tried to keep it as real as possible to what I actually did.” So, will we ever know for sure? Probably not.
And if you’re a Food Network fan, you should know that things aren’t all they seem there, either. Behind the scenes, its famous hosts have got into all sorts of trouble – not that you’d know from how they appear on screen. But we have the goss, so strap in and prepare yourself for the most hair-raising moments in Food Network history.
There’s a reason why cooking has been described as the new rock and roll. Yep, when it comes to controversy, scandal and tabloid-baiting drama, the music world arguably has nothing on the current crop of celebrity chefs. And unfortunately for the once-squeaky clean Food Network, it seems to have employed many of the biggest offenders – putting its good name into real jeopardy as a result. Here’s a look at 25 cases that made the headlines.
25. Bobby Flay’s financial scandal
In 2009 Bobby Flay became one of several restaurateurs-turned-Food-Network-stars to be sued by their own employees. Yes, while the regular face of flagship show Iron Chef may present himself as an all-round good guy on screen, staff at his Mesa Grill, Bolo and Bar Americain joints claimed that Flay hadn’t treated them fairly from a financial point of view.
The disgruntled employees of the three restaurants in question argued that they had been “cheated out of wages and tips and [sought] to recover minimum wages, overtime compensation and allegedly misappropriated gratuities.” And while the celebrity chef strenuously denied these damaging allegations, he did agree to pay out a whopping $800,000 settlement.
24. Gordon Ramsay’s demeaning comments
Gordon Ramsay has never been one to hold back, but the hot-headed chef arguably crossed the line when he verbally abused a broadcaster live on stage. The Kitchen Nightmares star was at a 2009 event in Melbourne when he showed audiences a Photoshopped picture of a pig’s face attached to a naked woman crouching on all fours. Ramsey told the crowd, “That’s Tracy Grimshaw. I had an interview with her yesterday. Holy crap. She needs to see Simon Cowell’s Botox doctor.”
Grimshaw later fought back on her show, stating, “I’m not going to sit meekly and let some arrogant narcissist bully me.” And her remarks impressed Kevin Rudd, Australia’s Prime Minister, who went on to describe Ramsay as “a new form of lowlife.” A spokesman for the chef later issued an apology, admitting that “with hindsight, he realizes that his comments were inappropriate and offensive.”
23. Paula Deen’s employee
Since becoming a Food Network star, Paula Deen hasn’t been short of bad publicity. In 2013, for example, employee Dora Charles claimed to The New York Times that the chef had continually taken advantage of her. Reportedly, Charles had been instrumental in helping Deen build her cooking empire, but she was allegedly never financially rewarded as promised.
Charles said, “It’s just time that everybody knows that Paula Deen don’t treat me the way they think she treat me.” Apparently, Deen paid the woman she described as her soul sister under $10 per hour – even as she ascended through the Food Network ranks. Charles added, “I’m not trying to portray that she is a bad person. I’m just trying to put my story out there that she didn’t treat me fairly.”
22. Alton Brown’s harsh words for Anthony Bourdain
Alton Brown took particular umbrage with Anthony Bourdain’s claims that most Food Network stars can’t actually cook. The Kitchen Confidential star made the remark during his “Close to the Bone” tour in 2015, but Brown soon fought back, telling People, “I don’t have to defend my skills against anybody. I’ve got 14 years and 252 episodes of a show called Good Eats that I’m pretty sure I can use as a résumé for my skills.”
Brown then turned the tables, asking, “When was the last time you saw Anthony Bourdain actually cook anything? I’ve spent 14 years cooking my own food on television, and I’ve never seen him cook a meal.” He did acknowledge, however, that Bourdain was “the best writer about food.” And in response, the New Yorker clarified on Twitter that he had “zero beef” with Brown. In fact, the TV personality was apparently a “hero to [Bourdain’s] daughter.”
21. Jamie Oliver’s apparent hypocrisy
In 2008 Jamie Oliver was accused of hypocrisy when he blasted the sale of chickens raised in “morally wrong conditions.” The self-styled “Naked Chef” also implored viewers of one of his U.K. TV shows to boycott stores that relied on factory farming for their eggs and chickens. But his point was undermined by the fact that he was the face of just one such retailer.
Oliver had previously inked a lucrative contract with Sainsbury’s, and the British supermarket chain confirmed at the time that it wasn’t planning to change the way it sourced its chickens. After further pressure from animal welfare groups, however, Sainsbury’s later performed a U-turn. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Oliver believed that he’d been instrumental in this decision.
20. Robert Irvine’s résumé lies
It’s not exactly uncommon to add the odd white lie to a résumé to impress a prospective employer. However, Dinner: Impossible star Robert Irvine took embellishing career achievements to another level. For example, in 2008 it was revealed that the chef had claimed to have worked on Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding cake – a total fabrication. And yet this wasn’t the only untruth that Irvine had told.
Irvine asserted, you see, that he’d been responsible for feeding no fewer than four U.S. presidents – not only that, but apparently he’d been knighted by the Queen. Once the news emerged, the Food Network replaced him with Michael Symon; eventually, though, he returned to our screens and has remained a fixture there ever since.
19. Paula Deen’s diabetes
As is the case with many Food Network dishes, Paula Deen’s recipes are often laden with sugar. Few may have been particularly shocked, then, when the cook revealed in 2012 that she had Type 2 diabetes. But the plot thickened when The New York Times discovered that Deen had been diagnosed three years before her announcement.
Furthermore, it emerged that, alongside her sons, Deen had signed a deal with pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk in the same year that her diagnosis went public. That company was behind a new injectable and non-insulin form of treatment for diabetes, and so many criticized Deen for appearing to profit from a condition her own food could have exacerbated.
18. Graham Elliot’s tip-pooling controversy
In 2012 Graham Elliot, a one-time contestant on Iron Chef, was accused by no fewer than 14 waiters of pooling tips at his eponymous restaurant. Gregory Curtis – a former employee who went on to file a lawsuit – alleged that staff at the Chicago eatery were required to put their tips together, with this money then evenly distributed among all staff.
However, the practice is only legal under federal law when it involves employees who would normally receive tips. And, unfortunately for food runners and cooks, they don’t fall under this category and so shouldn’t have benefited. Ultimately, Elliot settled with the disgruntled waiters who believed they’d lost a significant sum of money.
17. Ree Drummond’s culturally insensitive remarks
The Pioneer Woman episode that got Ree Drummond into trouble actually first aired in 2012. But it took a rerun screened five years later for the chef to be called out for the culturally insensitive remarks she made on screen. And the whole drama revolved around a plate of chicken wings.
In one scene, you see, Drummond dishes out some wings of the spicy Asian variety to her family. After they turn their noses up at the food, however, the star retorts, “I’m just kidding, guys! I wouldn’t do that to you!” before bringing out some Americanized wings instead. And, unsurprisingly, this led to calls for better depictions of Asian culture on the Food Network.
16. Anne Burrell’s alleged employee discrimination
Fans may know that Anne Burrell fronted several Food Network shows, including Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and Worst Cooks in America. She first found fame, however, on Iron Chef America as a sous chef under Mario Batali. And it seems as though his temperament rubbed off on her, judging by a lawsuit filed in 2009.
In the legal documents, Burrell was accused of making derogatory remarks about many of her employees’ private lives and physical appearances at the West Village eatery Centro Vinoteca. And, interestingly, she appeared to take aim solely at her female members of staff. Burrell has never spoken publicly, though, about either the allegations or the settlement she reached with those affected.
15. Ina Garten’s Make-A-Wish snub
Ina Garten has built her reputation on being the kind of eternally cheerful and comforting mother figure who could solve any problem with a decadent and calorific pie. Yet the Barefoot Contessa perhaps isn’t as sweet as we assume, as she’s actually turned down the Make-A-Wish Foundation twice.
Yes, in 2011 the charity contacted Garten to arrange a meeting with Enzo Pereda – a six-year-old diagnosed with leukemia. At the time, though, the chef was busy on the promotional trail for one of her books and so gave a “no” in response. And she once again disappointed her young fan when she refused on a second occasion a year later. It was only when Garten’s refusals went public that she relented, and by this point Pereda had decided that he’d rather swim with dolphins.
14. Geoffrey Zakarian’s bankruptcy
Geoffrey Zakarian’s 2011 victory on Iron Chef: Super Chefs was perhaps slightly soured by the fact that he’d already declared bankruptcy. The Food Network regular had found himself in financial difficulty after being sued by several ex-employees at his Country establishment, with the lawsuit ultimately forcing him to dish out a reported $1.25 million in damages and penalties.
In particular, Zakarian was accused of tampering with pay records, skimping on overtime money for his staff and even docking wages for food that employees never actually consumed. Yet while each and every allegation stemming from the now-closed restaurant was refuted by the Chopped star, he didn’t have the funds to fight the lawsuit – and so was forced to file for bankruptcy.
13. Anthony Bourdain’s criticisms
The late Anthony Bourdain was never afraid to tell it like it is, and he appeared to take particular delight in blasting the stars of the Food Network. Sandra Lee, Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri are just some of the famous faces who have found themselves at the receiving end of Bourdain’s sharp tongue over the years.
Even when Bourdain was offering a compliment to a Food Network star, he couldn’t resist throwing in a sly dig. In 2016 the star revealed to Atlanta magazine that he was a big fan of the Barefoot Contessa, a.k.a. Ina Garten, before adding, “She’s one of the few people on Food Network who can actually cook.”
12. Giada De Laurentiis’ rumored affair
Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay certainly got tongues wagging when they both left their respective partners in around the same period in 2015. De Laurentiis had initiated a divorce from Todd Thompson, while Flay had split from Stephanie, his third wife. And while the Giada At Home star had previously been linked to famous faces such as John Mayer and Matt Lauer, her fellow Food Network star was the one whom tabloids believed had prompted the end of her marriage.
Nevertheless, while speaking to Andy Cohen on his Bravo show, De Laurentiis refuted all the rumors about herself and Flay. She told the host, “Well, we’re very good friends. We’ve worked for many years together, but I don’t think [a relationship is] ever going to happen because I’m smarter than that.”
11. Guy Fieri’s supposed sexism
Guy Fieri doesn’t appear to be the most politically correct Food Network star. For one, the host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has previously been accused of making homophobic and sexist remarks away from the cameras. And according to former producer David Page, editors had to work overtime to ensure that Fieri’s wandering eyes never made it to air.
In 2011 the insider told City Pages, “Any time any woman mentioned ‘cream,’ Guy went into a sexual riff. When cutting the show, you had to tell the editors to watch Guy’s eye line, because it’s always on breasts.” And Page also appeared to reference Fieri when he summarized, “Almost everyone who becomes a star in television develops an abnormal sense of self.”
10. Bobby Flay quitting during filming
Iron Chef Showdown star Bobby Flay certainly knows how to make an exit. Halfway through the 2017 filming of an episode of the Food Network hit, the celebrity cook suddenly took off his apron to reveal a shirt emblazoned with the surprise message “This is my last Iron Chef battle ever.” And according to Vanity Fair, no one but Flay himself knew about the stunt beforehand.
Furthermore, while Flay later told People that the apron-yanking had simply been done in jest, he never returned to the show. A year later, he reportedly explained to fellow Food Network star Michael Symon that Iron Chef Showdown’s relentless schedule had prompted him to make the attention-grabbing statement.
9. Mario Batali’s lawsuit
Mario Batali has been one of the Food Network’s most troublesome stars over the years. In 2010, for instance, he made headlines for his alleged involvement in a tip-skimming scandal. Specifically, the chef was accused by several employees at his various Big Apple restaurants of taking up to 5 percent of the tips that servers had received. This cash was reportedly then used to help top up the salaries of his sommeliers.
The resulting class-action suit took two years to resolve, ending with Batali and his business associates agreeing to pay those affected a total of $5.25 million. No fewer than 117 different plaintiffs were involved in the legal proceedings, which had been launched by ex-waitress Stephanie Capsolas and former kitchen runner Hernan Ricardo Alvarado. Both had previously worked at Batali’s restaurant Babbo.
8. Cat Cora’s DUI
Cat Cora was lucky to avoid a stint behind bars following a DUI conviction in 2012. After all, the Food Network star had been twice over the legal alcohol limit when crashing her vehicle into a BMW in Santa Barbara. For this, Cora was given a suspended prison sentence, probation for three years and a fine; she was also ordered to attend DUI school for nine months.
But Cora apologized for her conduct in a statement released after the verdict. She said, “I deeply regret my decision to drive that evening after my designated driver became unavailable. I learned a very important lesson from this experience and take full accountability for my actions. This will never happen again.”
7. Josh Adam Garcia’s lies
Many viewers of The Next Food Network Star’s third season found themselves rooting for Josh Adam Garcia. The contestant, also known as JAG, claimed that he’d served in Afghanistan with the marines and was now attempting to transfer his skills to the kitchen. But it turned out that the then-25-year-old had somewhat embellished his military experience.
The Army Times reported, “[Garcia] didn’t spend nearly two years in the infantry. He didn’t deploy to any war zone. And while it’s unclear whether he was ever a corporal, what is clear is that the Corps showed him to the door nearly eight months early as a private. Oh yeah, and he never finished culinary school in New York.”
6. Giada De Laurentiis spits out her own food
Giada De Laurentiis may look like she enjoys tucking into her own dishes on her Food Network shows. However, according to an insider quoted by Page Six, the chef rarely lets her lips get anywhere near the food on camera. In fact, when it comes to close-up shots, De Laurentiis allegedly uses a double to eat for her.
Of course, there are moments when De Laurentiis is filmed eating a forkful of food with her entire face in view. But reportedly, instead of swallowing, she will spit the food back out into a bucket off camera. And while De Laurentiis’ representative has branded the claims “absurd,” they did concede that “she doesn’t eat and swallow every time” – as, apparently, there are up to ten takes for some scenes.
5. Rachael Ray’s questionable dog food
Rachael Ray is renowned for her love of animals almost as much as her passion for food. In 2018, though, she came under fire for combining the two. You see, while the Food Network star’s own brand of dog food, Nutrish, claimed to be full of natural ingredients, a lawsuit was ultimately brought over concerns that this wasn’t actually the case.
Glyphosate – a type of herbicide found in weed killers – was alleged to be one of the ingredients, contradicting the brand’s natural claims. Thankfully for Ray, the case was later dismissed, and pet retail giant Petsmart announced that it would be standing by her product. But even so, the media attention surrounding the lawsuit undoubtedly damaged the chef’s dog food venture.
4. Marcela Valladolid’s affair
You get two Food Network stars for the price of one in this particular scandal. Mexican Made Easy host Marcella Valladolid was married when she was appointed a judge on CBS’ The American Baking Competition in 2013. She was joined by the also-attached Paul Hollywood, who would later appear on the Food Network U.K.’s Paul Goes to Hollywood. And the pair soon had more than sweet treats on their minds.
Yes, Valladolid and Hollywood reportedly wasted little time in making their professional relationship a romantic one, with both of their respective partners filing for divorce once word got out. Valladolid would later find love with a new man; Hollywood’s wife, by contrast, ultimately agreed to take him back. But the British baker would once again be sent packing after having been caught kissing a TV show contestant.
3. The Neelys’ fake happiness
For 11 seasons, Down Home with the Neelys presented its husband and wife stars Pat and Gina as happily married. Everyone was left stunned, therefore, when the couple announced that they were going their separate ways – both personally and professionally – in 2014. And it turns out that their picture-perfect relationship had all been just a front.
Yes, in 2018 Gina told People that she’d been on the verge of divorcing Pat before they landed the TV show. The former bank manager also revealed that, in reality, she’d found the whole experience of being a TV personality highly stressful. Yet even so, Gina popped up on Bravo dating show To Rome for Love following her split with Pat.
2. Jamie Oliver’s cultural appropriation
A simple Jamaican-inspired dish saw Jamie Oliver accused of cultural appropriation in 2018. Apparently, the Naked Chef was attempting to showcase his love of Caribbean food by launching a product named Punchy Jerk Rice; the ingredients and Oliver’s lack of Jamaican heritage saw many come out in protest, however, over its authenticity.
Even a British MP waded in on the argument, with Dawn Butler – whose parents hailed from Jamaica – calling Oliver out for his apparent cultural theft. The chef who claimed to have taught Oliver how to make jerk chicken also voiced his displeasure. In response, though, the Brit said that he was only trying to pay tribute to the cuisine he loved.
1. Nigella Lawson’s drug use
Nigella Lawson is viewed by many as one of the most prim and proper TV chefs on our screens. It came as a shock, then, when the domestic goddess admitted to having taken cocaine. The star told a U.K. court, “I have never been a drug addict. I’ve never been a habitual user. There are two times in my life when I have used cocaine.”
Interestingly, Lawson made the confession during a court case involving two of her ex-assistants. Sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo had been accused of stealing a six-figure sum from the chef, although they claimed in turn that Lawson had given them permission to take the cash if they kept news of her drug consumption a secret. The pair were later found not guilty.