Celebrity Chef Contrast: Paula Deen and Jamie Oliver

By now I’m sure many of you have heard that Paula Deen has announced she has Type II diabetes.  For those who missed it, here’s an article from the New York Times, “Chef Has Diabetes, and Some Say ‘I Told You So’.”  For years Paula Deen has made a living promoting “southern style” cooking on her Food Network show; she also has a restaurant, Paula Deen branded products and product endorsements.  Her two sons have similarly profited with a  cooking show of their own.  Paula Deen (and family) have been very successful in the cooking world, which is all well and good.  This is America, where if you can get people to buy your product or services, almost anything goes.  And while I don’t subscribe to Paula’s style of cooking (nothing against Southerners, it’s just that her recipes are very calorie dense), we are free to make our own choices.  If Paula wants to promote less than healthy food and people want to eat that, I don’t (really) have a problem with that.  What I do have a problem with is the fact that apparently Paula was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes three years ago and until just a few weeks ago continued to promote her unhealthy cooking.  She defended herself by saying “I wanted to wait until I had something to bring to the table….”  That “something” was another product endorsement, this time for a diabetes medication.

She and her sons, Jamie and Bobby (who do not have diabetes), are all being paid to spearhead the company’s upbeat new public-relations campaign, “Diabetes in a New Light,” which advocates using the drug along with eating lighter foods and increasing physical activity. All the same, Ms. Deen said she would not change her own lifestyle or cooking style drastically, other than to reduce portion sizes of unhealthful foods.

Speculation that Paula was afraid her diagnosis would ruin her financial empire is certainly just that, speculation…but it sure makes sense, doesn’t it?  Especially as it seems the only reason she is now coming forward is so that she can make a chunk of change for endorsing her diabetes medication.  This really just pisses me off.  It also pisses Anthony Bourdain off.  Anthony Bourdain is another celebrity chef (whom I love) who has spoken out against Paula’s cooking methods in the past.  In response to her recent announcement, Anthony posted to Twitter:

“Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.”

While certainly Paula has done nothing illegal, didn’t she have any sense of obligation to reassess the cooking style she has been promoting?  Does the “Lady and Sons Lasagna” really need to have 5 1/2 cups of cheese?

Type II diabetes is also known as “adult onset” diabetes.  It is different from Type I diabetes in that it is usually caused by excessive weight and lack of exercise…in other words, in a majority of cases, Type II diabetes is completely preventable.  The incidence of type II diabetes has been steadily rising, as the weight problem in this country continues to rise.  The worst thing is that what was once a disease found in older adults, is now appearing in young adults and children.  So while I acknowledge that Paula Deen had every right to continue to promote her cooking for three years knowing full well she had type II diabetes, I think it just smacks of irresponsibility.

Now let’s contrast Paula Deen’s behavior with that of Jamie Oliver, another “celebrity chef.”  I have followed Jamie Oliver since I used to watch him on TV when I lived in the UK.  He is fun, unpretentious and using his celebrity for good ~ he runs four different programs within his charitable foundation, all of whom subscribe to the foundation’s basic mission to:

…empower, educate and engage as many people as possible to love and enjoy good food. This means learning how to cook, understanding where food comes from, and recognizing the power it can have on our health, happiness, and even finances. We do this through teaching, training and employment, and also by making good clear information available to as many people as possible.

While Jamie’s charitable work began in the UK (his home), in 2010 he started “Jamie’s Food Revolution,” an organization established to help fight the obesity epidemic in America.  One of his big pushes, both in the US and the UK, has been to educate children about healthy eating, and to get positive changes made in our pathetic school lunch programs.  What Jamie is trying to do is so opposite to Paula Deen.  Just wanted to applaud him and his efforts.

I will leave you today with a recipe of Jamie’s.  This was the “recipe of the day” yesterday and it looks and sounds delicious ~ Spicy Pork and Chilli-pepper Goulash.  I’m giving it a try next week.  🙂

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About Lisa Van Dore

I have lived in Sherborn, Dover and most recently North Walpole, for a total of 15 years (and counting). Having recently been through the process of selling a home and buying (and renovating) a new one, I understand the conflicting emotions of excitement and anxiety inherent in the process, whether you are a seller or buyer, whether this is your first home purchase or your tenth. I have a BA from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Indiana University. My early career found me working as a CPA, and later as the controller of Crate & Barrel. More recently I spent seven years running my own personal training business. I understand the hard work and dedication necessary to build a business and a reputation...most of my personal training clients came to me by referral and my first client was still with me when I decided to leave personal training. This speaks to the level of effort I put forth for my clients, week after week. On a more personal note, I raced triathlon for seven years and more recently completed my first half marathon. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, Maine, hiking and, in the fall, following college football...my teams are the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and Texas Christian University (Go Frogs!).
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