Public relations agencies work alongside clients to build their image, which could undeniably change the future of your business. Having a close relationship with your client is also crucial when it comes to public relations. A PR practitioner along with their agency, should do everything in order to keep their client’s reputation in good standing; however, that could be slightly more difficult when it comes to individual clients. More specifically, bold, celebrity chefs.
Today, we will look at the industry’s most-famous chefs and review their reputations perceived by the media. Apparently, talent in the kitchen isn’t enough now a days as some chefs have a front for the camera - naturally, this cooks up some controversy!
Michelin-starred chef and star of Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” Gordon Ramsay has cultivated quite the reputation with his blunt criticism, fiery temper and filthy mouth. The Brit celebrity chef has certainly created his own cooking empire; including 25 restaurants and several television series. Gordon has also gained a large following on Twitter by roasting food pictures fans send to him. He is not shy about judging the food, and some tweets are quite hilarious. Away from being known for his brutal insults, personal issues have impacted Ramsay’s image as well: with a share of feuds with other high-profile chefs (Marco Pierre White), and a mistress in the picture - this can’t be good publicity, Gordon!
New York City-based, marijuana-loving chef Eddie Huang has his fair share of controversy since his opening of BaoHaus, a Taiwanese bun shop in Manhattan. Another restaurant, Xiao Ye, was less successful and closed after poor reviews and controversy over its sales of Four Loko. Huang's career is much about his memoir, “Fresh Off the Boat,” and shows for Viceland; however, he's been involved in other sectors such as corporate law, designing clothes and being an author. Aside from his diverse background, Huang drew in serious criticism for comments he made about black women during an interview on Real Time With Bill Maher in 2005.
"I feel like Asian men have been emasculated so much in America that we're basically treated like Black women." -Huang
This is not the only occasion Huang has offended the African-American culture over social media, and then proceeded to delete it. His foul-mouthed persona and alleged cultural appropriation sparks some discussion, no doubt!
The Travel Channel’s celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has recently passed away at the age of 61 of an apparent suicide. Before his death, the world-traveling chef held a multi-faceted reputation; where he was known for his sharp tongue when it came to his likes and dislikes. Bourdain famously has mocked Rachael Ray via Facebook, held years-long fued with celebrity chef, Paula Deen and was also very open with his issues of being a drug addict - which all added to his “bad boy” image. May it live on, forever!
You may have recognized this celebrity chef from her lifestyle program Rachael Ray or any of her three Food Network series. This businesswoman and celebrity chef has established a pretty tidy reputation; however, viewers mock her for her silly catchphrases, such as “yum-o,” “delish,” “sammies,” and “stoups.” Nonetheless, she appears very friendly and holds a large fan-base!
Ree Drummond, or better known as The Pioneer Woman, has, too, been in hot water for racism. This Food Network Star lives on a working ranch outside of Oklahoma and is known for her blog - where she documents being a ranch wife and mother. With her sweet and down home style, you would think Drummond seems pretty scandal-proof, but she made headlines in 2017. During a Season 2 Episode, Drummond pulls a batch of “Asian hot wings” out the oven and then a tray of American Buffalo wings with comments, “I don’t trust ‘em,” and ”Now those are some wings.” Drummond also explained that her husband loves classic Buffalo wings and she wants to pull a prank on him by serving Asian wings.
"I like to mess with my spouse, I can’t help it,” she says. The offensive conceit — that he and his college buddies would be revolted by Asian wings." - Drummond
Viewers of the Asian-American community quickly clapped back on Twitter with their frustrations of racism throughout the episode. The founders of Thick Dumpling Skin, a website and podcast, initially tweeted the clip of the Season 2 Episode; which sparked major controversy and discussion.
"There isn't a single show on the Food Network hosted by someone Asian, unless you count Iron Chef (and we don't). Why must we watch non-Asian cooks who can't pronounce 'Sriracha' and don't have a chopstick drawer show us how to make our own dishes? And how come, when they do, we have to watch as their entire family mocks it—like in this episode of The Pioneer Woman?" - Chen and Lee, Thick Dumpling Skin founders
This cooking show television host has often been seen in two different lights: “Martha Stewart of the South” or a racist. In recent years, Deen has undergone a swift fall making her one of the most hated celebrity chefs with allegations of racist language in the workplace - causing a lawsuit, canceled contracts and companies that put her face on their products to quickly disaffiliate. Despite racial controversy, she has also gotten backlash from creating unhealthy recipes; as she is known for high amounts of fat, salt and sugar in her creations. She then developed type 2 diabetes herself and partnered with a pharmaceutical company to promote its diabetes drugs. She was “cashing in on a disease that was caused by the kind of high-calorie, fat-laden diet promoted in the recipes she prepared and celebrated on national television,” according to a Bloomberg article. Even that drug company later ended its contract with Deen.
No matter where you stand in the food world, we can all agree that how the public sees you can definitely influence your brand. These celebrity chefs have faced multiple controversial cases within their career, but have for the most part, overcame them. Public relations is all about building relationships to advance, promote, and benefit the reputation of you yourself, your department and institution. This is why public relations is so important when it comes to celebrity chefs, or the food industry overall. PR has the power of changing the way people think about you. Some businesses get a bad reputation unfairly, while other organizations aren’t on the right people’s radar. PR campaigns can help you to fix either circumstance. The right campaigns and PR support can raise awareness for your brand in all the right ways.
Want to learn more about the food industry? What makes an impactful PR campaign and the role of social media influencers in food & beverage PR are a few of the discussions in store for our next Summer School session, “Eating and Drinking Your Way Into PR,” Thursday, July 19. To RSVP, click here.