The Underbelly Of The Celebrity Chef Industry


One woman makes a shocking confession: “I wrote and sold the recipe for the Kwanzaa cake to Sandra Lee and, while I’m confessing my soul, yes, for Christ’s sake, the Chanukah cake, too.” In the process, she exposes the celeb-chef-underbelly!

First of all, based on this confession, Denise Vivaldo is awesome. Sins of the cake notwithstanding. By profession, she’s a cookbook co-author and recipe consultant. As she tells us on HuffPo, “Many celebrities or TV chefs hire me because they are too busy to write their own recipes. This is not unusual.” So she ends up working on Sandra Lee’s ersatz oeuvre. And despite her involvement with the aforementioned abominations, she swears so offense was intended.

I can honestly say Ms. Lee had nothing against African Americans or Jews. She just has incredibly bad food taste. She was not discriminating about who would be harmed from her culinary “creations.” Think what your taste would be like if you came from carnival or circus people. Did I just offend Paris Hilton?…When the Angel Food Cake Collection came to life, Ms. Lee was converting to Judaism herself for her new husband and she seriously wanted to bring her new “cuisine” to an entire nation. Well, let’s put it this way, she wanted to sell a shitload of books. And she did. She wanted fame and money. And she succeeded. I believe that’s often thought of as the American dream by many, isn’t it? Note to all American Dreamers: This may be a good time to take a look inward.

As to the notorious Kwanzaa trainwreck itself, here is how it came about:

Ms. Lee called and though we were done with the book, she needed at least ten extra angel food cakes for “fun” sugary holiday times to sell to a magazine….Please ask yourself, what would you have done in my place? See how that Kwanzaa cake is looking better from my perspective? I will tell you truly, the candles were her idea. I guess I imagined something more refined. And I know the Corn Nuts were disgusting, but she didn’t. As a matter of fact, the more tasteless the recipes got the more she liked them, the faster she approved them, and I could get home and drink some medium-priced wine after our meetings. She’s not a good role model for abstinence.

Is it more reassuring or less to know that Sandra Lee didn’t come up with these abominations herself? That two minds went into the pile of corn nuts, pumpkin seeds and whipped cream that was the Kwanzaa cake (a literal case of “too many cooks” if ever we’ve heard it)? That semi-homemade cooking was even less homemade than we knew? I can’t say. What I can say is that I’m absolutely going to read Vivaldo’s The Food Stylist’s Handbook. And that I am more psyched than ever to see what Lee does with the menu for the Governor’s Ball.

The Making Of The Infamous Kwanzaa Cake [Huffington Post]

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