Anthony Bourdain and Paula Deen are both food television stars in their own right, Bourdain for his adventurous culinary journeys and Deen for her delectable yet accessible Southern recipes. Although these two foodies are both talented and beloved by the American public, they couldn't stand each other and made no secrets about it, as became clear in the Paula Deen vs Anthony Bourdain feud of 2011.
Paula Deen vs Anthony Bourdain
Before his untimely death in 2018, Bourdain was a New-York based world-famous chef, author and TV personality. The NYC chef traveled to the remote corners of the earth learning about and sampling food of all kinds in his Travel Channel TV shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown. He also wrote multiple best-selling books, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly being the most famous.
Paula Deen, on the other hand, is a well-loved American chef renowned for her Southern cooking, which she displays on her TV shows, cookbooks and restaurants. Deen is a Food Network star who charms her viewers with her down-to-earth and relatable charm as she cooks up tasty meals that any home cook can replicate on the Food Network.
It's no surprise that these two celebrity chefs clashed, since their audiences, life experiences, and approaches to food were vastly different. Paula Deen aside, Bourdain was famous for his rants and strong opinions, having already thrown some serious shade on Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray, so it seemed that the Paula Deen vs Anthony Bourdain conflict would be no different.
The Conflict Arises
Back in 2011, the year before Paula Deen's Foods was launched, Bourdain publicly and vehemently denounced Paula Deen, holding nothing back and starting an all-out feud. As the conflict began, Bourdain told TV Guide that that Deen is "the worst, most dangerous person to America" because of her high-fat, butter-filled cooking.
In defense, Deen asserted that "You know, not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine. My friends and I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills . . . It wasn't that long ago that I was struggling to feed my family, too."
Although Bourdain hadn't said much out of the ordinary in context of his other rants and personal conflicts, the New York Post jumped on the comments, making them public and causing the argument to snowball into a conversation that included seemingly everyone.
Opinions From All Sides
In The New York Times, former restaurant critic Frank Bruni wrote an entire column about the snobby tone of Bourdain's opinion, titled Unsavory Culinary Elitism. He took issue with Bourdain's word choice, saying that:
"...treating Deen, Lee & Co. with anything that smacks of moralizing and snobbery isn't likely to move them or their audience toward healthier eating. It's apt to cook up resentment. And we've got enough ill will and polarization in our politics. Let's not set a place for them at the table."
The conflict was trending throughout the social media and the food world, and more and more members of the culinary community weighed in with varying opinions.
Is Paula Deen the Magic Ingredient?
In response, Bourdain consented that Bruni had "good points." Then, adding her two cents to the Paula Deen vs Anthony Bourdain argument, Rebecca Marx wrote a piece asserting that "Deen is no less a member of the culinary aristocracy than Bourdain -- they just belong to country clubs with different rules."
One person who stood up for chef Anthony Bourdain was his friend Andrew Zimmerman, who said of Bourdain that "Tony is one of the most caring, kind, loving people I know but he is painted as a cold-hearted cynic. And, Paula probably cooks less of the food she is famous for now than she used to."
Then, food writer Jane Black made the point that Food Network stars like Paula Deen are the exact people who can bridge the gap between home cooks and elite foodies. In her article, she asked the question "What if the magic ingredient to changing the way we eat turned out to be Paula Deen after all?"
Paula Deen's Diabetes Announcement
Despite the commentary supporting Paula Deen and her accessible home-grown cooking methods, the following year more conflicts between the two food celebrities continued, sparked by Deen's type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
In 2012, 64-year-old Paula Deen confirmed on NBC's Today Show that she had been diagnosed with diabetes three years previously and was launching a campaign in partnership with diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk.
While explaining her delayed announcement, Deen said "I felt like I had nothing to offer anybody other than the announcement. I wasn't armed with enough knowledge. I knew when it was time, it would be in God's time."
Bourdain Adding Fire to the Flame
When her announcement went public, Bourdain reasserted his strong opinions of Deen's cooking, saying to Eater that "When your signature dish is hamburger in between a doughnut, and you've been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you've got Type 2 Diabetes... It's in bad taste if nothing else."
While fans of Paula Deen took offense at his snobbishness, others were in agreement of Anthony Bourdain's outspoken condemnation of high-fat cooking as a norm. "She need not stop cooking, but she should probably eat that way only rarely," said Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Although both Paula Deen and Anthony Bourdain had conflicting philosophies when it comes to food to say the least, they each brought something unique and valuable to the world of cooking. However, as much as I support a healthy lifestyle, I sure hope that Paula Deen never holds back on the cheese, butter or otherwise delicious ingredients that make her cooking so indulgent and delectable.