A scandalous incident on a TV food show. No, not that one.

By now you have probably at least heard about the brouhaha over the owners of a restaurant/bakery that appeared on Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares show (U.S. version). If not, you can read about it here and many, many other places.


There was a big to-do surrounding a TV food show here in France too. The show in question: Top Chef. (Yes there's one of those in France.) The winner, a 29 year old sous chef called Naoëlle d’Hainaut, was declared the winner of this year's contest, but she got there by enraging most of the viewing public...by stealing some shrimp from fellow contestant Yoni Saada in the last cook-off before the finals.

Here's a video of the segment where she commits the dirty deed.

Of course, the outraged French public went to Twitter and Facebook and so forth to express their anger. There's even a Facebook page, Anti-Naoëlle 2013 with 81K+ likes, which seems to want to have her crown taken away from her. After she won the title and the €100,000 prize, she was in a public voting situation versus the winner of last year's Top Chef. The voting public gleefully said "non" to her, giving 3/4th of their votes to the other guy, even though she's spent most of of the time since her win apologizing profusely (although recently she's started accusing her detractors of being racist because she has Arabic roots). French gossip sites and tabloids still haven't stopped talking about it.

What's struck me most about both situations is how absolutely awful and rude people can be towards these temporary TV celebrities. Sure, the couple from Amy's Bakery Company don't seem to be very nice people, and Naoëlle did basically cheat to win. But does that mean they deserve to be pilloried by hate by strangers? Does the fact that they went on reality TV shows mean they're fair game? Maybe. But for crying out loud, why do people waste their time and energy hating on strangers? I really don't get that part at all.

It's also a reminder that the successful shows on TV about food these days are less and less about food, and more and more about the reality shenanigans.

Gosh, I miss Julia.

Filed under:  books and media tv offbeat france usa

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I'd just reloaded your page to get your frozen yogurt recipe and saw this!

This is... just absolutely amazing. Amazing in a bad way I mean. I couldn't imagine thinking to myself 'Gee, I really hated that restaurant I went to last night, let's start an "anti-restaurant" webpage on facebook and spend all my time posting there.' It seems silly and pointless. I also may not know the entire story about something. I did think that something seemed a little unfair on Masterchef a few years ago, but never took to social media because -- again -- I don't know the whole story.

Wow, wow, wow.

'Gosh, I miss Julia' absolutely sums up why I don't watch cookery shows on television!

According to

"Yoni nous l’a dit* : vous lui avez demandé les crevettes, mais ça n’a pas été montré."

*I'd suppose in the Canal+ program.

If this is true, how could/did it happen ?

I saw that too and wondered what the heck was going on, because in the actual program it certainly looked like she stole the shrimp. She even admitted she did. Weird, and annoying too if it's *manufactured* drama. makes me hate reality-food-TV shows even more.

Unfortunately, food shows have been infected with the nasty virus that is "Reality" TV.

Admittedly, I love the original Iron Chef, but I think it was because it was just so crazy over-the-top. The American version is not terrible, but I miss the original Chairman! The redeeming factors for me are Alton Brown (bit of a man-crush), and Kevin Brauch (a fellow Canadian, and the best world-traveller/world-drinker I've ever seen).

I saw that Gordon Ramsay episode and went to see what people had to say about the restaurant on yelp. I was just amazed at the number of reviews on there about the restaurant by people who have never even been there! How can people even write a review when they've never even eaten there!

And I did read the yelp review that started the yelp haters thing, and yes, there are really a lot of malicious yelp reviewers. Which is, on one hand very surprising and on the other, not very surprising at all. Yelp reviewers who blackmail restaurants and try to get things by selling their reviews are just ugh, not that this review was like that.

But there should be some kind of reviewing standard. I mean you cannot, I repeat cannot, review something if you have not even been there. I want to go there myself just to check it out, see what the food is really like. I mean I will trust Gordon Ramsay most of the time. If he says the food isn't great, odds are it's not. But sometimes I think even he gets caught up in the moment and may be a bit overcritical.

Anyways, I'll stop now. I just don't get people sometimes. But you do have to admit, that restaurant probably had it coming. Hiring and firing about 100 employees in a year? That just seems a little high to me.

I agree that you shouldn't review a place you've never been, but I actually find this kind of fuss heartening. People who perform unethically in public spheres by lying, stealing, or acting cruelly to others should be publicly called-out on their behavior. (If it happens in private, the reaction should likewise be private.)

Where you invite public accolades, you also invite public criticism. And I think it sends a very clear message to other restaurant owners / contestants (as the case may be) that that kind of behavior isn't tolerated, so don't do whatever they do. Isn't that ultimately a good thing?

I thought the whole reason people watched these shows were to see all the ugliness of human behaviour. I don't watch them, so I don't care (shrug)

They say that she didn't steal the shrimps after all. The guy issued a denial and said she asked him if it was OK to take them.


Just a note: any statement made in the comments that could be libelous towards any of the parties mentioned will be deleted.

Sniffle... Yeah, Julia Child is so cool. So charming.

That's what Twitter has become good for -- bullying.

..will face public scrutiny. Perhaps staying anonymous is the way to go? Today's youth will have it worse, even if they aren't on TV (until the story hits a national paper): http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/apr/09/paris-brown-stands-down-twitter

I wish there was more River Cottage; seeing ingredients being plucked from the earth/picked from the wild and then cooked is something I find more entertaining (perhaps my drama threshold is too low?).

I miss Julia too. I miss Jacques Pepin. I miss good cooking shows. D:

you're absolutely right : people are in for the show, not the cooking, but they don't want to be cheated even if they know the game is rigged.
But put people behind a screen with the power to be awful without consequences and you will have a lot of candidates to ugliness.
Thank you for your blog