Nigella Lawson: An additional Chef Lands in the Soup

December 12th, 2013

Neil Hall/Reuters

Nigella Lawson admitted in a London courtroom that she had used medicines.

Last week, the celebrity prepare dinner Nigella Lawson admitted in a London court that she had used cocaine and cannabis.

Although the situation by itself was not about her illicit drug use (it was a fraud trial involving two previous individual assistants accused of having ?685,000, or a lot more than $ million, from Ms. Lawson and her former husband, the advertising and marketing government Charles Saatchi), Ms. Lawson turned the most recent Tv set cooking star to uncover herself embroiled in a tabloid scandal.

Paula Deen manufactured unwelcome headlines previous summer season for using racist language in a court docket deposition, costing her a Foods Network demonstrate, major endorsements and a guide offer. Gordon Ramsay has been accused of infidelity (he has denied it) and was embroiled in a public feud with his father-in-legislation. Mario Batali and his organization associates have been accused of illegally confiscating their servers’ tips. And, of course, Martha Stewart was sentenced to 5 months in jail and fined $ thirty,000 for lying to federal investigators about a inventory sale in late 2001. Celeb chefs, it seems, have turn into the new rock stars of behaving poorly.

“In recent several years there has been a Bourdain-formed notion of the market: that a chef has a rebellious, pirate life-style,” explained Chris Ying, editor in chief of the food magazine Fortunate Peach. He was referring to Anthony Bourdain, the Tv chef whose fame and negative-boy persona rose with his revelations of heroin, cocaine and alcohol abuse. “You’re intended to do cocaine and smoke pot, be a bad boy, perform challenging, operate late, party tough, celebration late, slumber late, go to work once again,” Mr. Ying explained.

So what is a celeb chef to do in the face of all this?

To Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon App?tit magazine, the Lawson circumstance shows the variation among chefs and superstar cooks. “No one’s heading to elevate an eyebrow about the common New York chef likely out and ingesting and sometimes carrying out cocaine,” Mr. Rapoport explained. “That’s what chefs do. It is par for the program.

“The concern with Nigella or Paula Deen,” he explained, “is the distinction between how a celebrity chef offers by themselves on the web page or on the display screen, and what they say or do in community. Men and women really do not like to be deceived. Paula Deen was like your mom or aunt.”

Ms. Lawson’s travails come at a key second in her career. Although a enormous star in Britain by way of her popular Television demonstrates and best-promoting cookbooks, she is very best identified in the United States for currently being a choose on “The Flavor,” a cooking opposition demonstrate on ABC that received blended testimonials during its first season earlier this yr. The display returns on Jan. two with Ms. Lawson as one of the judges.

Some public relations experts say Ms. Lawson has a excellent possibility of weathering the uproar with tiny lasting damage to her model.

“Nigella’s circumstance could not be far more various from Paula Deen’s,” Eric Dezenhall, the main govt of Dezenhall Sources, a communications firm primarily based in Washington that specializes in disaster management, wrote in an e mail. “Race is the cyanide pill of scandals. Virtually no one totally recovers from racial self-implosions.”

That is diverse, he mentioned, from marital and other individual struggles. “Messing with drugs during a reduced time period? Lots of people would find these things defensible in Nigella’s brand name demographic,” he wrote. “Sure, issues look rough now, but my income is on this thing passing.”

Mark Pasetsky, the chief government of Mark Allen &amp Business, a community relations agency dependent in New York, agreed. “As prolonged as Nigella is honest, she’ll be wonderful,” he explained. “Besides, Americans love a comeback, and a lot of her viewers may recognize with some of the troubles she is talking about.”

Mr. Rapoport said People in america are forgiving if you are immediate and explain to the fact. “What they do not like — and you can see this in the circumstance of shamed sportsmen like Lance Armstrong — is when individuals dance about some thing or lie, or are found out to have lied.”

Ms. Lawson is “more Ina Garten than Paula Deen, a higher-stop house cook,” Mr. Rapoport mentioned. “Paula Deen transcended a complete group of classes: she was mother, aunt, good friend, confidante. Rachael Ray has a equivalent high quality. Gordon Ramsay is perceived to be a jerk: that is his total shtick. He started out out sweary. It is about presenting oneself honestly.”

What ought to Ms. Lawson do after the demo to bolster her profession and graphic in the United States? Mr. Pasetsky said she should guide a a single-on-a single reside job interview with a well-known journalist so she can tell her aspect of the tale. “With her demonstrate on ABC, it would be best for her to sit down with possibly Diane Sawyer or Robin Roberts,” he said. “They would equally offer a welcoming however credible surroundings.”

Mr. Dezenhall advised a stealthier rehabilitation campaign. “Less is much more: media roadshows are overkill,” he wrote in his electronic mail. “Go away for a even though, allow the wave of negative press clean over you, then decide one particular location where an interviewer will let you communicate, characterize your hardship, and then shut up.”

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