People look to the stars to illuminate the way and introduce new trends, and celebrity chefs are no different. Some chefs have animal-friendly platforms and promote kind and sustainable recipes and eating habits, while others openly and unabashedly abuse animals. The popularity of these chefs, in turn, reflect society’s attitudes toward animals and eating.
This year a study titled, “Making the Animals on the Plate Visible: Anglophone Celebrity Chef Cookbooks Ranked by Sentient Animal Deaths” was published in the journal Food Ethics. The research predominantly focuses on the role of celebrity chefs popularizing certain ingredients and food trends. The authors, Andy Lamey and Ike Sharpless from the University of California, San Diego, write, “The rise of the chef as celebrity has coincided with increased consciousness of ethical issues pertaining to food, particularly as they concern animals. Whether they intend it or not, celebrity chefs’ food choices and public meal recommendations are ethically significant.”
To accurately represent the celebrity chefs featured in our list, we have adjusted the rankings to reflect recent changes. These changes include attitude shifts and the blatant promotion of the cruelest forms of animal abuse, including the use of veal, foie gras, and boiling lobsters alive. We have also taken the current positive actions or statements from some celebrity chefs, such as the promotion of plant-based diets, into account. With these considerations in mind, here are the 10 Worst Celebrity Chefs in regards to animal suffering and slaughter.
10 Worst Celebrity Chefs
1. Mario Batali
5.25 deaths per recipe.
In Batali’s book Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking, there were 620 total deaths.
Batali has celebrated numerous forms of animal cruelty throughout his career. He promotes veal and foie gras which are produced via the prolonged torture and extreme confinement of calves, ducks, and geese. He has also boiled lobsters alive and butchered live catfish on his television shows. These culinary choices go beyond mere apathy towards animal suffering and are inherently malicious. Batali’s cookbooks follow in this vein and exhibit a systematic devaluation of animals’ lives. For instance, one of his recipes requires over 500 baby eels. Surely, even most meat eaters can appreciate why killing that many animals for a single meal is morally repugnant.
Batali has publicly stated that meat consumption contributes to environmental destruction and co-authored a flexitarian cookbook. These actions could potentially make him more dangerous. People may assume that his recipes are written with an eye toward reducing animal suffering and environmental damage when in reality, the harm they cause is much higher than average.
2. Susur Lee
1.32 deaths per recipe.
In Lee’s cookbook Susur: A Culinary Life, there were 188 total deaths.
Susur Lee earned a spot on this list not only because of how many animals suffer and die for his recipes, but also because of the intensity of the suffering they are forced to endure. His restaurants currently serve foie gras, and he has named it as his third favorite dish. Foie gras is the diseased liver of ducks or geese and is produced by force-feeding them enormous quantities of grain. This is done by jamming metal pipes down their sensitive throats and pumping food directly into their stomachs. This process causes the animals intense pain as well as physical injury. Force-feeding makes the birds’ livers expand to ten times their natural size, which impairs blood flow and makes it difficult for them to breath. Any promotion of this cruel dish exhibits a profound disregard for animal welfare. Although Susur Lee has done vegetable-focused cooking, his cookbooks don’t reflect the most ethical decisions.
3. Rachael Ray
0.45 animal deaths per recipe.
In Rachael’s cookbook Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners, there were 165 total deaths.
Most people associate vegetarian diets with increased ethical awareness, but Rachel Ray’s vegetarian cookbook is an animal cruelty festival of horrors. Some of its recipes require cheese made with rennet. Rennet is curdled milk extracted from the stomachs of a calves who haven’t begun to eat solid food yet and are still nursing. Many of the calves used for rennet production are “rejects”, from the dairy industry who are kidnapped and killed so their mothers’ milk can be stolen for human consumption.
In some cases, rennet is made from the stomach lining of unborn calves. Pregnant cows often arrive at slaughterhouses when they are about to give birth. After being killed, their unborn, almost fully formed, babies are cut out of their wombs and butchered. The unborn calves sometimes die when their nutrition supply is cut off after their mother’s death. If they are still alive when removed from the womb, their throats are cut and they are bled to death.
The degree of brutality that goes into producing rennet is astronomical. It is inconceivable how anyone in their right mind could include it in a vegetarian cookbook. Furthermore, Rachael rarely makes plant-based dishes on her TV show, which is viewed by millions of people throughout the United States. Because of her influence over a broad audience, her choices in the kitchen are doing more harm than good. While her charity work for homeless dogs and cats is commendable, it is unfortunate that her compassion does not extend to animals who suffer and die for her food choices.
4. Nigella Lawson
0.69 deaths per recipe.
In Nigella’s cookbook, 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast, there were 84 total deaths.
Stuffing a salad with animal abuse is a difficult feat, but one which Nigella Lawson, host of Nigella Kitchen, has managed to pull off with grace. One of her recipes called “Salad Nicoise,” requires eggs and tuna fish. Multiple undercover investigations have exposed the horrific cruelty inflicted on commercially fished tuna. The animals are skewered in the face with hooks and then dragged aboard boats where they are either stabbed to death with knives or slowly suffocate from oxygen deprivation. They writhe in agony for many minutes before their lives are snuffed out. The brutality of commercial tuna fishing rivals that of Japan’s well-publicized dolphin massacres. Since research has firmly established that fish are capable of feeling pain, there is no reason to think tuna fish suffer any less than dolphins or any other animals.
The eggs required by this recipe add on another layer of immorality. Chickens in the egg industry spend most of their lives in tiny wire cages where they have less than a square foot of living space. The animals cannot fully spread out their wings for the duration of their pitiful lives. Their bones slowly become weak from lack of use, and many of them lose their feathers.
Beyond her salads, most of Lawson’s recipes are filled with the flesh and secretions of tortured animals. Many of her shows, including Nigella Express and Nigella Bites, give viewers tips about how to use animal-based ingredients. To compound this, Lawson also supports the fur industry and hunting. It is abundantly clear that this woman completely lacks any moral compass at all where animals are concerned.
5. Guy Fieri
0.55 deaths per recipe
In Fieri’s book, Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It, there were 71 total deaths.
Guy Fieri is essentially a walking, talking puppet who promotes the consumption of cruel and unhealthy foods on behalf of industry groups. He is known for his show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, where he eats large portioned, meat-centric meals. Fieri’s heavy use of pork has earned him a seat on the National Pork Board, and many of his shows are directly sponsored and funded by the organization.
Pigs raised for meat are housed in unsanitary, overcrowded, and inhumane conditions, which cause the animals to lose their minds and sometimes engage in cannibalism. Farmers cruelly clip their ears, tails, and teeth without painkillers when they are only a few days old, usually in full view of their mothers. Males also have their testicles ripped out without anesthesia. Pigs suffer immensely during slaughter. Although most slaughterhouses attempt to render them unconscious before they are killed, it’s a frequently ineffective effort. Animals often have their throats cut and are butchered while they are fully aware of what is happening to them.
The National Pork Board has actively opposed legislation which would provide minimal relief to pigs suffering on factory farms. This legislation includes prohibitions on confining pregnant pigs to gestation crates that are so small the animals are unable to turn around or lie down. Due to Fieri’s position in the organization, he is complicit in its efforts to obstruct the passage of animal abuse laws.
6. Emeril Lagasse
0.37 deaths per recipe.
In Emeril’s cookbook, Emeril’s New New Orleans Cooking there were 71 total deaths.
Emeril Lagasse’s recipes and cookbooks are studded with animal torture and cruelty. For example, he has repeatedly boiled lobsters, crabs, and other crustaceans alive on his cooking shows. Crustaceans are capable of feeling pain and cooking them in this manner constitutes unimaginable agony. It is so inhumane that it was recently made illegal in Switzerland, which now requires the animals to be rendered unconscious and killed before they are boiled.
Lagasse appears to have some concern for ocean ecosystems since he has appeared in ads to raise awareness about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. However, inflicting such severe abuse on ocean creatures is inconsistent with any conception of conservation or environmentalism. He also promotes the consumption of veal and foie gras, which are produced by extensively tormenting geese and calves with extreme confinement, nutrient deprivation, and force feeding. More generally, Lagasse’s recipes almost always include large portions of chicken, pork and beef; and that has yet to change.
7. Tom Colicchio
0.64 deaths per recipe.
In Tom’s cookbook, Craft of Cooking, there were 62 total deaths.
Colicchio claims to stand against factory farming, but his actions are clearly operating in opposition to his stated beliefs. The recipes in his cookbooks focus on meat-based dishes that include chicken, pork, and seafood, and he has shown a preference for such meals on television. Most of the people following his recipes almost certainly use ingredients from standard factory farms. Even if they do switch to purchasing from more “humane” farms, it will not change the fact that animals are unnecessarily being slaughtered and butchered to provide taste pleasure that can be derived instead from animal-free alternatives.
Some of Colicchio’s recipes also include veal, one of the cruelest and most inhumane animal products of all. Veal is produced by taking newborn calves away from their mothers and confining them to tiny crates where they are unable to lie down or turn around comfortably. In some cases, they are even chained to their stalls to restrict their movement. Unable to move, the calves’ muscles do not develop which makes their flesh tender and white. The animals are not given solid food and deprived of iron.
Some of Colicchio’s recipes, such as his “Braised Stuffed Breast of Veal,” combine veal with cheese and other dairy products. Mother cows who are victims of the dairy industry are forcefully impregnated and then have their calves stolen from them soon after birth. This causes mothers and their babies intense distress, and they spend many days fruitlessly searching for their newborns. The calves are taken away so the milk their mothers produce for them can instead be taken for human consumption. Many of these kidnapped calves enter the veal industry. Cooking tortured calves in the stolen milk of their mothers is truly repulsive and only a particularly depraved mind would think of doing such a thing.
We must note that Colicchio has co-founded an organization called Food Policy Action which works to make food production more sustainable and healthy food more readily available. His work is commendable, but it doesn’t nullify the damage he is doing by promoting animal products. In blatant contrast to his organization’s mission, the production of the animal products he includes in his recipes is a major contributor to climate change, and the consumption of animal products are linked to several chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
8. Jeff Henderson
0.60 deaths per recipe.
In Jeff’s cookbook, Chef Jeff Cooks: In the Kitchen with America’s Inspirational New Culinary Star, there were 61 total deaths.
Despite having family members who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, Jeff Henderson’s choices in the kitchen do not reflect any respect for a plant-based diet. Most of his traditional Southern cooking focuses heavily on chickens. The degree of animal suffering he manages to pack into his recipes is stupendous.
For instance, his recipe for Gumbo (a traditional Louisiana dish) contains crab, shrimp, cow flesh, pork and chicken. Although crabs and other crustaceans are capable of feeling pain, they are not protected by any animal cruelty legislation and are frequently slaughtered in horrendous ways. In some cases, they are torn apart while fully conscious.
Cows raised and slaughtered for beef also suffer immensely. Male cows have their horns burned off and their testicles cut off without anesthesia. Both males and females have numbers branded into their skin with hot irons. The burns often get infected and cause the animals chronic pain. Due to improper stunning during slaughter, cows are frequently skinned alive and butchered while fully conscious. Pigs and chickens are similarly raised in cruel conditions and endure painful deaths. This one recipe requires the death and suffering of dozens of animals.
Henderson’s work to help at-risk youth is laudable, but it is regrettable that his compassion does not extend to the animals who suffer and die for his recipes. By promoting cruel and unhealthy eating habits, he is also unintentionally hurting the underprivileged people he is trying to help. Without access to proper healthcare or resources, people living in poverty are not able to receive the necessary care to treat illnesses linked to meat and dairy consumption and his recipes cause desensitivity to suffering and violence.
9. Mark McEwan
0.63 deaths per recipe.
In Mark’s cookbook, Great Food at Home: Family-style Recipes For Everyday, there were 60 total deaths.
Whether an animal has fins, suckers, hooves, horns, or paws, none are safe from Mark McEwan’s cruelty, which extends far beyond “ordinary” borders. Despite being head judge chef on Meals Network Canada’s Best Chef Canada, McEwan is named on the Worst Chef list for using his celebrity status and influence to advocate for apathy toward animal suffering and expanding the boundaries of society’s brutality toward animals.
McEwan serves veal in his restaurants, and opposed the Chicago City Council’s decision to ban foie gras in 2006. His restaurants also serve bison and baby octopus, and he has participated in a Food Network Canada competition to cook dishes made from horse meat.
The abhorrent cruelty involved in producing horse meat is well-documented. The animals are transported without food and water for days, and become seriously injured during transportation. Due to improper stunning in slaughterhouses, horses can have their throats cut while fully conscious and can be butchered alive.
McEwan’s work for hunger relief is commendable. However, meat consumption is a major contributor to world hunger due to the enormous, unsustainable quantities of grain required to produce small quantities of meat. By promoting meat-heavy diets, he is unwittingly, but undeniably, contributing to the problem he is trying to solve.
10. Yotam Ottolenghi
0.52 deaths per recipe.
In Yotam’s cookbook, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, there were 46 total deaths.
Although many of Yotam’s cookbooks focus on vegetables, his overall approach to cooking manifests ingrained callousness towards animal welfare. This callousness is best illustrated in his recipe which requires stuffing four baby chickens with minced lamb flesh.
Lambs raised for meat either live in cramped indoor facilities or outdoor areas where they are exposed to the elements and rarely receive veterinary care. They are also subjected to tail docking, an agonizing procedure in which their tails are sliced off without painkillers. The animals are typically slaughtered when they are only 6 - 8 months old. This heartless treatment causes lambs and their mothers significant psychological distress.
Chickens raised for meat suffer similarly on commercial factory farms, and are killed at a very young age. Ottolenghi’s recipes also include veal which requires the prolonged torture and slaughter of calves. While all animal slaughter is unethical, killing infant and newborn animals is particularly troubling. Ottolenghi’s obsession with eating their flesh is disturbing.
Many chefs exhibit a systemic disregard for the suffering of animals, but they at least stop short of eating them alive. Nobu Yamazaki has sunk to this new low. He runs a small Japanese restaurant in Brooklyn called Sushi Taro, which serves sushi made from live octopus. The animals are mutilated, have sauces sprinkled on them, and are then chewed while they are fully conscious.
Octopuses have highly developed nervous systems and are extremely intelligent. They can distinguish between different shapes, are able to use tools, and have advanced problem-solving capabilities. Consequently, they are protected by animal cruelty and animal testing regulations in the United Kingdom and the European Union. Inflicting such torture on these animals is reprehensible and hideously immoral.
Most people of sound mind consider terminating an animal’s life to be a mournful affair, but Michael Hunter revels in it. He brags about personally shooting wild animals with guns and crossbows to serve their flesh in his Toronto restaurant, Antler Kitchen. More often than not, animals who are shot with crossbows don’t die immediately. If the animals are not hit in the head or heart, they may escape from their pursuers and spend many days suffering before they die from blood loss, infected wounds, or predator attacks. To top it off, Hunter serves foie gras. In response to protests over the cruelty and hideous abuse he inflicts on animals, Hunter cut up a deer carcass in his restaurant’s front window.
When presented with new information, people can adapt and alter their views and actions. That is why certain celebrity chefs have been left off of this list, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Gordon Ramsay.
Although Fearnley-Whittingstall is not a vegan himself, he has become an advocate of plant-based diets and has recently released a vegan cookbook. Then, there’s Ramsay, who has become increasingly passionate about defending veganism in recent months. If other celebrity chefs could echo this kind of forward-thinking mindset to promote the better treatment of animals in future, then we are all for it!
What You Can Do
Celebrity chefs cater to the general public’s tastes, which we can all help mold in an animal-friendly direction by transitioning to a plant-based diet. Learn how to begin by downloading our free and simple starter guide today: www.idausa.org/VegGuide
Many chefs already cook exclusively plant-based fare and supporting them is a great way of encouraging others to follow in their footsteps! Some plant-based chefs to support include:
Isa is a chef from Brooklyn who owns a restaurant called Modern Love. She has authored multiple bestselling cookbooks, such as Isa Does It, which focuses on simple recipes made with readily available ingredients. You can visit her blog to read more about her work.
Chloe was the first vegan chef to win an award on a TV broadcasted cooking competition, and founded the By Chloe restaurant chain. One of her cookbooks entitled Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen contains over 100 recipes for pizzas, pasta, pestos and other classic Italian dishes. Follow her on Twitter to learn about her efforts to make vegan cooking mainstream.
Tal is a chef from Los Angeles who specializes in French cuisine. He was called “America’s best vegan chef” by Oprah Winfrey and catered Ellen Degeneres’ wedding. His 2009 cookbook, The Conscious Cook, contains plant-based versions of traditional French dishes and new recipes of his own design. Follow his restaurant, Crossroads, on Instagram to keep apprised of his creations.
Richa runs the Vegan Richa blog and has been featured in many prominent media outlets, such as Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, and The Huffington Post. Her 2015 cookbook, Vegan Richa’s India Kitchen, is a #1 Amazon Bestseller and contains a variety of Indian recipes that are both simple and delicious.
Eddie is a Mexican-American chef who uses his cooking skills to advocate for improved food systems in Latino communities. He is a frequent guest on Latin American television programs and authored the ¡Salud! Vegan Mexican Cookbook which contains 150 recipes, to represent the 150 pounds he lost after going vegan! Visit his website to learn how to support his work.