Celebs Who Slammed The Food Network After They Left

Of the dozens of chefs, hosts, and food experts who have starred on shows for the Food Network since it got its start back in 1993, very few have stuck around for long. In fact, some of them departed under bad terms — and then spoke up about it. The Food Network is a constantly evolving television channel that is seemingly forever tweaking its formula of cooking shows, reality programs, and competitions to pursue what it thinks its audience wants. What's sometimes lost in that chase is the on-air talent that makes millions of viewers tune in regularly.

In the process, well-established, popular chefs and hosts can lose the jobs they've had for years. Sometimes, they suddenly depart their well-liked Food Network show. Many of us already know that rejection hurts and getting fired can be quite traumatic, so it's not shocking to hear that some of these Food Network castoffs have utilized interviews and social media to discuss their departures ... as well as savage their former television home. Here are all the ex-Food Network personalities who criticized the channel after they left it.

Sara Moulton

When Food Network launched in the mid-1990s with a schedule consisting almost entirely of how-to-cook shows, accomplished chef Sara Moulton presided over hundreds of hours of that television. She hosted "Cooking Live," its spinoff "Cooking Live Primetime," and "Sara's Secrets." Then, her shows were canceled and her tenure on the network ended in 2006. "I was part of the old guard and every time a new president comes in they make changes. Another thing happened, they switched their demographic. It had been women of I don't know what age group. But they changed it to 15-35 year old males." Moulton told Eater in 2010. "They were more interested in really good looking people with really big personalities."

In 2015, Moulton provided another pointed and critical assessment of the network she'd helped to build. "They didn't really want women at Food Network. Every male chef had his own set, graphics, music, and tools. Not me. I had no oven, and the counter came up so high I had to stand on a riser," she recalled to Saveur. "The executives were mostly men. And everybody was white."

Robert Irvine

"Dinner: Impossible" arrived on the Food Network in 2007. The series found chef Robert Irvine preparing high-stakes meals for important clients and large groups. Irvine was evidently the right man for the job, as he claimed to have cooked for multiple U.S. presidents and British royals ... at least until it was discovered in 2008 that Irvine's professional history was full of lies. Food Network briefly replaced the apologetic Irvine on "Dinner Impossible" with Michael Symon, but Irvine was able to bounce back after his resume scandal. Food Network rehired the chef and, from 2011 on, Irvine also headlined "Restaurant: Impossible," where he revamped struggling restaurants.

In May 2023, the Food Network once again parted ways with Irvine, but this time, the split appears to be permanent and not nearly as amicable. The channel abruptly ended production on "Restaurant: Impossible" after more than 260 episodes. In the wake of the news, a fan on X, formerly known as Twitter, suggested to Irvine that viewers lobby Food Network to revive the program. "I don't think any amount of fans telling Foodnetwork to bring it back will do anything," Irvine wrote in response. "They have a different idea of what the viewers want and ['Restaurant Impossible'] isn't in that .. so we will move on and see what happens next."

Paula Deen

So what really happened to Paula Deen? In the 2000s and 2010s, she was among Food Network's most prominent and well-liked personalities. Her enthusiasm and warm demeanor sold viewers on the joys of traditional Southern favorites, as the Georgia-based restaurant runner and caterer prepared ridiculously calorie-dense foods loaded with oil, cream, and butter on "Paula's Home Cooking" and a spate of other shows. 

That all abruptly ended in 2013 with one of the biggest scandals to ever hit the Food Network. That year, a former manager of one of Deen's restaurants sued her, alleging discrimination and a hostile, racially insensitive work environment. In a May 2013 deposition, Deen admitted to using a racial slur and other charged language years earlier. Food Network announced that it would essentially fire Deen, technically saying that it was choosing to not renew the cook's contract. Deen hit NBC's "TODAY" to explain herself.

"I believe that everyone should be treated equal. And that's the way I was raised and that's the way I live my life," Deen said, explaining that she wasn't really a racist. Asked by "TODAY" host Matt Lauer if she thought what she'd done was something that should have ended her tenure at Food Network, Deen called out her ex-bosses for punishing her too severely. "Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No," she said.

Emeril Lagasse

Emeril Lagasse was one of the first and biggest stars in the early days of Food Network. The chef and restaurateur's cooking show, "Essence of Emeril," premiered in 1995, and the wildly popular "Emeril Live" arrived in 1997. The weeknight primetime program, produced in front of a studio audience with a live band and cooking demonstrations, showcased Lagasse, who'd "kick it up a notch" and shout "bam!" as he added ingredients. In 2004, a study commissioned by the network's head of programming indicated that the younger viewers advertisers preferred wanted innovative food shows akin to "Iron Chef America" and "Good Eats," not just cooking programming. Food Network spent hundreds of thousands to reboot "Emeril Live," but a new set and the addition of emerging chefs didn't help reverse its falling ratings. In 2007, Food Network canceled both of Lagasse's shows.

Lagasse continued to make food television for other networks and often appeared as a judge on "Top Chef," but he'd rarely return to Food Network. It took nine years for Lagasse to publicly discuss his departure from the channel, which didn't come without some other opportunities. "They wanted me to create these reality shows for Food Network, and at the time I just wasn't into it," Lagasse told GQ in 2016. "When it ended, everybody felt like it was time for a little break. I didn't necessarily think that, but that's what everybody else thought, that maybe it was time for a break from Emeril."

Valerie Bertinelli

Primarily an actor on sitcoms like "One Day at a Time," Valerie Bertinelli got over her imposter syndrome as a chef after she joined Food Network in 2015. On April 8, 2023, Bertinelli posted a bittersweet video on her Instagram account inviting followers to watch the Season 14 debut of "Valerie's Home Cooking," airing the next day on Food Network. 

"The bad news is that it's its final season. Yeah, Food Network canceled us last summer, I have no idea why. I didn't say anything last summer because honestly I was hoping they would change their mind but they have not," Bertinelli said while trying to stop herself from crying. Nine months later, in January 2024, Bertinelli announced on Instagram that she'd lost her other gig on the Food Network, as a host of "Kids Baking Championship." She said "Logically, I know it's business. Budget cuts, right? But it really hurt my feelings to know I'm not going to be asked back."

Over the next few months, the sadness and heartbreak gave way to more pointed anger and criticism, with Bertinelli using Threads to lament how the Food Network had evolved. "I fell in love with Food Network two decades ago because of all the amazing ITK (in the kitchen) shows," Bertinelli wrote, referencing instructional programs hosted by Rachael Ray, Ina Garten, and Giada De Laurentiis. "I learned so much. It's sad it's not about cooking and learning any longer. Oh well, that's just business, folks."

Marcela Valladolid

"The Kitchen" has been a staple of Food Network's daily weekday schedule since 2014. It's hosted by a panel of chefs from different culinary and professional backgrounds engaging in cooking segments, talking about food and joking around with each other. One of the original five hosts was Marcela Valladolid. Raised in Tijuana and classically trained as a chef in Paris, Valladolid published several Mexican cookbooks and hosted Food Network's "Mexican Made Easy" before she joined "The Kitchen." In a turn that would majorly factor into the untold truth of Food Network's "The Kitchen," Valladolid left "The Kitchen" in 2017 and, except for a few cameos since then, left the Food Network entirely.

In her professional life, Valladolid has aimed to dispel myths and stereotypes. "Mexican culture is a bottomless Mary Poppins bag that you can pull magical things out of. My goal has always been to show that," Valladolid told Parents Latina in 2021 (via "TODAY"). She continued on to say that, after several years at Food Network, she regretted not standing up for herself during disagreements with her Food Network bosses. "When you're with executives from the most powerful network on culinary TV, you don't think you can fight back on anything," she said. "I have nothing but gratitude for that relationship, but there are life cycles to jobs. I wanted freedom to do things my way. So one day I said, 'Thank you so much, but no thank you,' and that was it."

Anthony Bourdain

Chef Anthony Bourdain became a media figure with his 1999 New Yorker essay "Don't Eat Before Reading This," which led to his first television series, "A Cook's Tour." The Food Network ended production in 2003 after 35 episodes and Bourdain moved his format — globetrotting adventures sampling interesting food and meeting interesting people — to CNN with "No Reservations." Why the move? According to incoming executives, "A Cook's Tour" scored higher viewership numbers when the show stayed in the U.S. and Bourdain went to Southern barbecue restaurants. Bourdain disagreed and, after the network refused to fund a production trip to Spain to film at the iconic restaurant El Bulli, the chef walked away.

After his former cable TV home evolved into a channel based more on entertainment and personalities than chefs, Bourdain frequently weighed in with his opinion. During a guest blogging stint on food writer Michael Ruhlman's website in 2007, Bourdain praised Food Network stars Alton Brown and Emeril Lagasse, but called Bobby Flay's various televised competitions with small-town cooks "a cruel exercise in humiliation." As for self-proclaimed amateur cook Rachael Ray, Bourdain wrote, "She only grows stronger and more powerful. Her ear-shattering tones louder and louder." He labeled Sandra Lee a "frightening Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker." At a live show in Atlanta in 2015 (via Atlanta), Bourdain proclaimed Ina Garten to be "One of the few people on Food Network who can actually cook. When Ina Garten roasts a chicken, she roasts it correct."

David Rosengarten

To the chagrin of a Food Network producer, the untold truth of "The Next Food Network Star" doesn't involve David Rosengarten. He wasn't a professional chef, but rather a theater professor with a keen knowledge of food and a desire to be on TV, but in the early '90s Rosengarten got hired at the brand-new Food Network as a co-host of "Food News and Views." In 1994, Rosengarten starred in the innovative cooking show "Taste," in which each episode centered on just one dish. The latter show ran for years and, after its cancellation, Rosengarten moved into food writing full-time, authoring cookbooks, serving as an editor at Gourmet, and publishing the newsletter The Rosengarten Report.

Rosengarten was just the kind of underexposed food mind that Food Network wanted for its talent search series "Food Network Star," previously known as "The Next Food Network Star." Not long after that reality show got off the ground in the mid-2000s, a producer called Rosengarten and invited him to audition. 

"Really? You want me to go on a show to see if I'm going to be the next Food Network star?" Rosengarten recalled in "From Scratch: Inside the Food Network." "I'm not sure you're aware of this, but I have some history being on Food Network, and you might want to just look into this before we go ahead and schedule an audition," Rosengarten told the producer — who soon called back to offer an apology.