The 5 Most Shocking Celebrity Chef Shills

7/13/2011 22:05:11 PM

Ferran Adrià working for Pepsi? Nate Appleman cooking for Chipotle? What's up with all these high-end chefs aligning with mainstream corporate sponsors? Thanks to the influence of reality TV and the celeb-chef phenomenon, chef shilling has been on the rise lately. Which begs the question – has the food-TV monster turned some famous chefs into sellouts? Here’s a list of the most shocking chef shills in recent years. What do you think – should accomplished professional chefs be plugging Diet Coke and toothpaste? Let us know in the comments.

1. Tom Colicchio, Diet Coke


This one rocked the food world particularly hard due to its reach – the first Diet Coke commercial starring chef Tom Colicchio aired during the 2009 Oscars. Many were quick to label the Craft chef and Top Chef host a “sellout,” and the issue was even a hot topic of discussion on a reunion episode of Top Chef – when Bravo's Andy Cohen mentioned former cheftestant Elia Aboumrad's harsh words about the ads in the press. Her attacks claimed Colicchio was "all about high-fructose corn syrup and had corn-fed beef on all of his menus now." Tom responded by saying: "I buy more produce from farmer's markets than Elia has seen in her life in the course of a month." Colicchio has stated he only "endorses products he uses…he sells the product in his restaurants and drinks Diet Coke on a daily basis."

2. Carla Hall, Fancy Feast


A former Top Chef shilling cat food? Well, not only that, she's also the judge of a sweepstakes in which aspiring cooks can submit their own cat food recipes, leading us to wonder – is she tasting the stuff too?!

The Fancy Feast commercials feature such memorable lines as: "Imagine how many cats you're making happy right there? Hootie hoo!" We love cats (and Carla too), but we think she'd be packing her knives if this were some kind of Top Chef challenge.

3. Emeril Lagasse, Crest Toothpaste


In 2003, The Food Network star became the front man for a line of Crest "Whitening Expressions" flavors. While Emeril is no stranger to TV (or shilling for that matter – although he's usually hawking his own products), seeing a famous chef suddenly selling vanilla-flavored toothpaste elicited a "Bam!" of the wrong kind.

More recently, along the same dental lines, chef Homaro Cantu (Moto, Chicago) appeared in an ad selling toothbrushes and floss in the latest issue of Food & Wine magazine. All these chef dental shills are more annoying than having something stuck in our teeth.

>b>4. Alex Guarnaschelli, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter


Recently the Food Network star and Butter (NYC) chef began appearing in website promotions for margarine brand I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. While she clearly has no issues making TV appearances, this one came as a bit of a surprise given that Alex is such a seasoned NY chef with seemingly very high standards. Did she get picked just because she helms a restaurant named Butter? Nope. According to the company's website, "she grew up watching her mother enjoy her toast at breakfast with the delicious taste of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" Inevitably, she has "passion for the spread" that "continues to this day." How convenient!

5. Marco Pierre White, Knorr


This (somewhat terrifying) chef who briefly had his own reality show, The Chopping Block, has been long considered a a bit of a food snob (and is said to be mentor to both Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali). So it naturally came as a bit of a surprise when the chef began shilling for Knorr, a company that makes powdered soup mixes and bouillon cubes. Although we've heard that "everyone uses Knorr in England," it's still a bit of a shocker that the high-end chef would vouch for a processed product you'd likely find in a Sandra Lee recipe.

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