Padma Lakshmi isn't technically a celebrity chef. Yes, she's published two cookbooks and hosted/starred in an array of food-related programming. But she's also known for plenty of other endeavors, chief among them being married to Salman Rushdie and her career as a highly successful Indian model/actress. This doesn't make her latest venture any less embarassing, though.
Lakshmi is the star of a new Carl's Jr. commerical for the Western Bacon Six Dollar Burger, modeled along the lines of the provocative ad starring Paris Hilton. In the newest ad, Lakshmi veritably has oral sex with the oozing burger while cheesy softcore porn music plays in the background.
Not one to get all pearl-clutchy about these things, I'll admit that I loved the Paris Hilton video. This is a woman who's built her entire public persona on a sex tape and a questionable fortune. For her to do a Carl's Jr. ad that lambasted her notoriously prurient lifestyle was sheer, tongue-in-cheek fun.
Lakshmi's ad, however, just seems a disappointing sell-out. Here's a lovely woman who's quite talented in many aspects, crudely using her charms in an ad for a drippy, grease-soaked cheeseburger that -- admittedly -- she'd probably never be caught eating in real life. It's no secret that Lakshmi has proudly displayed her rampant sex appeal in the past, but in this vulgar context it's simply an embarassment.
To welcome her into the club of celebrity chefs who have made similar gaffes in the past (albeit not all of them sexual), I polled our readers on Twitter for their favorite embarassing moments in TV cooking history.
My personal favorite embarassing moment was the episode of Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee in which the eponymous host creates a Kwanzaa cake. At once disgusting and deeply offensive, the bright-eyed cluelessness which with she constructs the monstrosity sends this clip to the top of my list.
@jeffbalke shared his favorite Rachael Ray moment, in which the chipper cook learns how to stroke the silk off an ear of corn. It looks every bit as dirty as it sounds. The soundtrack in the clip below doesn't help.
From @astromark comes this genius clip of Richard Simmons displaying his newest culinary invention -- a steam cooker -- on Late Night with David Letterman with disastrous results.
@andy065 submits this classic clip of Emeril Lagasse cooking with Elmo on a very special episode of Sesame Street. Heartwarming, right? @andy065 counters: "Yeah you pick up kid viewers, but you still have a dude on his knees next to you behind that counter."
Leaving aside his cringe-inducing commercials for Colgate (they are simply too terrifying to be posted here), poor Emeril seems to have a knack for embarassing himself. @psandalio (pastry chef at Textile and Gravitas) has fond memories of "emeril trying to make pate choux. he puts the eggs in the pot with the flour, creating scrambled eggs." And local food blogger @drricky fondly recalls "Emeril peeking into the oven in the background just as Julia Child was advising against opening the oven during a souffle demo."
@klww posits that the beloved Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, was embarassing simply "for no other reason than his clothing." That, and the abominable Dixie Cup commerical in which he starred in the late 1970s (and which probably led to at least a dozen heart attacks).
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Rounding out the list are three of the top celebrity chefs today: Gordon Ramsey, whose many issues are succinctly pointed out by @ThursdayGirl while @KolacheFactory simply states that "Hell's Kitchen's so called "Chefs" are an abomination to the culinary arts."
Bobby Flay's prowess is seriously questioned by @KolacheFactory -- "on Throwdown he is 12-27-1... not a great record for his own show" -- and echoed by @psandalio -- "bobby flay and cat cora on iron chef. really? that's our country's iron chefs?"
And bringing up the rear is Rocco Dispirito, whose antics are summed up by @brittanieshey: "Everything about Rocco Di Spirito is embarassing."
Have a favorite embarassing TV cooking clip or chef story you'd like to share? Leave it in the comments section below.