Fight! Fight! Fight! The food world erupted several times this past year when both new and longtime rivals got nasty. Chefs attacked critics, everyone sued Gordon Ramsay, and Gwyneth Paltrow and Martha Stewart bared their fangs. Get out the popcorn:
Gwyneth vs. Martha
The domestic goddess/livestyle guru wars reached a fever pitch this past year: Actress/kale enthusiast/GOOP founder Gwyneth Paltrow and the queen of DIY/media mogul Martha Stewart took turns at each other's throats in increasingly creative ways. Stewart started the feud when she told Porter magazine: "[Paltrow] just needs to be quiet. She's a movie star. If she were confident in her acting, she wouldn't be trying to be Martha Stewart." A month later, Paltrow fired back: "No one has ever said anything bad about me before, so I'm shocked and devastated. I'll try to recover.... If I'm really honest, I'm so psyched that she sees us as competition. I really am." Stewart thought long and hard about her next move and then blew everyone out of the lifestyle cat fight category with a six-page spread that poked fun at Paltrow's conscious uncoupling. In return, Paltrow published a recipe for "Jailbird Cake," a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Stewart's stint behind bars. Martha, it's your move.
John Tesar vs. Leslie Brenner
Dallas was ablaze this year: chef John Tesar (Knife, Proof + Pantry) and Dallas Morning News critic Leslie Brenner took turns insulting each other on Twitter and in print. It all started when Tesar got a three (out of five) star review from the longtime restaurant critic.
@lesbren fuck you ! Your reviews are misleading poorly written,self serving and you have destroyed the star system and you really suck— John Tesar (@ChefJohnTesar) July 17, 2014
Then, Tesar tried to get Brenner "voted out of office," before banning her from his restaurants. Fans mostly sided with the chef on Twitter... and then Tesar ended upon the front page of the Guide section of the paper. Not long after, Brenner came out to say Tesar had launched a defamatory smear campaign against her. Tesar then sent a letter to Brenner's editor — which he published on Facebook for all the world to see — slamming her for "sins against journalism." The Washington Post brought the feud into the national spotlight and found that Tesar and partners are formally banning the Dallas Morning News from their restaurants. Brenner, it's your move.
Gordon Ramsay vs. Father-in-Law
Shouty chef Gordon Ramsay has been battling his father-in-law since 2010. In 2011, he accused father-in-law Chris Hutcheson of stealing over $2 million. This past year, Ramsay filed suit against Hutcheson for fraud. Ramsay told the court that he felt like a "performing monkey" because while he worked day and night, his father-in-law sat around getting up to "no good" in a cushy office position. Hutcheson, it's your move — but you should probably just back down.
McDonald's vs. Loitering Senior Citizens
Early in 2014, a NYC-based McDonald's called the cops on a group of loitering senior citizens. Apparently, a group of Korean seniors used the McDonald's as a meeting place and would share a small side of French fries while loitering for hours. The uproar that followed could be felt all the way into McDonald's headquarters just outside of Chicago. Politicians and local community leaders got involved, as did the larger Korean community. Eventually, a McResolution was announced: management at the McDonald's franchise agreed to "extend sitting hours for seniors except during high-traffic hours" and "post signs to communicate in both Chinese and Korean." Crisis averted.
Olive Garden vs. Investor Starboard Value: The Breadstick Battle
America shuddered when one of Olive Garden's investors, Starboard Value, tried to do away with Olive Garden's famous unlimited breadsticks policy. Olive Garden's parent company, Darden, fired back at Starboard with a powerpoint that claimed unlimited breadsticks were a symbol of the chain's "Italian generosity," adding that "Olive Garden's salad and breadsticks have been an icon of brand equity since 1982." Starboard forged ahead with its plan to curtail the free carbs, and even oustedthe breadstick-loving Olive Garden board of directors. So far, Darden has not imposed a limit on breadsticks, but anything could happen in 2015. Carb-loving consumers: Load up.
Gordon Ramsay vs. Former Fat Cow Business Partner
Another year, another dozen lawsuits against Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay. This past year, Ramsay's former business partner in his latest LA venture (the now shuttered) Fat Cow Rowen Seibel sued the chef for $10 million. His claim? Ramsay "deliberately mishandled a trademark problem for their LA eatery The Fat Cow" and then "formed a new company with new partners and then secretly negotiated a deal with his Los Angeles landlord" to create a new restaurant in The Fat Cow's space. Ramsay's camp immediately fired back, telling Eater LA: "We're surprised that Mr. Seibel has the audacity to file this ridiculous suit when he and his team were responsible for the day to day running of The Fat Cow and spectacularly mismanaged it resulting in a string of financial and legal issues." Ramsay then countersued, accusing Seibel of a "fraudulent scheme to freeload" and blaming him for Fat Cow's shutter. Then, both Ramsay and Seibel were sued by the Fat Cow's former landlord for past due rent. It's anyone's move, really.