Every year, Eater tracks all of the most salacious scandals that rocked the dining public and restaurant world. This year was no slouch. From major players like Paula Deen, Guy Fieri, and Amy's Baking Company to artisanal chocolate, Starbucks, and Subway, it was quite a year. Here's a review:
Ex-Subway Spokesperson Jared Fogle's Sick Downfall
The man who inspired millions to lose weigh on the Subway diet was this year charged and convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography and engaging in and paying for "commercial sex acts with a minor." He promptly lost his cushy gig with Subway, and after a relatively short trial Fogle will serve 15 years for his crimes and pay $1.4 million to his victims. The kicker? Fogle, who pleaded guilty, plans to appeal his sentence.
Relive the memories. This past spring, a nondescript family-owned pizzeria in Walkerton, Indiana fell victim to equal parts media whirlwind and ignorant bigotry. The owners of Memories Pizza told a local news reporter on camera that, if asked, they would refuse to cater a gay wedding. Word spread, the shit hit the fan, and both the gays and the squares carried this scandal into the next month. By fall, a gay couple married and tricked Memories Pizza into catering their wedding.
Amy's Baking Company
For the fourth year in a row, the bakery owned by Samy and Amy Bouzaglo made this list, but this might just be the last year Amy's Baking Company makes headlines, because this is the year it closed. Fans and haters turned out in droves to defend and defame the Bouzaglos as they explained they would continue to make and sell pastries, but they would close their beleaguered storefront. Mostly, people were glad to see the place go: Mike Mitchell wrote: "Not sad this place is closing the Woman is a real fruitcake [sic]."
Guy Fieri's Lost Winery Dream
Early in the year human flameball Guy Fieri applied to open a winery and tasting room in Sonoma, where he lives. The Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments swiftly rejected the proposal. At least 150 residents opposed the measure, noting that a wine-drenched Flavortown would attract Fieri fans and result in additional noise in the area. A month later, Fieri still had not appealed the decision, and apparently plans for Hunt-Ryd Winery (named for his kids) are indefinitely on hold.
Paula Deen Gets Risqué on Dancing With the Stars
Maybe one year Paula Deen won't make this list? Maybe. This year Deen agreed to join the cast of Dancing With the Stars. That should be scandalous enough. But then Grandma butter queen promised she wouldn't show too much skin. About half-way through the season Deen donned a pair of panties that said "Shake It" on the bottom and twice in one routine hoisted her skirt up so the audience could see her butt. The icing on the not-sexy cake? At some point during the routine her partner Mark Ballas, "slap[ped] her booty repeatedly." A week later Deen was eliminated from the contest.
The Napa Valley Wine Train
Ah, the saga of a train that runs through Napa Valley. In August, a book club composed of black women was kicked off of the Napa Valley Wine Train, a business that rents space on a train and travels from vineyard to vineyard in Napa, Calif. Guests are encouraged to drink; Merriment is a common result of drinking. But for operators of the Napa Valley Wine Train, the book club was making too much noise, what with their joy and laughter. They were ushered off the train while the rest of the guests continued. It didn't take long for the book club to sue, citing discrimination. Eventually the train's operators came forward with an apology. Apparently the Napa Valley Wine Train has a history of racism. About a month later the business was sold to new owners; the lawsuit is still pending.
Starbucks Race Together, Red Cups, Cookies
People really liked picking on Starbucks this year.
First, CEO Howard Schultz wanted to do a good thing. He wanted to get people to talk about race relations in America. But the way he went about it — by asking baristas to randomly write "race together" on some cups and having baristas ask customers how many times they'd been to the home of someone of a different race (awkward all around) — was all wrong. The campaign became the laughing stock of the internet. It didn't take long for Starbucks to put the kibosh on the whole thing.
But by Christmastime, people with too much time on their hands were ready to pick on Starbucks again. This time, it was Starbucks holiday cups, which were released for the first time without snowflakes or other so-called Christmas-themed elements. God forbid. To top it all off, the internet resurrected a five-year-old cookie Starbucks once sold and said the red scarf around the bears' necks looked a lot like a bloody wound. Oh silly internet.
Remember that time Whole Foods put three stalks of asparagus in a 16-ounce bottle of water and slapped a $6 price tag on it? The internet — and people across the country — went berserk. Sadly, what should have been a ringer for Whole Foods' blatant disregard for the average American paycheck ended up being human error. It will live on in our memories forever.
Two years ago, the New York Times published a recipe inspired by New York City-based chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten in which English peas are mixed into guacamole. This past summer, some intern tweeted the recipe with the text, "Add green peas to your guacamole. Trust us." All hell broke loose. Obama weighed in. The NYT and Vongerichten defended their recipe. People just went ape shit. And we're still not over it.
Fig & Olive Restaurants' Dirty Little Secret
After dozens of diners fell ill from salmonella poisoning, fancy chain Fig & Olive was exposed as a sham. The pricey restaurants in Los Angeles, D.C., and New York were caught serving frozen and pre-prepared food made in a central commissary — a far cry from the fresh and locally sourced menu they peddled to the public. Fig & Olive's publicists are still fighting reports from the Washington City Paper, where the story continues to unfold.
Mast Brothers Chocolate Mess
A blogger based in Dallas, Texas pens a take down of a couple of bearded brothers in hipster-heavy Brooklyn. No, it's not modern day fiction, but a real life scandal in which Mast Brothers — a chocolate company that excels in marketing skills but not in chocolate making technique — was accused of and eventually admitted to using pre-made chocolate when times were tough. This wouldn't have been such a problem except for the fact that the company has always heralded its artisanal bean-to-bar mantra. Now the public knows Mast Bros. are a couple of cheats wrapped in pretty wrapping paper.
Blue Bell's Listeria Shut Down
Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries lost the faith of some of its fans when it recalled all of its products over a month after several people fell ill after eating its ice cream. The culprit? Listeria. The deadly bacteria sent people to the hospital and caused Blue Bell to shut down production. The problem was not just that Blue Bell was producing food product in tainted facilitates, but that the company did not react to alarming evidence from employees that safety measures were not being enforced. Today, Blue Bell is mostly back, but its reputation has seen better days.
Chipotle's Public Health Scare
People are joking about it now: Is anyone still eating at Chipotle? The company that spurred a thousand imitators has an Achilles heel, and it's food-borne illness. In October, Chipotle shut down 43 restaurants in Oregon and Washington after dozens of people fell ill or were hospitalized after being infected with E. coli. Another Chipotle location in Massachusetts was shuttered when a sick employee caused nearly a hundred people to get norovirus. The outbreak spread again, and though CEO Steve Ells has issued a number of public apologies, Chipotle's stock continues to sink. Will Chipotle rise again in 2016?