The Most Obnoxious Chefs of 2011

Bloated egos and raging tempers are not exactly a rare commodity among chefs, but thanks to PR firms and the responsibilities that come with celebrity, the chef who actually unleashes his or her worst impulses in public is surprisingly rare. Still, there are a few chefs we can count on for bad behavior, particularly when it can be expressed in 140 characters or less. Herewith, a roll call of 2011’s most flagrant—and admittedly most entertaining—offenders.

Ludo Lefebvre. Gordon Ramsay (see below) may be in a class of his own, but the Sundance Channel’s Ludo Bites America suggested that Ludo Lefebvre (pictured above) is Ramsay’s heir apparent. The show followed the L.A. chef as he traveled the country turning struggling dives into “the hottest pop-up in town.” Less remarkable than the transformations were Lefebvre’s frequent kitchen temper tantrums, which made a certain segment of America want to bite him right back.

Tyler Florence. In the words of a trusted CHOW colleague, Florence (pictured) is “sort of what happens when a frat boy discovers foie gras, Krug champagne, and pork belly.” Thanks to The Great Food Truck Race, Florence’s egomaniacal charms are no longer limited to dump-and-stir shows, and thanks to Twitter, those charms are unfortunately not limited to TV.

Gordon Ramsay. What’s remarkable about Gordon Ramsay is not so much that he’s obnoxious as how he’s able to remind us he’s obnoxious, seemingly without even trying. His latest coup de grâce: a 42-minute collection of uncensored Hell’s Kitchen clips that show him swearing at contestants, calling one a “fucking donkey” and another a “useless sack of shit.” What a peach.

Todd English. Let’s put aside the fact that Boston “dumped” English in April, calling him, among other things, “an abusive lover” and “deadbeat dad.” Let’s put aside the numerous lawsuits. Let’s even put aside the plans to open a “taco bar in an environment that will look like a Mexican village.” Instead, let’s focus on how the chef defended his record to the New York Times, in which he called himself “a guy with a dream trying to make it all happen.” Seems that one man’s dream is another’s nightmare of bad taste.

David Chang. For a man who’s achieved such success, David Chang (pictured) can certainly be a sensitive flower. In March, the chef got into a Twitter fight with Jay Rayner after the Guardian critic wrote a largely positive review that faulted Má Pêche for not serving dessert. In May, Chang once again took his temper to Twitter after Serious Eats questioned whether $5 was too much to pay for a bottle of Mexican Coke at one of Chang’s restaurants. Also endearing: The chef took time out from his busy schedule to write a Wall Street Journal piece in which he proclaimed himself a “travel snob” and extolled the virtues of Heathrow’s British Airways first-class lounge, which is “limited only to passengers traveling at the appropriate level of first-class-ness." A class act if ever there was one.

The cast of The Chew. Specifically, Mario Batali, Michael Symon, and Carla Hall, who all share some responsibility for an ABC show so dumbed-down and awkward that it makes Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Cooking look like Masterpiece. Between the condescension (see Symon’s definition of a sommelier as a “fancy wine person”) and the exhausting experience of watching a bunch of people talk over each other, it’s hard not to side with irate soap fans on this one.

Image sources: Top, Ludo Lefebvre by Flickr member arnold | inuyaki under Creative Commons; middle, Tyler Florence via FoodNetwork.com; bottom, David Chang by Flickr member Watchmojo under Creative Commons

Rebecca Flint Marx eats and writes in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter. Follow CHOW, too, and become a fan on Facebook.