Got a friend who can’t stand cilantro? A colleague who turns up their nose at your raisin-laced scones? Food aversions are super common, but did you know that they plague the pros, too?
You’d think that chefs would be, by and large, willing and able to cook a huge panoply of things. It’s hard to imagine a picky chef. But chefs are human, and they too have food preferences, ranging from things they’re not super into to foods they just can’t stand. And often, they’re pretty vocal about it.
Want to know who hates cilantro so much that if they saw it on their plate, they’d "pick it up and throw it on the floor?" Interested in who’s had their mind changed about a formerly detested category of cuisine? Dying to find out what culinary trend had Giada de Laurentiis so enraged the soft-spoken chef actually cussed on a podcast? We’ve got the deets — read on to get all the gossip.
Julia Child hated cilantro
One of the most famous celebrity chefs had one of the most widespread food aversions: that’s right, Julia Child couldn’t abide cilantro. If this opinion is so widespread, it’s all down to genetics. Indeed, according to a genetic survey from researchers at Cornell, an aversion to cilantro comes from the presence of the gene OR6A2, which "codes the receptor that picks up the scent of aldehyde chemicals." These chemicals are also found in soap, which is why some who don’t like cilantro claim it tastes soapy. In an interview with Larry King in 2002, Child told King that the herb had "kind of a dead taste" to her.
Child spent much of her career living in France, where it would have been unlikely for her to come across cilantro, which is far more common to Mexican or Indian cuisines. But another one of her food aversions, which, she conveyed to King, she disliked for exactly the same reason, is arugula. Known as roquette in French, this peppery salad leaf is something Child would have been far more likely to come across in her travels in France or neighboring Italy. Not only, she tells King, would she never order it, but, she adds, "I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor."
Aside from these two greens, however, Child had a pretty adventurous palate. "If it’s properly cooked and properly served," she told King, "I can’t think of anything I hate."
Ina Garten hates pre-grated Parmesan cheese
Ina Garten shares quite a bit with Julia Child: the Francophile cooks both had very successful and completely non-food-related careers before turning to the kitchen (Child worked developing shark repellent for the agency that would become the CIA; Garten was a nuclear budget analyst for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission). Both are massive francophiles, both have absolutely adorable, adoring husbands to spoil with their rich, buttery cooking. And both hate cilantro.
Like Child, Garten must boast the same OR6A2 gene, which contributes to the herb tasting soapy to some people. Of her aversion, Garten tells TIME, "I just won’t go near it." But that’s not the only thing this entertaining expert won’t eat. "I’m not big on things with eyeballs," she tells TIME. "And foam."
Fair enough. But unless you’re buying whole fish or dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant, it’s unlikely you’ll come across eyeballs at home. There is, however, one thing that this cook, so famous for telling people that "store-bought is fine" that it spawned a blog, an Instagram account, and more memes than you can count, cannot abide: pre-grated Parmesan. And honestly, fair enough.
Not only is it highly suspicious when a dairy product is shelf-stable, but the FDA found in 2016 that some brands of shaker cheese were cutting the product with cellulose, aka sawdust. Woodsy aromas in your Chardonnay? Sure. Actual wood in your cheese? Uh … no thanks.
Wolfgang Puck hates peanut butter
One of America’s favorite sandwich fillings is a bit more divisive abroad: Indeed, peanut butter confuses the heck out of most non-Americans, as a cursory glance at Twitter shows. One user teased that a time-honored PB&J was not an "acceptable thing to eat for a meal," while another went so far as to claim that the American affinity for PB is proof positive that "all Americans have brain worms." (There’s even a whole video of foreigners reacting to American peanut butter brands.)
One foreigner, who really can’t stand peanut butter? Austrian super chef (and long-time American resident) Wolfgang Puck. Despite living in the U.S. since the ’70s, Puck has never gotten on-board with this nostalgic American classic, telling The Daily Meal that he has "no taste for peanut butter."
"I don’t know why," he says, noting that he nevertheless likes Nutella, a chocolate-hazelnut spread that is far sweeter and more, well, chocolatey than peanut butter, much more of a dessert than a sandwich spread. (Anecdotally, both gianduja (the name for the spread of which Nutella is a brand name) and peanut butter first rose to acclaim following war rationing, albeit on opposite sides of the pond.)
Gordon Ramsay refuses to eat vegan food (or at least he used to)
Gordon Ramsay has long been known for his hot-headedness and vitriolic jabs; indeed, he’s made a whole career out of telling people their food is "ghastly." So it was perhaps no surprise that he pulled no punches when it comes to plant-based diets. When one Twitter user asked him in 2016 if he was allergic to anything, the superstar chef quipped "vegans." And The Telegraph reports, he’s got a history of being far from keen on vegetarians, to boot.
"If one of my daughters’ boyfriends turns out to be vegetarian," he said, "I swear to God I’d never forgive them." Melodramatic, much? Ramsay also joked that his "worst nightmare" was for one of his children to adopt the diet. "If the kids ever came up to me and said, ‘Dad, I’m a vegetarian,’ then I would sit them on the fence and electrocute them."
But the chef is eating his words now. Not only has he rolled out vegan items at his restaurants and told TikTok he was "turning vegan" before offering up a now-viral aubergine (read: eggplant) steak recipe, but when Piers Morgan had the audacity to critique the vegan roast on offer at Ramsay’s London-based Bread Street Kitchen, Ramsay pulled no punches. "So, Piers Morgan is now a food critic," he said during an appearance on the "Late Late Show with James Cordon." "Go and f*ck yourself."
Giada de Laurentiis hates cauliflower rice
Sometimes, a food trend takes on a life of its own. Such is the case of cauliflower rice, which began its rise to fame in the wake of a wash of low-carb diets. Fast forward a few years, and bags of crucifer pellets have their way into Trader Joe’s. For Italian celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, this trend is a very unwelcome addition to the culinary scene.
On Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio podcast, De Laurentiis chatted about her new book, discussing not only the changes she’s had to make in her diet of late — cutting back on alcohol, for instance. But she also took a moment to focus on cauliflower, which, she writes in her book, is having its "Hollywood moment" thanks to its neutral flavor. While cauliflower is indeed versatile, and she celebrates it for being something plain enough that kids will eat, she is not a fan of it in riced form. At. All.
"Right now, cauliflower rice is having its heyday," she tells Kimball. "I wish it would go away soon, because it’s gross to me." Kimball laughs and pokes fun of the famously soft-spoken chef for having such a clear opinion on the grain replacement, which De Laurentiis takes on the chin. "I fu*king hate it," she adds, laughingly. "I don’t like cauliflower rice, Okay? Leave me alone!"
Rachael Ray isn’t a fan of cooked salmon
Rachael Ray is nothing if not approachable in her style and palate, leaning into shortcuts like pre-shredded cheese to help dinner get on the table fast. But despite her gregarious personality and humble attitude towards food, there are a few things this cook cannot stand. The first — and one that most of her fans already know about — is mayonnaise.
"Shelf-stable mayonnaise creeps me out!" Ray told People in an interview. "I will make an aioli myself and I love Aquafaba, because it’s chickpea-based. But it’s something about knowing that there’s eggs in mayonnaise and that it’s sitting on a hot shelf for months and months. It makes me want to retch."
But while Ray’s hatred of mayo has been common knowledge among her fans for a while now, it wasn’t until a recent Q&A with her hubby John on her "Rachael Ray Show" that she revealed her dislike of cooked salmon, an aversion she and John share.
She notes that while she does indeed like raw salmon, like sashimi, or smoked salmon, like lox, she is "not a huge fan" of cooked salmon. It’s far from her loathing of mayonnaise, but from someone who, in the same interview, claims she would "eat a worm for a dollar" when she was a little girl, it’s an aversion nonetheless. Suffice it to say, we won’t be serving Ray grilled salmon if she ever comes round for dinner!
Bobby Flay hates durian
Durian is a divisive food for sure, with a pungent aroma that led Singapore’s public transit authorities to forbid the fruit from being brought onto subways or buses. Foodies from 17th-century missionary Jacques de Bourges to New York Times journalist Thomas Fuller have waxed poetic about the South Asian fruit, which hides beneath a spiky exterior a creamy-textured treat. The latter notably wrote that the "pale yellow, creamy flesh" exhibits "overtones of hazelnut, apricot, caramelized banana and egg custard." Fuller went on to proclaim "There is no other fruit like it."
But others are not nearly so taken with durian. Late foodie Anthony Bourdain reportedly once said that after eating durian, "Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother."
And Food Network star Chef Bobby Flay definitively falls into the latter category."It’s awful," he told People. "I don’t want to be around it."
Andrew Zimmern doesn’t like walnuts
Much like Bobby Flay, Andrew Zimmern is no lover of durian, writing on Twitter in 2017: "I have eaten durian a lot, trying to give it a chance but I don’t care for it." But while his response to the stinky Southeast Asian fruit is pretty measured, such care was not taken with his other pet peeves, all of which are fairly innocuous: raw cookie dough, hot oatmeal, and, perhaps most surprisingly, walnuts — all of which elicited a "yecch" from the "Bizarre Foods" host in his Tweet.
"Won’t eat ’em, can’t stand ’em," he tells People. "Raw cookie dough. Won’t eat it. Can’t stand it. Oatmeal. Won’t eat, can’t stand it." Is it a textural thing? A flavor thing? Has he stumbled upon a rancid one that turned him off the brain-boosting nut? Hard to know for sure. While his aversion to them pops up in interviews all over the place, he rarely says more about it than what he told Yahoo!: "I just don’t like walnuts."
Zimmern is nevertheless self-aware of the irony of this food aversion, telling People, "I love fermented walrus anus, so I get to not like some things."
Guy Fieri avoids eggs
On "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," Guy Fieri seems to like pretty much everything he sinks his teeth into, from crocodile burgers to a three-pepper hot sauce so spicy it could cook raw chicken. In fact, unlike outspoken critics like Gordon Ramsay, Fieri has a policy of keeping things he doesn’t like to himself, telling the Hollywood Reporter, "If I don’t like the food, you won’t see it on my shows."
That said, there is one thing that the spiky-haired chef really cannot stand, and that’s eggs. But that wasn’t always the case! Fieri tells Extra Crispy that he used to love eggs, and that, seeing as he was raised by health-conscious parents, "A fried egg sandwich with processed cheese on white bread when I would go to my friend’s house was the greatest thing in the world."
He recalls, at around the age of 10, he "came to a very clear understanding of how chickens grow — when we opened the egg." The shell cracked to reveal, not a blood spot, but "a whole chicken." But believe it or not, that’s not the experience that made him swear off eggs!
"That didn’t really freak me out," he claims. "You know what it was? It’s that I had a bad hard-boiled egg. It was the chalky yolk." We’re not too sure we believe Fieri’s story, but the fact remains: you likely won’t see boiled eggs on DDD any time soon.
Alain Ducasse won’t be buying Beyond Meat anytime soon
While plant-based dining has become fairly widespread in the U.S. with 36 percent of American consumers identifying as flexitarian, according to a recent survey from leading market research firm Packaged Facts, it’s taking a bit longer for the trend to take hold in France. One recent announcement to remove meat from school cafeteria menus just once a week was met with "uproar and howls of outrage," according to the Guardian, and a similar, temporary measure in charcuterie center Lyon in early 2021 saw farmers band together in protest, bringing tractors but also cows and goats to city hall as they bore banners proclaiming "Meat from our fields = a healthy child."
Superstar chef Alain Ducasse, who boasts multiple Michelin stars across his many establishments, is not of the same opinion. "There’s no need to consume animal protein four times a week," he tells Business Insider. But one thing this chef, who even runs a meat-free restaurant, cannot abide? Plant-based meat analogs. "We don’t need vegetables to look like meat," Ducasse says. "They should just look like vegetables. Period."
In this, he is aligned with his countrymen, who object to the use of the word "meat," "sausage," or "steak" in association with a product not derived of animal sources. In fact, last year, a law officially banning the use of these terms passed in France. (Plant-based-meat-analaog-patty just doesn’t have the same ring as veggie burger, and yet here we are.)
Emeril Lagasse hates bouillon cubes
In a world where toxic chefs are being revealed left, right, and center, Cajun chef Emeril Lagasse still seems like a genuinely good guy. In an interview with Grub Street, he says, "There’s enough drama in the real world, I really stay out of it in the food world. I find it to be a huge waste of time."
"There’s no room for that kind of nonsense in my life," he continues. "If I’m confronted with negativity, all I can think is, ‘You can’t be everything to everybody.’"
It’s perhaps no surprise that if he’s got nothing bad to say about anybody, he’s got nothing bad to say about any food, either! And for the most part, that’s true. He tells Grub Street that he doesn’t consider himself a food snob, noting that he "can go to any regular restaurant and find good about it," though he draws the line at fast food. "My children will never, ever eat at fast-food restaurants," he says. "It’s strictly not allowed." And maybe if we were James Beard-award-winning chefs, we’d have the same McDonald’s aversion. (Especially since their fries have really gone downhill of late.)
Fast food aside, Lagasse says he has no qualms about taking shortcuts in the kitchen, noting he’s even been known to "do things like buy chicken stock instead of making it homemade." Lagasse goes on to clarify "I draw the line at salted bouillons; I’d never do that!"
Nigella Lawson hates anything in a ramekin
Nigella Lawson is the textbook definition of low-key when it comes to cooking. The "Domestic Goddess" is known for taking viewers along as she, pajama-clad, seeks a sweet midnight snack, for simplifying finicky bearnaise by adding tarragon vinegar and dried tarragon to egg yolks instead of making a white wine reduction, as is traditional. She even proudly leans on a much-maligned kitchen tool, the microwave (which she bafflingly yet endearingly calls her micro-wavé).
Her lack of pretension is perhaps what has led to her aversion, not to a food, per se, but to a kitchen tool: the ramekin.
Maybe she thinks it’s too fussy; maybe, as her Twitter status suggests, she just doesn’t like the way the word sounds. But to Lawson’s credit, she’s not so averse that she can’t clamor for a chocolate chip cookie dough pot. And honestly, we get it. They look awesome. Maybe she’d be okay with mixing up a microwavé-ed chocolate mug cake in a ramekin, too?