An article from Tuesday's New York Times dining section has sent several celebrity chefs scrambling after being accused of using ghostwriters to compose their successful cookbooks. "I wrote nine cookbooks and many other chefs' projects over the next five years, some credited but most anonymous," writes Julia Moskin in I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter. Among the accused chefs are Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver, Rachael Ray and Gwyneth Paltrow (though Moskin has worked with none of them).
Both Ray and Paltrow have responded, claiming that Moskin's accusations are false, but, really, who cares if they are true? The idea of busy chefs using ghostwriters to make their recipes more accessible doesn't seem particularly terrible. We know Mario Batali and Jamie Oliver are good chefs, but we also know that they're busy (Oliver, saving the world, and Batali, not cutting his hair). What does it matter if they don't physically type their cookbooks as long as the content is inspired by their kitchens? A bit of scandal, I suppose, would be understandable if Anthony Bourdain or, I don't know, M.F.K. Fisher were accused of using ghostwriters since both have presented themselves as authors and memoirists, but what does Rachael Ray present herself as other than a chef? They are not writers and I don't think many expect them to be.
Lastly, is it silly to expect credit if you are hired expressly as a ghostwriter? Isn't being present but hidden inherent to both the position and the word "ghost"? On one hand, doing work and not being recognized for it sucks, no question. And there is certainly something immoral about a chef promising credit then later denying it. But what about the times when a chef invites you into his or her kitchen to learn his or her process then contracts you to convert their culinary philosophy into print? To then cry foul is, at worst, immature and, at best, unprofessional.
[UPDATE] We were contacted by Rachael Ray's publicist who was kind enough to pass along Ms. Ray's official statement. Here goes:
The New York Times in today's article "I Was A Cookbook Ghost Writer" by Julia Moskin inaccurately implies that I employ ghost writers to write my cookbooks for me.
In well over a decade of writing recipes for many cookbooks, television shows, and magazines, I have not now nor have I ever employed a ghost writer. My recipes are written by me and are my own, and if someone else deserved credit, it was duly noted. While I appreciate the tone of Ms. Moskin's article insofar as it celebrates the unsung heroes that are ghost writers, I simply don't use them.
I was never contacted by anyone to fact check this story.
Wes Martin is a valued colleague, talented food stylist, friend, and frequent contributor to the daytime show, who styled food photography and supplemental video for my recent book release "Look and Cook." He also developed a few desserts for me over the years, for which I have given him credit. On video and in photos he "gets" what my food should look like, but he is not my ghost writer.