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Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten was unaware of request, but will now host her young fan

Garten The Barefoot Contessa is no Heartless Contessa, and has been "devastated" by criticism leveled against her.

It was only this weekend that Food Network star Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa, learned that a young boy named Enzo had a long-standing request to meet her through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, according to a spokesman. Garten gets about 100 requests per month, and wasn't aware that the request had been made or rejected. Touched by the young fan's desire to meet her, Garten is calling Enzo today to speak with him and invite him to join her at the Food Network studios, according to a statement released on Garten's behalf.

The statement also underscored the demands that are placed on public figures such as Garten, and the difficult choices that must be made:

"She contributes both personally and financially on a regular basis to numerous causes, including to Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sadly, it’s of course not possible to do them all. Throughout her life, Ina has contributed generously to all kinds of important efforts and she will continue to do so."

Garten was completely blindsided by the media firestorm this weekend over her reported refusals to meet with the young boy suffering from cancer. The boy would watch Garten from his sick bed, and twice requested a meeting with her through Make-A-Wish. The second time the request was made, Garten's representatives -- unbeknown to her -- gave the family a "definite no." Disappointed, the boy's family wrote about the rejection on its blog. From there, it was picked up by TMZ and exploded online, with criticism raining down on Garten's head. (We wrote about the controversy here.)

A source close to Garten said that the Barefoot Contessa believes charity and public works are part of duty as a public figure and that she works extensively for a variety of causes, including  battered women,  cancer patients, AIDS awareness and animal rights. "She was personally devastated" by all the criticism, the source said.

Even the little boy's family came to Garten's defense, with a blog post entitled: "Please Stop the Madness," which said the story was being blown out of proportion. The family said it did not hold any ill will toward Garten when Garten's representatives repeatedly told them that the Barefoot Contessa was unavailable to meet with little Enzo. While disappointed, they said they understood that, sometimes, things do not work out:

"I had written about our disappointment when we originally found out, but asked everyone in the spirit of Enzo to please just 'let it go' and move forward... I want to make it VERY CLEAR we have NO ANGER OR ILL WILL toward Ina Garten... Enzo found great comfort in watching her cook when he was going through his toughest times and for that we are so grateful."

No doubt, the family will be happy to get that phone call from Garten.

What do you think about this latest turn of events?

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo courtesy Ina Garten representatives

Comments () | Archives (117)

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The proof is in the pudding. How many wishes has she granted? How many dreams has she fulfilled w/ the MAW foundation?

3 years and 2 requests,come on, give me a break. Kids, especially sick kids really deserve extra attention. Oh yeah, right and Ina's house is full of kids,animals,fun,life....NOT. By the looks of her show, her house is one big anal,cold excuse of home. Please don't bring in any dirt into Ina's house.

I hope her goose is cooked. Get out of the Hamptons bubble and see the bigger picture Ina!!!!!!!!!

Unfortunately, people have already made up their minds and have moved on to the next story, where they can be outraged at someone else.

No one likes the truth, when the sensationalized story is so much more satisfying for our own self-righteousness.

"Garten is known to guard her private life closely, and declines to take part in Food Network charities and activities"

Direct quotation from wikipedia.

okay, ain't that nice. ina now agrees to meet with the boy. if that ain't damage control, i don' t know what is. i am sure she would have made time if it was those nasty looking dames from the historical society down there in the hamptons. the ones she cooks for, at at a mighty hefty price i might add. she ain't kidding anyone. these people have to pay through the nose to eat her overly fatty salty food.

Don't be fooled by this "devastated" woman. She refused twice, what changed her mind was not her kindness but her bad press.

Ina is evil, how could you possibly deny a cancer stricken boy his dream to cook with you? Nothing would take top priority over this request.

You don't deserve the success you've had. I will never watch your show again or buy another one of your cookbooks.

As a Mom of a "Make a wish" kid, I can't say enough about the difference the "escape" from constant Dr's visits and blood work and all the unpleasantness that is part of reality to serious illness, makes to a child. Quality of life is most important to children who tend to live in today rather than the future like an adult . This boy is 6 years old and while his friends are playing he is undergoing treatments that would depress any adult. Make a wish gives them something to look forward to and temporarily transports them to a place where they are special and their dreams come true. When "fighting" any disease their mental state is important. I don't think I will ever watch the Contessa again, certainly not with the same respect.

Cooking for a Child with Cancer.... " How EASY is That " ...

MissW22 - The boy's mother's site says he's not dying. I agree everyone should be surrounded by love, not only at sickness but at all times. I don't think meeting with a celebrity, facilitated by an organization with a financial interest is equal to love. I know this from my own experience with a serious illness. Also, it was reported that with cancer survival rates improving, Make A Wish changed its original mission because not enough dying people apply for wishes. I love Ina Garten's cooking show, I won't get any satisfaction from meeting her. She won't be my BFF. I did not go to her book signing because one-time meeting doesn't mean she cares about me. For every celebrity it's about building their own profile regardless of the circumstances involved in the meeting.

Well, since the mother of the boy posted vitriol on her blog about Ina (cheering about people burning Ina's books), and made this very public on TMZ, I'd say that this is a sick situation.

The mom is a bully, pure and simple. Of course she cares about her son, but blackmailing a public figure to do her will is disgusting.

Shame on the mom.

I'd like to make a wish. I wish Make A Wish Foundation would have a binding contractual term that anyone applying to them must sign. It would say that the name of the celebrites involved with the wish are confidential and cannot be disclosed until such time, if any, as the wish is successfully granted.

As an employment lawyer, I'd like to offer my services to anyone who lost or loses their job because people on the internet got indignant.

I will never watch the Barefoot Contessa again!!!!! These D list celebs think their so busy give me a break. Ina I hope food network cancels you.

I love it when ignorant people thing that busy celebrities have time to sit around and read the thousands of emails they get. In consideration, whomever is filtering her emails seemed to have overlooked this one as I would think she would have liked it to be marked for her personal care.

All of you that are bashing Ina must live in a very SMALL little world. Try putting a show together its not easy. Thats why your spending all of your spare time (16 hrs a day) bitching about others.

Who really gives a hang about this except for the boy and his family? She's a second rate cook from a cable channel! Her "celebrity" is a joke to most people anyway. For her to gain or lose a few viewers because of this isn't going to make a big difference in her bottom line, and I know this doesn't make a difference in mine.

Kid: I'm sorry you're sick... but get used to being disappointed in life. It happens a lot (and joys and triumphs happen too, so accept those with the same grace as you should your disappointments).

Kid's Mom: Thanks for at least trying to stop the firestorm.

Ina: You're not significant enough to rate a personal comment.

Ina's "people": You didn't do your job, but this is America, 2011. Who DOES do their job these days?

Everyone else: GET OVER IT!

Hhhmm. hard to say what happened! I have only watched her show a few times and felt she was the snooty type. I could see her blowing the kid off! I don't consider her a celebrity.. she cooks.. I do too!

If Ina' side of the story is true, then she needs to immediately fire the "representatives" that snubbed the young cancer patient. Should have been done already.

She's just trying to back-peddle and save her own skin. You are telling me Ina Garten and Make-A-Wish are "good friends" then shouldn't that validate/verify the boy's request among the "overwhelming" requests made "every day" from random people? Bulldung. The boy WAITED after the first decline (for a year) for a 10-month book tour and was denied AGAIN.
President Obama is busy...Conan O'Brien is busy...Gadhafi is busy...Angelina Jolie is busy...so Ina Garten is such an A++++ celebrity-lister she can't schedule a weekend to visit the boy. She doesn't even need to televise the visit. Thank goodness the boy has such a compassionate heart. Ina Garten is a person who makes millions acting like a celebrity. Maybe she denied the request because she can't cook at all.

I work for someone "in the public eye" and field all kinds of request on a daily basis. . . .I don't share each of these requests with my boss, because it defeats the whole purpose of having someone "field your requests." I do know, however, when something is high priority or needs his personal attention. I think she should clean house via her staff/management company.

Give her the benefit of the doubt. . . . .it's a huge mistake, and EVERYONE deserves another chance.

If it happens again, then we know who she really is . . . . . .. .

Anyone who has watched her show with any regularity has to know that she could never be described as "heartless". You are all rushing to judge her without knowing the facts. Do you do everything TMZ tells you to do?

I know how important a "make a wish" is. When my grandson was 11 yrs. old he was diagnosed with cancer. He received his wish from "Make A Wish." Our grandson is now 20 & a cancer survivor. These wishes are everything to the children. Some of them don't make it & giving these children a little happiness is wonderful. Unless you have been through it personally, you don't know what these children go through. JimmyJay's response is pathetic & I hope you never have one of your loved ones go through it! Give Ms. Garten the benefit of the doubt. In the end, she is doing the right thing & giving this little boy his wish!

I did notice that occasionally during her show the subject of children attending any event would come up and she always made a sour face and commented that "no children" were invited. I always thought her comments were odd. Now, I think she was aware of this young boys request but declined him because she just doesn't like children.

To Ina Garten and the Food Network,

Those people who are to blame need to be held accountable and fired! Spokespeople and representatives of celebrities, public officials, and other people who have a need for them, need to have and use their common sense! I am a big fan of Ina and will continue to watch her show. I am however, upset with the Food Network for allowing these so-called respresentatives to make decisions without consulting with Ms. Garten. All this negative publicity and smearing of Ina's name and show could have been avoided if the Food Network had some sort of quality control system in place on requests from fans and other people such as the cancer stricken kid Enzo!

Congratulations to you Enzo for getting your wish granted by Ms. Garten herself and not the representatives of her show or other Food Network employees.

Ina, I sincerely wish you the best and hope all the negative publicity will be put in the right perspective.

A loyal fan named Dennis

It makes me laugh seeing all these pro-Ina comments that rush to her defense like she is a poor, helpless victim of a savage onslaught. Nothing could be further from the truth...

For one thing, Ina Garten, of her own free will and personal choice, designated Make A Wish as a charity that she contributes to. No one put a gun to her head and forced her to do so. She knew full well the obligations and conditions that a collaboration between the two of them entailed. Seems to me that when she could use Make A Wish to benefit her own PR, it was good, but when she had to walk the walk, all of a sudden, she pulls the "I didn't know about the request" song and dance.

She is flat out lying through her teeth. This woman is not stupid. She is well educated and you can bet she is very well attuned as to every aspect of her organization, and yes, especially when it comes to money.

I have watched her show a few times, and I must agree with some of the commenters here that the only other people that appear on her show besides her husband are wealthy gay men and wealthy bored housewives, nearly all who tend to be alabaster white down to every pore in their skin. I'm sorry, but while I totally support LBGT persons, and have nothing against people trying to live as comfortably as possible, her entire show and reasoning behind it does not represent the America that I see and live in every day.

Once again all of you that have such vitrol for Ina Garten can go to Enzo's mothers website and hit the handy paypal link and give them what they really want.

Ina....fire your PR people. When I first read about this I assumed you made the decision to decline Enzo's request. But, it appears you didn't even know about it. But you should have. Your PR people should apprise you of these requests because their response reflects directly on you. Changing course after the PR storm doesn't help your image or increase your fan base. Glad you decided to do the right thing....eventually.

What a great message to send to the kids: whine enough and you'll get your way.

No one should be coerced into something like this. Celebrities much more famous than Ina turn down requests of this sort all the time; the difference is that this time someone decided to raise a stink and make themselves the center of attention so they could get their way.

The boy may very well like Ina, but this whole story has the stench of an entitlement-minded mother who wants everything her way all over it. She should be ashamed of herself.

I think I'll be doing some financial support of Ina after this, to make up for the self-righteous jerks who are treating her like a pariah for her initial refusal.

I think it's disgusting and revolting to ASK someone to do something charitable, and then to attack them based solely on their response to that one request, regardless of whatever other good that person may do. It doesn't matter who said no, whether she did or someone who works for her did. What good have all the critics done - the ones who are criticizing her?

let me see if I got this right? This (talent??) gets not one but two requests from the make_a-Wish Foundation for this little boy. Now let's consider this from a purely PR perspective, IT WOULD BE PHENOMINAL!!! Special guest"chef"6 yo boy dying form cancer. You know that her publicist and agent was all over this and IT WAS SHE THAT turned this request down and no amount of back pedaling will change that. Goodbye Contessa.

Seems to me that she changed her mind out of obligation and not out of love for someone who's days are actually numbered.

My hopes would be for JimmyJay to never have anyone in his family or friendship circle be stricken with a devastating disease. Illnesses can take your zest for life away and rob you of a future rich with possibilities. You have the ability to "make your own wishes" come true by virtue of being able to get up in the morning and live a "normal" life.

I would hope that those whom are ill would be surrounded by love and affection and not have to be subject to ridicule that a statement like this "It doesn't make sense that a sickness, an accident or some other unfortunate thing entitles anyone to be granted wishes." can bestow upon them.

Sounds like you need a hug at the very least JimmyJay. If you have found yourself in a life that is in need of having wishes fulfilled, then by all means, work to do so. Do not cut down organizations (regardless of their profit margin) that do the world a greater good other than your mindless, heartless rants via the internet. Such as your comments.

"Wishes should be randomly granted to anyone." They are JimmyJay, consider your wish granted if your health is in good standing and you have a roof over your head.

Wait?!!! Ina had NO IDEA of this firestorm!!! Was she hiding under a ROCK? Oh MY GOSH!!!! She actually gets at least a 100 requests from MAW... Yeah right...AS IF!!! Enzo's mom should set her straight the second she calls. I would hangup on INA in a Heartbeat!!! OH and by the way...on Wikipedia before March 27 2011 it stated she doesn't participate in any Food Network charities. Why is this? I don't believe a word from her mouth. Is she that passive in her career that she doesn't check on her employees and assistants decisions? She can go take a hike!

I might believe that she is soooo busy that she doesn't know what her people are saying yes and no to in regards to her charity work, but who's minding the store here? She needs to fire the morons who 1-kept saying no and 2-didn't inform her of such a request. I haven't a clue why some little boy is in love with her show - b/c personally I find it a snooze - but for God's sake does Ina not hire anyone with a brain that can understand that a kid with leukemia should top a women's shelter in appointments. And that the Make-a-Wish foundation doesn't bother people with wishes for kids who are just suffering from the chicken pox. Ina failed on this one. She needs to 'out' those responsible and fire them. That will calm the masses, including me.

If one of Ina Garten's team turned down a request that Ina herself would have fulfilled if she had been personally made aware, then someone on Ina Garten's team needs to be fired.

blackmail/guilt. Make a star do your bidding in a Thirty Mile Zone of screw your neighbor for rating in the land of Hollywood.

Also: In 2009 Make A Wish income was $66 million. It's CEO made $315,883. It spent $5.8 million on "informational materials." Spent $3 million on fundraising - according to the BBB. Celebrities typically donate "wishes."

It doesn't make sense that a sickness, an accident or some other unfortunate thing entitles anyone to be granted wishes. I think it's an insult to Enzo and others in his circumstances to be labeled unfortunate enough to be granted access he wouldn't have except for the misfortune. Wishes should be randomly granted to anyone. Celebrities could sign up to grant x number of wishes per year to anyone. That's the fairest way for everyone.

I find it convenient 'she didn't know' , but whatever. I'm glad the little boy gets to meet with her, though she could have avoided all of the negative press with a simple "While, unfortunately, my schedule does not permit me to meet with little boy one on one, he has been invited as a guest to my show - or I've given him a little gift/cook book/special recipe with a personalized note." It wasn't so much that she wouldn't meet with him, it was that she seemed fairly dismissive about it all. I fully understand that not all wishes can be met, not all celebrities can find/make time, but a small token or gesture of good will probably would have nipped this in the bud and the public would never had heard of it.

First of all, you folks (RICH HAMPTON'S) attacking the boys mother are pathetic. The boy is in trouble. I called the food network, they are not pleased either. Ina should feel honored the little boy wanted to cook with her. She is self-centered and I wont be watching or purchasing any of her books. If she did in fact not know of the request (hard to believe) her (people) should be fired. Now all you Ina lovers go back to your garden's and dig a hole.

I am saddened that she is too busy for a sick child. Don't these celebrities remember that they are who they are because of the people who are willing to waste their time watching them? I think she is horrible for neglecting her civic duties and not paying back those who have made her who she is. It's not like she is being chased by the camera hungry paparazzi, this is a child longing for their mentor to connect with them, she should be ashamed. This was a child's last wish from the make a wish foundation. She should be replaced and I won't watch her show, ever.

I think the real problem here is the PR people who represent Ina Garten. They have handled this horribly all the way through. They messed up with the request and should have been out in front of it immediately instead of sitting by silently while the public runs rampant with it. Not responding immediately was terrible. Then saying that she just found out this weekend? After two uninvolved chefs from your own network offered to step in? Dont believe it.

I still think its screwy that this has become an issue. Entitlement is so typical of the people in this democracy...its nuts. why don't the cancer patients demand that the pharmaceutical companies and monsanto chemical company pay for their treatments for illnessees they worked hard with their government officials to infect our nation with DDT for instance, or RoundUp
instead of laying obligations on people working to make a living. only media and liberalism gets nations into these kind of stupid and ignorant media circus issues. You all should be ashamed of yourselves especially the parents of these sick kids not having the guts and smarts to organize and go after the culprits that did it to their kids instead of attacking working people.
bang...the truth...

Rene... I urge you to pursue the follow-up to this story: WHO on Ina's administrative staff failed her? Ina can't handle it all alone. Wouldn't you agree how this staffer or agency employee single-handedly did a doozy of catastrophically damaging The Barefoot Contessa's stock value among The Foodie demographic -- and beyond? And they promptly got TERMINATED for it?

Wow, look at that great salad she prepared!!

Ido not think it is ina's fault. i do not see ina being cruel.

I don't belive her for one damn minute. I'm sure she absolutely knew about this, and it was unimportant. Compared to a book tour at least. She's meeting with Enzo to save her "empire" and cos Food Network is tired of the heat. No matter. I am done with her shows and cookbooks.

At this point in time the story is a massive mess. Either the contessa has analysis paralysis or they really don't care.

Her husband was dean of Yale business school. Which b school will write the case study on how to crash and burn a brand? Oh the irony!

unbekown? Got any proofreaders at the LA times?

Isn't it strange - as soon as a celebrity like Ina and many before her have not immediately fulfilled a dream / request, the media jump in and slate them to the hilt. However, when they daily do good and contribute to charities, they get no recognition whatsover. My message to the media - your livelyhood depends on how much you can ruin a persons credibility but try for goodness sake to remember that the person you are hurting is human after all. Ina, I sit patiently every day and wait for the "Barefood Contessa" to run on South African TV. I think you are superb.

Harvey Levin has no ethics!

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