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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)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Still not cool! She's starting to sound like a politician - "Oh, I didn't know" - but were you not ask twice?? And twice he was turned down?

I perfectly understand that she gets a ton of requests. But we're talking about a child here--a six year old. I'll move heaven and earth for a child. And a phone call of a few minutes wouldn't kill her!

No she can't do them all, but her staff should have made her aware and she should have had the choice.

This is disgusting. It's nothing short of defamation of Ina's character by every media outlet who rushed to print the salacious headlines that a celebrity chef doesn't care about a dying child.

LA Times, this is almost touching, but it's too little, too late. Way to help spread hate.

I somehow wish the poor baby would now choose to say' I can see you now", she is a disgrace!!! All the blessings she has been give ie, the success of her shows and books and she is too busy, Please WATCH WHAT YOU ASK FOR, one day you might not be busy because you will be unemployed!!!!!Food Network GET rid of the shelfish Diva, book tour my ass!

Enzo's mother started this entire mess and now she has the nerve through MAW (what kind of two-bit org rats out its donors like that) to ask for privacy? Tell that crazy attention ho to take down that crappy website where she posts vile things about Ina and put all her business out there.

It's a sad day when a pushy mom with no life of her own can use her sick child as leverage to compel a celebrity to acquiesce to her. What a sick sad world. Notice that Ina will not be doing this via Make-A-Wish, I guess that means she's done with those turkeys.

And LAT you ought to be embarrassed. Rene Lynch, dropping these half baked entries and then running. Leaving the fresh pieces of meat for these greedy wolves you call comments whom you believe add value your crappy site.

How is someone so busy not to make time for kids in hospitals asking to see them for THREE YEARS!!!! c'mon to me its a no brain she is cold hearted and using PR to spin this her way now.. I hope her career goes cold as her heart is.

Sounds to me like someone is doing damage control after getting caught refusing to meet with a dying fan. Rhymes with witch? Definitely.

Come on folks at least act like you have some degree of intelligence, do you really think a smart gal like Ina is going to open herself up to this kind of negative publicity.....the lady is on a book tour.....that means OBLIGATIONS! that she just cant brush off! All you haters are full of it, you know all about her because why? YOU WATCH HER SHOW....I mean she is nowhere but the Food Network so if you hate her stop watching her!!! The lady has agreed to meet with Enzo but all you haters will have none of it. You are not happy unless you are posting negative comments about someone more successful than YOU! Just remember this equation ......Haters = Losers !

to me, this seems like a huge PR blunder. i have a hard time reading all of my emails and opening my mail...and that's like a few pieces a day. maybe Ina is a heartless bitch that scoffs at sick children, but I'm guessing probably not. people love throwing stones.

The truly ugly comments that have been made about Ina show a side of people that is indeed frightening. TMZ should be held accountable for setting this ugly episode in motion and if only there were someway Ina could sue them. What is even worse is that a great deal of the comments were made by people who said they didn't know who she was or have never watched her show. What a great commentary on the American psyche.

Make-A-Wish Foundation's statement re: Enzo’s wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation supports the request by Enzo’s family for the public to “let go of their anger” and move forward from the controversy surrounding his original wish, as well as to respect their privacy as they focus on Enzo’s wish to swim with dolphins.

Enzo’s family has publicly expressed excitement about his dolphin wish. According to his mother, Enzo has started sleeping in his swimsuit because he wants to be ready when he dreams about them at night.

We also want to reiterate the family’s desire to not refer to Enzo as a “dying” or “terminally ill” child. Enzo does have a life-threatening medical condition, but his
prognosis is bright as he nears completion of his treatments.

We have been informed that Ina Garten plans to contact Enzo independently of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and we wish them well.

Too little, too late, I'm afraid, LA TIMES. After posting an account of the event that was completely one sided and not thoroughly investigating the incident you published a very slanted piece and threw it to your very blood thirty commenters. Now you're sorry? Unfortunately, you cannot unring that bell.

Lame... how about getting things correct the first time? How do all of these other "celeb chefs" do it? You cook f-ing food in front of a camera. Tough life.

Seriously, not something you can go back on and make excuses for.

Oh, please. Does anyone actually believe this is the first she's hearing of this? Please, let's prove we're not as stupid as she takes us to be. I never watched her show or bought her stuff before, because I've always found her snotty affectations very off-putting.... but I hope people who actually are her ex-fans can see through this PR smokescreen, continue to view Ina as she really is and speak with their dollars accordingly.

I love Ina, it has always been apparent that she is a genuinely kind person. I hope she didn't read any of the horrible things that have been said about her from individuals who know nothing about her. I hope she is able to recover soon...big hugs to Ina! You are fabulous! Thank-you for teaching me how to cook, you are big inspiration in my life.

Thank you for trying to make this right but it still doesn't excuse your letting the comments run wild with speculation and invective with no attempt at moderation. Shame on you.

It's pathetic. The people who were making nasty comments about Garten and her loved ones should be ashamed of themselves. Enzo's mom should also be ashamed of herself for mentioning Ina by name on her blog.

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