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'Barefoot Contessa' taking heat for repeatedly rejecting 'Make-A-Wish' cancer patient

March 26, 2011 |  1:07 pm

Garten300 Someone might be in the market for a new PR team.

"Barefoot Contessa" Ina Garten has a new nickname -- "Heartless Contessa" -- in the wake of news that she repeatedly refused to meet with a 6-year-old boy named Enzo who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

According to the reports:

The boy, who would watch Garten from his sick bed, told the Make-A-Wish Foundation that he wanted to meet the Food Network celebrity. When told that her schedule was too busy, Enzo opted to wait. When the request was made once more, Garten's representatives replied with a "definite no," according to the online blog that the family kept about the boy's illness.

Cue the controversy.

"She is a pretty famous cook, but I doubt she is so busy that she can't cook one meal with this kid" read just one of the many comments posted on the story over on CafeMom, and The Stir launched a letter-writing campaign"Ina Garten -- Heartless Contessa" screamed one headline. "The Barefoot Contessa shatters a little boy's dreams," read another.

But perhaps the most biting comment came from Business Insider: "We're sure that she truly is pretty busy. But if she had time to throw a charity lunch for six Hamptonites -- who paid $100,000 to be there -- she can make time to whip up some meringues with a six-year-old."

(In Garten's defense, that was a charity luncheon.)

In response to the controversy, Make-A-Wish stressed to TMZ that Garten is a "good friend" of the foundation. A representative for Garten told the site: "Despite her demanding schedule, [Ina] participates and helps as many organizations as she can throughout the year, helping children and adults like Enzo with life threatening and compromising illnesses. ... Unfortunately, as much as she would like to, it's absolutely impossible for her to grant every request she receives."

We contacted Food Network in an attempt to reach Garten for her side of the story -- and we'll bet there is most certainly another side to this one. We'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, two other Food Network celebrity chefs -- Iron Chef Michael Symon and Beau MacMillan -- have reportedly offered to cook with Enzo.

What do you think about this cooking controversy? Is Garten being unfairly vilified? Are the media rushing to judgment? And do Garten and others have an obligation to do whatever they can to make room in their schedules for young fans like Enzo?

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Ina Garten. Credit: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

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