Celebrity Chef Skewered For Turning Down Make A Wish Request

March 28, 2011; Source: MailOnline.com | To her cooking show fans, she's known as the Barefoot Contessa. But her treatment of a six-year-old boy from Portland, Ore., suffering from leukemia, can only be characterized as flat-footed.

Enzo Pareda, who says he watches Ina Garten's cooking shows in his hospital bed with his mother, had asked the Make-A-Wish Foundation to set up a meeting for the two of them. According to the MailOnline.com, which is feasting on this story, Garten turned down Pareda's request twice. The first time she said no to Pareda, who has been suffering from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia for three years, because of a conflict with a book tour. The second time she begged off saying she was too busy.

Pareda's mother has been chronicling her son's failed attempts to meet the Garten on a blog, Angels for Enzo. After the second time Garten spurned the request to meet, Pareda's mother wrote: ''I felt terrible for him, he has been unwavering in his desire to meet her for 3 years and despite many attempts to get him to pick a 2nd wish or change his mind he would not." When hearing the news a second time, Pareda asked his mother, “Why doesn’t she want to meet me?"

The Make-A-Wish Foundation acknowledges that sometimes "planning for wishes doesn't turn out as originally envisioned, despite people’s best intentions and efforts throughout the wish-granting process." A spokesman for Garten says the chef does her best to help with as many groups as she can, but can't say yes to all them. Pareda isn't giving up, though. He told his mother: “I still want her as my 1st wish, even if she doesn’t want me."—Bruce Trachtenberg

  • Anna Marie

    My husband watches the food network all the time. He will be boycotting her show. Shame on her!!! Who does she think she is….OPRAH!!! She’s nothing more than a cook!!! ๐Ÿ™

  • Desiree

    Seriously?! Some people get it in their head that they are too important to think of other people it makes me sick!

  • selema

    The gist of this story is that Ina was set up by TMZ and this boy’s mother to be humiliated. The hatred shown by the people commenting on line are disgusting to say the least. There are some seriously ill people in this country. Make-A-Wish made a very weak statement regarding Ina and they should be held accountable. I will never donate to this charity that guilts people into donating.
    They should be ashamed of themselves.

  • lara

    BRAVO. At least someone with common sense has spoken ๐Ÿ™‚ .

  • Adrian

    selema is attempting to spread false information. The story is out there for all to read. Ina got caught being heartless, felt the backlash and made a last-ditch effort — three days later — to try to make good for appearances’ sake. Apparently she failed at that, too, claiming yesterday that she would call the boy “today.” Well, now it’s “tomorrow,” and she apparently never did. The people blindly defending her are either deluded or extremely unwell.

  • Andrea

    I’m very curious to know who thought that sending out a press release about it would improve the situation.

    It is very sad, but sometimes wishes can’t be granted. I’m not comfortable with the premise that a person can make demands of another in the name of “a good cause” and then garner publicity when the demands aren’t met. I think “flat-footed” applies more to the person who released the story in an attempt to strong-arm Garten than to Garten herself.

  • jeh1963

    I am a big Barefoot Contessa fan and all I can say is Shame on you Ina. How can you be so caddy and cold to turn down a dying childs request to just meet you for christs sake. You are really no one special and this is very apparent by your actions. I too will boycott your show from now on and will burn my cookbooks. You really need to think again lady about life around you and a small childs happiness,

  • Madeline

    Nice Try! Nobody is listening. These kids are dying. Heartless to say the least. ๐Ÿ™

  • V Rogers

    Selema must be a relative of Ina’s. I saw first-hand how uppity Ina can be. She was one of the chefs judging a competition on Food Network and was very unkind with her comments and not encouraging at all. I have not watched her since. She is definitely living in the right place.

  • ninatrans

    Shame on you selema for distorting the facts in this situation. The gist of the story isn’t that Ina was set up – the gist is that she chose profit over charity.

    Sometimes we must all face the truth that we haven’t measured up to expectations and celebrities are no exception.

  • Pat M

    From the first time I watched Ina I knew she was a SNOB..

  • David Simpson

    It is rare that I don’t enjoy Mr. Trachtenberg’s writings, but this one left me cold. As somebody who spends a lot of time raising money – and seeking other gifts (time, access) – for what can only be described as a “good cause” – I am badly put off by the “flat footed” characterization. The Countessa, like all of us, can only do so much. It’s not at all fair to sully her reputation in such a public way. On what basis can Mr. Trachtenberg justify this maligning description? We all – including Mr. Trachtenberg – are permitted to say “no” – and should not be subject to ridicule for so doing.

  • Miami girl

    Every whining family in America ought to help themselves. It is not a celeb DUTY to takecare of these things.
    welfare mentality has ruined this country–let the people that bore him care for him—I love Ina and if she prefers other ords. to help so be it.

  • lee

    wow! how sad. she has all the time in the world compared to the little kid. shame on her, she should have found time. definitely not a fan now—besides show isn’t that great anyway, rather boring

  • LAwoman56

    Our daughter asked for a wish years ago and it was never granted because the celeb she wanted to meet was too busy and refused to come to her as she has been bed ridden most of her life. Make A Wish never even tried to make up for it with a shopping spree or something else.
    They don’t seem to know what they’re doing. I’m not making excuses for Ina, either. Shame on her and other celebs that are ‘too busy’. I think it’s heartless. I watched out daughter feel tremendous disapointment of how she was treated.
    These children are already facing terrible days of feeling very ill and that is a fete in itself and this foundation doesn’t do enough to remedy the problems that arise. They are not professionals and the woman that we worked with didn’t seem to care much, either. I’d rather give to cancer research than this organization.

  • Dr. R. Ruth Linden

    This story has received more comments than most that appear in “Nonprofit Newswire.” Yet one has commented yet on Enzo Pareda’s determination, which is a rather remarkable trait in a six-year-old child who has been critically ill for half his life. I hope his steadfastness helps him beat down ALL and grow up to become a great chef or what he chooses to be. He has what it takes to survive. We should cheer him on. Celebrity chefs are a dime a dozen! Enzo’s tenacity is a rare gift.

  • vitametahegemon

    I don’t understand why people feel that she owes a fan a private audience. Because he’s a child? Because he’s sick? I don’t see how either of those things obligates her to fulfill his wish. Her life and her time are still her own, and she’s entitled to say no.

    Also, I have a slightly nauseating feeling that if this happened with a man the reaction would be quite different, and people would just say “oh, that’s too bad, I guess he’s just too busy.” People tend to feel that women not only are ~naturally nurturing~ (gender essentialism, ugh) but that they’re community property both in body and in spirit. Neither of those things is true.

  • vitametahegemon

    [quote name=”Desiree”]Seriously?! Some people get it in their head that they are too important to think of other people it makes me sick![/quote]
    Oh, the irony.

  • GrandmaJo

    In all fairness, most of those requests do not ever make it to the “celebrity”. They have staff that screen every request and make decisions for them on such things…kind of a standard protocol. I do not, for one minute, believe that Ina Garten is that cold hearted, but her staff may well be, to keep her on track.

  • Mind the Gap

    I’ve never heard of the show let alone watched this Ina person, but I agree with Selema that it smells of “guilting” someone into a charitable act.
    We don’t know the chef’s personal situation, her family’s needs, her health conditions, nor what other charities she gives to.
    This isn’t news & doesn’t deserve a press release that everyone of us could have written at some point in life — “I didn’t get what I wanted.”

  • Craig687

    WAKE UP! I have worked with Make A Wish, and my girlfriend’s 6 year old daughter suffers the same leukemia as this little boy. You have not an inkling as to what these families go through and how hard Make a wish works to try and put these wishes together. Sure not 100% work out on the first wish, but to be given the second excuse of “to busy” come on! Why doesn’t this hack of a cook just be honest and put out a statement telling this family that she has no interest in giving this child his wish! Selma, next time you decide to boycott a charity like Make A Wish try visiting a children’s hospital and see what those kids are doing.

  • Lee

    As a Mother of a child who’s in the process of recieving a KIDNEY TRANSPLANT and has gone through the process of meeting with the wonderful people of MAKE A WISH, I’m SHOCKED to hear that Ina has been too busy to see Enzo who’s been waiting patiently for 3 years!

  • Craig687


    You’ve got to be joking! you honestly think this is a set up! You really want to boycott Make-A-Wish?

    I have worked with Make-A-Wish for the past two years. This is because my girlfriend’s 6 year old daughter has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia as well.

    While it is true that it is impossible to grant 100% of first time wishes, it is quite disgusting for Ina to claim she is “too busy.”

    “Too busy” for fan who more importantly is a very sick and possibly dieing child!

    Selma, I think you should go visit a children’s hospital and defend Ina’s actions to these kids.

  • Yammus Baggus

    Um, as of yesterday Ina agreed to meet with the little boy. Google much before you blog?

  • Yammus Baggus
  • Rudy

    I am a personal friend of the Pereda family and I can tell you the accusation of Enzo’s mom “setting up” Ina is ridiculous. Enzo has been a fan of the cooking show since before he was diagnosed w/ cancer and his wish to meet the Barefoot Contessa is nothing more than a fan wishing to meet someone they admire. Shame on you for implying something about this family when you don’t even know them.

  • Bruce Trachtenberg

    Thanks, Yammus. We missed the update before we published. Our fault. Most of the followup coverage, though, suggests that it was the initial stories about the snub that led Garten to reverse her decision. So the fact she said “no” twice before saying “yes” — and that led to some very bad press — is worth noting.

  • Adrian

    That was yesterday. To this moment, she STILL hasn’t called. After stabbing him twice, she’s now twisting the knife. The only reason she agreed to SAY she’d call anyway (or rather, have someone say it on her behalf) is because the public’s reaction shocked and scared her.

  • Cynic

    Shame on just about all of you to be judgemental of anyone in the first place. I dont know Ina or Enzo personally, and as such, I would never dare accuse either one of wrong doing. This is a simple case of the media steering the population, instead of the population steering the media…Make-A-Wish isn’t to blame for their statement, the media is to blame for publishing only what they wanted to publish.

    What no media outlet DID SAY was the Ina Garten’s people denied the request, and that she gets over 100 charity requests per month. Any one of you mudslingers care to tell me that you could handle doing 3 good deeds per day, every day, without concern for your own endeavors? I thought not.

    I’m not defending Ina or Enzo in this case, but many of you were so quick to suggest boycotting or other action against her that I felt the need to remind everyone to do the research before you do the damage…if the media had the wherewithall to do as I suggest, this story might never have seen the light of day….

  • Dareia

    A spokesperson for Ina made a statement – apparently after this article was posted – saying Ina was totally unaware of Enzo’s request until now (probably due to all the vitriol and hate mail she’s been receiving). Also, since she receives about 100 charity requests per month (according to the statement) she would have to do 3 a day to accommodate them all. She HAS to reject a few – and chances are, she doesn’t even see most of them.

    Ina herself did not turn him down – her team / management / e-mail readers / whatever did. And even if she had, that is no reason for all the hateful comments she’s been getting.

    Now that she knows about this specific request, she is personally calling Enzo to invite him to cook with her. And for some people, that’s still not enough. What else can you expect of her?

    Also, I don’t know if you’ve read Enzo’s mother’s blog, but it left me feeling really uncomfortable about this whole series of events. I’m not doubting or minimizing her son’s illness [or the impact that such an illness has on a family], but much of it is written, as is this article, in an emotionally manipulative way. Also, why even make this public? Why call out an individual? Why not just say that a “food network personality” was unavailable for Enzo’s request? Or, why not simply say that Enzo chose a second wish after his first couldn’t be fulfilled?

    The blog does not allow comments. Or questions. Or anything, really, except for PayPal donations, which can be made through a handy link.

    They have every right to privacy (e.g., refusal to allow comments – even moderated ones), but this has led to a very one-sided “skewering” of a public figure who has given lots of time and money to charities over the years.

    Regardless. I wonder if any celebrities will, in the future, hesitate to even communicate with the Make-a-Wish Foundation after this. I wonder how TMZ got a hold of this story in the first place. I wonder how it got blown to such proportions without any official quotes or statements from anyone involved (save for Enzo’s mom).

    Enzo’s mom has updated her blog, calling for everyone to “stop the madness” (which she started in the first place, by specifically naming Ina Garten on her blog). Still, I think this is preferable to her gleeful joking about cookbook bonfires the day before.

    I’m glad that Enzo is getting his wishes. Even though the Barefoot Contessa’s reputation took a [possibly undeserved] beating, I still feel worst for Enzo. His mother has painted him to be a sensitive, compassionate boy – he sounds truly inspirational and sweet. As such, I can’t imagine him being pleased with all this indignation on his behalf, even if his mother was grateful for it.

    I highly doubt that he enjoyed any of this drama.

  • kb

    The quick attacks without Garten’s reply is judging with half the story. Not a good idea. The mother putting this story out makes herself look self-serving. It is terrible that this child is ill so make a donation to leukemia research.
    How many times have any of us turned down a charity because we gave to others of our own choice. I have. I always feel bad that I can’t give to all of them, but I can’t. Just because she said No to this one, doesn’t mean she’s uncaring. That is why it is called a request. What this mom is really doing is making a demand and then being ugly because it didn’t work. Quit using the child’s illness and make another wish.

  • Karen Ann

    You should be ashamed of yourself…..I will not be watching you on Food Net Work

  • John

    No one’s making demands. They asked for her to take some time out for a dying boy, she said no. The public judged her.

    She’s allowed to say no, no on can force her, and no one did. She was criticized. She doesn’t like the public scrutiny, she should stay out of the public eye.

    FYI, no one “released” the story. His mother wrote about it on their blog. They are chronicling everything, this happened so they wrote about it.

  • CMT


    Well said. This whole thing has been blown out of proportion. I agree that the mother should not have mentioned names. It seems as though she intended for it to get out somehow and perhaps get back to Ms. Garten, who would then in turn”find the time”. This is not a judgement against the Make A Wish organization or sick children. I am sure there are lots of other wishes that can not be granted by celebrities, but those parents did not take to the web to announce it and make the celebrity feel guilty. I truly hope Enzo gets his wish, but more importantly, I hope he gets better! Let’s all get some perspective here!

  • Nick Florest

    [quote name=”Dr. R. Ruth Linden”]This story has received more comments than most that appear in “Nonprofit Newswire.” [/quote]

    Agreed. The most disgusting aspect of this story is the fact that this is the ONLY article posted in the NPQ I’ve seen with more than 2 comments.

    Let’s save the daggers for the real beasts.

  • kkc

    ya know..my guess is Ina probably wasn’t even aware of the requests because someone else handles her schedule/ bookings. So many people so quick to judge when they really have NO idea what the real story is…I know I don’t know, but I’d for sure like to give her the benefit of the doubt.

  • Debbi

    Actually, I think Oprah would have granted the request.

  • thebrodywaite

    [quote name=”kkc”]ya know..my guess is Ina probably wasn’t even aware of the requests because someone else handles her schedule/ bookings. So many people so quick to judge when they really have NO idea what the real story is…I know I don’t know, but I’d for sure like to give her the benefit of the doubt.[/quote]
    As a media strategy specialist I must point out it would appear several of these blog comments are streamlined examples of being “on message”. That being said, if you are a PR company, hired by Ina Garten and her hacks, please do us all a favor and be a little less obvious. Here is a free tip……your client screwed up. The only thing you have left to do is publicly apologize and admit you screwed up. Should you ignore my advice I guarantee her show and sales will drop like a stone.

  • KimK

    I can’t believe Selema thinks this way!! She is just as bad as Ina!!! I can’t believe Ina would choose profit over a little boy dieing of cancer. Can you imagine Ina’s publicity had she dropped the book tour & ran to her most loyal fan????

  • Billie

    I cannot believe the “adults” on here saying things like “you don’t get everything you want,” or “why should she have to meet him? Just because he’s a child and he’s sick?”
    Well, yes. Thats exactly “why!!” I would honestly say that a six year old child who has had cancer for as long as he can remember- has already learned that “valuable lesson” that life is hard & you don’t get everything you want. I’m sure he learned that when he spent most of his life lying in bed sick, or when he couldn’t go outside & play, couldn’t go in the car & get some ice cream, couldn’t even MAKE friends to begin with because he spends most of his time in the HOSPITAL! Did this woman have the right to say no? Of course she did- but you know what? We have the right to have our opinions about that decision too. She chose to be in the limelight when she accepted her career as a celebrity chef. And as far as her “hectic schedule” – take a look at some of the people with starts much brighter than this person- I don’t even know her damn name (I know her as Barefoot Contessa, or the woman who has the really overpriced brownie mix at the grocery store) who HAVE somehow made the time to honor Make-a-wish requests. And as far as the person who keeps reiterating that Ms. Garten or whatever her name is, HAS decided to meet with Enzo…BFD! So, she is doing an about face to stem the wave of negative publicity. She had the chance to do the right thing- actually she had two chances- and she passed on both. So, her “mea culpa” rings a little hollow to me as well as a lot of other people. I am personally tired of people practically being forced to do the right thing, especially our American celebrities. She isn’t doing this because she is a good person- to the contrary she is doing it because we’ve now discovered that she ISN’T. As far as Enzo’s mother goes- I defy anyone here to watch their child dying of cancer- or watch their child being rocked by the horror show that is chemotherapy- and then tell me you wouldn’t DIE to try to take some of that pain away or even put a smile on their face, even temporarily. As parents, thats what we do. And if that means being perceived as being “petty” or “manipulative” than so be it. And personally, I am GLAD she exposed this woman for who she is. Its given all of us the chance to judge her on her merits as a person, not just a “chef.”

  • Carol Christine

    That is so sad to see someone so blessed with fame and fortune can’t do something wonderful for a very sick child. It goes to show that fame and fortune can’t buy a warm caring heart.

  • April

    Who would say “no” to meeting someone? Especially a PR conscious person? If she were asked to donate money, maybe. But this was a seriously piddly request that could have done wonders for her “PR” since that’s all she’s worried about now.

  • Mom22

    I am really surprised by the comments on, of all places, the nonprofit quarterly site. All of you who work for non-profits, is this how you talk about potential donors who, for whatever reason, turn down your requests? Don’t all of you in the nonprofit world know that only a small percentage of charitable requests are granted? If everyone who turns down a charitable request, for whatever reason, is subjected to this level of scorn in the media and blogosphere, I worry about how future potential donors will respond. I think this type of backlash can only hurt good, worthwhile charities like make-a-wish. If your donors do not believe that they have the right to select which charities they support without fear of public exposure and ridicule, how will donors react in the future. After all, none of us can support every charity that makes requests of us.

  • astrid

    Actually the mother did release this story to TMZ – they have that posted on their website – might want to check your facts.