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  • Pete Evans’ baby paleo book scandal could jeopardise My Kitchen Rules ratings

    2018 - 12.21

    Preaching for paleo: Pete Evans’ bone broth for babies is causing a stir. Photo: James Brickwood
    Nanjing Night Net

    Preaching for paleo: Pete Evans’ bone broth for babies is causing a stir. Photo: James Brickwood

    Preaching for paleo: Pete Evans’ bone broth for babies is causing a stir. Photo: James Brickwood

    Is the biggest risk to My Kitchen Rules’ oversized success one of the show’s own judges? Pete Evans, along with fellow chef Manu Feildel, has been the face of the Channel Seven’s reality cooking competition since it was launched in 2010, but recently his profile has begun to diverge from the feel-good or taste-bad culinary drama that the series so smartly maintains. Evans has been a punchline previously – activated almonds, anyone? – but there’s nothing funny about what’s happening now.

    Television hits and their hosts have a curious and co-dependent relationship: did the program make the host a star, or did the host make the program a hit? Equally, however, they can weaken each other if there’s friction between what the viewing public know and expect from their small-screen favourite and what eventuates outside the immaculately edited world of broadcast television.

    A fortnight ago publisher Pan MacMillan announced that it would no longer be publishing Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way, a paleo diet book for babies co-authored by Evans, nutritionist Helen Padarin and blogger Charlotte Carr. The book had been publicly criticised by doctors and dieticians for recommending a baby milk formula based on liver and bone broth, and the condemnation was tied to Evans’ very public profile as an advocate for the paleo diet, which is based on unprocessed foods from humanity’s hunter-gatherer beginnings.

    “In my view, there’s a very real possibility that a baby may die if this book goes ahead,” Professor Heather Yeatman, the president of the Public Health Association of Australia, told the Australian Women’s Weekly, while the federal Health Department confirmed it was investigating the book due to, “the inadequate nutritional values of some of the foods”.

    Sam Newman, for example, may have had his moments away from The Footy Show, but I am reasonably certain the words “a baby may die” have never been directed his way. Evans and Channel Seven were lucky that another food-based scandal – the fake cancer survival claims and charitable misdeeds of app developer Belle Gibson – was broken by Fairfax Media at the same time. They dodged a bullet.

    Evans, however, is unrepentant. The celebrity chef and his co-authors announced they were self-publishing digitally and he sarcastically thanked the media for covering an obviously relevant story – “keep up the great work promoting paleo,” he snarked. In the past months he’s also alluded to opposition to the paleo diet, being marshalled by multinational food corporations, and there have also been remarks connecting a modern processed diet with a growth in autism.

    The paleo diet has many satisfied devotees, but at what point does Evans’ advocacy start to intrude on My Kitchen Rules? Tom Cruise’s lustre as a film star dimmed when Scientology overtook his fictional roles, and the more Evans defends the paleo diet the more people are going to wonder whether he actually likes, or even approves of, the food that he’s judging several nights a week on Australia’s reality television juggernaut.

    Some of these issues bubbling under here are already playing out in Britain, where Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended from the show following a “fracas” with a producer over catering that may have involved a punch. The vehicle-based series is a huge success worldwide for the BBC and the divisive Clarkson – contrarian hero to some, prat to others – is integral to the show.

    But generally Clarkson’s activities away from the Top Gear studio have segued with the tone of sardonic bemusement he has made his trademark. On air or off he winds people up, whereas on My Kitchen Rules Peter Evans is clean-cut and relentlessly on message. He wears a suit well, smiles and generally talks about the food contestants prepare for him with concise positivity.

    Pete Evans is currently concluding a 26-date tour of Australia and New Zealand that promotes the paleo way, so any doubts at Channel Seven aren’t about to disappear. Of course all networks have the “utmost confidence” in their talent until the precise moment they don’t, but then again it’s not as if My Kitchen Rules has just two hosts that are indispensable. Based on the newly prominent profile of Irish chef Colin Fassnidge, the show now has three hosts.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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