Backlash over celebrity chef’s slur

Jamie Oliver Y-wordCelebrity chef Jamie Oliver has gone into hiding after a video surfaced of him saying the Y-word. The thirty-eight-year-old British chef and father of four was slated to appear yesterday at Culinaria NYC, the annual gathering of luminaries from the world of gastronomy. He was last seen fleeing the parking lot in a green SUV just hours before he was supposed to speak.

A video was uploaded to YouTube last week in which Oliver can be heard quietly saying the Y-word. The video was taken on a cell phone by an anonymous fan who was waiting in line to get Oliver’s autograph. Criticism of the chef has been wide and fierce, ranging from calls for a boycott of Oliver’s books to demands that his visa be revoked.

Oliver’s publicist says the video clip was taken out of context.

“It’s a mere fragment of a conversation and doesn’t include what preceded the utterance of Y-word,” Oliver’s publicist Francis Marks said early today. “Jamie is a very sensitive, mature individual and would have never used the word to disparage any one person or a group of people.” He noted that Oliver was not in hiding, but rather was getting some “breathing space.”

Many fans are outraged.

“What if my children had heard him saying those things?” said Melissa Goodwin, a Cleveland nurse and self-described foodie. “I mean, it’s not the 1970s anymore. You can’t go around saying the Y-word whenever you feel like it.”

Some of Oliver’s co-celebrity chefs have come to his defense. Emeril Lagasse wrote on Twitter:

Be strong Jamie, we all make mistakes. #jamieoliveryword. Your fans will stand by you.

HarperCollins, the publishing company that recently signed Oliver, has declined to comment on what its course of action will be.