Andrew Zimmern and Sameh Wadi in political Twitter spat: How much do we want to know about our celebrity chefs?

Controversial globe shot: Can you spot what's missing?
Controversial globe shot: Can you spot what's missing?

As contentious debates go, the dispute between Palestine and Israel is right up there near the top. Many lives have been lost and a peace accord has been elusive. It's not a discussion one would expect to be addressed between two chefs, on either side of the divide, aired over social media, but that is exactly what happened yesterday. 

It came to light that chef Sameh Wadi of Saffron and World Street Kitchen had posted a picture of a globe on his Facebook page showing Palestine but not Israel. His accompanying caption read, "We need more world maps that are correct, such as this one!" Wadi is of Palestinian origin. When one "friend" pointed out, "This 'map' is missing Israel..." Wadi responded, "Exactly the way that this should be." Television personality and fellow chef Andrew Zimmern saw the picture and publicly called out Wadi.

Zimmern shared the map with his followers on the site Instagram. The question he posed to Wadi was, "Care to explain your comment at top? Do you deny existence of Israel? Or just want it to go away?" Zimmern is of Jewish decent. 

What followed was a clenched-jaw type of courteous debate, in which Wadi explained that this was something he posted on his personal Facebook page, which had nothing to do with his restaurant, Saffron, the Twitter handle he used to respond. He further explained, "Of course I don't deny the existence of israel, i'm merely showing the existence of palestine on the world map." 

Both chefs agreed to meet in person, and Zimmern ended the discussion with a compliment to Wadi and his restaurant to Zimmern's over 400,000 Twitter followers.

The Twitter platform allows what might have been a quiet discussion to take place in public, with hundreds (or in Zimmern's case hundreds of thousands) of people watching.  Chef Stewart Woodman of Heidi's, also of Jewish descent, weighed in with a quip: "Should we call him Chef Ahmadinejad? zilla"

Beyond the Middle East debate, the conversation left us wondering: How much do we expect of our chefs as they move from the kitchen to the television screen? Wadi has appeared on the Food Network's Iron Chef America, and Andrew Zimmern's face is internationally known from his successful television shows and commercial appearances. As they become personalities, do we expect a shift?
How much personality do we want to see from these talented people who go from the relative anonymity of a local restaurant kitchen to standing under the glare of a spotlight on TV, Twitter, and Facebook? Where is the line between personal and personality?

Join the discussion below.

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Saffron Restaurant & Lounge

123 N. 3rd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401


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