Pastry chef Anne Thornton, host of Food Network show "Desserts First," has been fired (and her show cancelled) for an allegedly plagiarizing several recipes, according to a report today in the New York Post.
The Post, citing unnamed sources, writes that Thornton's plagiarism had three targets: Ina Garten, Martha Stewart and 2006 cookbook "The Essence of Chocolate."
A quick comparison of Thornton's recipes and those she allegedly plagiarized shows that she didn't literally copy and paste. But the recipes are indeed very close. The only differences between the ingredients for the crust of her "Luscious Lemon Squares" and those in the 1999 Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, for example, are a sixth of a cup of flour, a half-teaspoon of almond extract and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Thornton's recipe even uses "fine salt" rather than the less dense "kosher salt" used in Ina's recipe, the difference in measurement may not reflect a true difference in volume.
Thornton's show premiered in October of 2010 and was not renewed for a third season. Food Network representatives, responding to request for comment from the Post, maintained that the decision was based solely on ratings. Thornton, for her part, said she had no knowledge of plagiarism accusations, though she admitted to being a fan of Ina and Martha.
Recipe attribution is tricky business -- the copyright laws on the topic are notoriously vague, with legal infringments often hinging on the actual phrasing of instructions rather than a list of ingredients. For that reason, even high-profile recipe plagiarists have gotten off scot-free in the past. But a TV chef is certainly supposed to be held to a higher standard of culinary originality to a normal person.