Sorry, Gwyneth! 'New York Times' Stands by Claim That Paltrow Had a Ghostwriter

The newspaper says it will not retract a story claiming that Paltrow and other celeb chefs used ghostwriters for their cookbooks

Gwyneth Paltrow might think that The New York Times' "facts need checking" -- but the venerable newspaper is quite happy with the facts they have, thank you very much. And so the Times is standing by a story it ran in the dining section last week claiming that Paltrow and other celebrity chefs -- including Jamie Oliver, Rachael Ray and Mario Batali -- have used a ghostwriter to pen their cookbooks.

The article, written by food writer Julia Moskin, identified Julia Turshen as Paltrow's ghostwriter on My Father's Daughter (and an upcoming second book) and prompted Paltrow to take to Twitter to defend herself on Saturday. "Love @nytimes dining section but this weeks facts need checking," she wrote. "No ghost writer on my cookbook, I wrote every word myself."

The New York Times begs to differ. "The article does not merit correction," a rep for the paper told E! Online Monday.

To drive that point home (and perhaps also to hedge their bets), on Monday the Times published a second article by Moskin. In it, Moskin reveals that Paltrow wasn't the only celebrity chef to raise issue with her story.

"Twitter and the food blogosphere quickly lighted up, and we heard from a number of people named in the article, including Jamie Oliver, Rachael Ray, Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali," Moskin writes. "All four have acknowledged, in print, working with collaborators on their books -- but all objected to what they saw as the implication that they were not the authors of their own work."

As Moskin says, Paltrow certainly has admitted to working on the book with Turshen, a regular contributor to her GOOP newsletter. Turshen identifies Paltrow's book in her online resume and even wrote an article about their collaboration for Food & Wine, which describes how she and Paltrow spent a "year or so gathering her recipes, and the stories behind them." So what's Gwyneth's beef then?

Well, Moskin posits that the reactions of Paltrow et al. highlight just how much of a stigma is attached to the notion of ghostwriting in the food world: "It suggested that the food itself -- the ingredients, the flavors, the techniques -- was invented by someone else." But according to Moskin, that scenario isn't ghostwriting; it's a much rarer beast known as "ghost-cooking," and the celebrity chefs who engage in this practice are especially reviled.

"Ghost-cooking is rarer than the routine work of wrestling hot, messy, complicated recipes onto the page in comprehensible English... That is cookbook ghostwriting, as I and many others have experienced it," Moskin continues. "The food itself, and the story that surrounds it, usually comes from the chef in varying stages of page-readiness."

So, basically, Moskin says that Paltrow and the others mentioned in her original article worked with ghostwriters and not ghost-cookers (or would it be ghost-cooking writers?) to produce their tomes. Based on Paltrow's own admissions and the distinction Moskin draws between ghostwriting and ghost-cooking, that sounds completely feasible, doesn't it? After all, every writer (poets excepted) has an editor who helps to shape their work into its final polished form for mass consumption.

Sounds like what we had here was a failure to communicate, or just a simple mix-up in terminology. Interestingly, Moskin closes her article by noting that Ray, Batali and a rep for Oliver told the Times that "some other chefs should have been included in the article -- but not them." Things sure can get saucy in the cooking world.

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