Since Julia Moskin’s article about cookbook ghostwriters came out last week in the Times, “ghostwriter” has become a dirty word in the celebrity cooking world. First, Rachael Ray told Eater that she has never employed a ghostwriter for any of her projects. She said that Wes Martin, the chef credited in the article with some of Ray’s recipe development, was a “valued colleague” and a friend who has done various food styling and photography for her. Now, Gwyneth Paltrow has jumped aboard the denial train, posting over the weekend on her Twitter feed that the Times article needs fact-checking. “No ghost writer on my cookbook, I wrote every word myself,” she tweeted.
Eater points out that in the author’s note of My Father’s Daughter, Paltrow thanks Julia Turshen, the chef Moskin associates with Paltrow in the Times article, for her “assistance.” The book’s author’s note also states that Turshen “quantified, tested, and retested every recipe, oversaw the production of the photos, helped brainstorm in a crisis, and above all was my intellectual and emotional support through the whole process.” Yes, it seems she “assisted” Paltrow a lot, especially in the recipe-development area, but she also got a pretty hefty shout-out in the book.
Can this mini-kerfuffle be boiled down to a question of semantics? “Assistant,” “colleague,” “ghostwriter” — who cares? The assistants and ghostwriters of this world probably do. But, for the most part, they’re not speaking up: The Times article’s most substantial firsthand testimony of what goes on in the ghostwriting biz came from the author herself.