Celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn — the prince of D.C.’s burger and fries renaissance — has a deal to promote heartburn drugs. Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? But it’s the latest eyebrow-raising partnership of a food star and the pharmaceutical industry.
Mendelsohn, 31, hit Washington in a big way after his 2008 star turn as a “Top Chef” finalist; no less a connoisseur than Michelle Obama has graced his Capitol Hill joints, Good Stuff Eatery and We the Pizza.
This week, he announced that he suffers from acid reflux disease — and has teamed up with the makers of the prescription drug Dexilant to educate others about the condition.
“There came a point in time where I had to take care of myself,” Mendelsohn said during a scripted-sounding Web presentation Thursday. The 40-minute video conference was an extended commercial for Mendelsohn, the drug and the new “Don’t Let it Burn” Website, which boasts “heartburn friendly” recipes and lifestyle tips.
Among his advice: Avoid fried and fatty foods and tomato pizza sauces. Yes, the kind of food on his menus. Not that you should stop eating at his restaurants! “You don’t need to change your diet completely,” he said. “At the end of the day, you really just need to manage it.”
Spike, we’re sorry to hear about your heartburn — but why on earth would a young chef on the make want this associated with his brand? Especially now that he’s opening another Good Stuff branch in Crystal City next week; a third is coming soon to Georgetown. He’s also slated to appear on Bravo’s upcoming “Life After Top Chef.”
Mendelsohn’s drug deal is drawing criticism from top food blogs, such as influential Eater.com: “In a move super-reminiscent of grease queen Paula Deen’s diabetes announcement/big pharma sponsorship, Spike is just the next in line to be a Big Pharma Sellout Chef.”
Chefs (especially those known for high-calorie, high- fat food) used to keep their medical problems private. Deen was pilloried for hypocrisy earlier this year when she finally revealed — three years and a butter-drenched bestselling cookbook after her diagnosis — that she had Type 2 diabetes. . . and an endorsement deal with Novo Nordisk. But she’s still on the air — and touting healthy versions of her recipes.
Mendelsohn did not respond to several requests for comment.