Published February 16, 2012
Television dessert diva Anne Thornton lost her sweet deal with the Food Network after brass discovered some of her decadent delights were reheats from cookbooks and super chefs like Martha Stewart and the Barefoot Contessa, sources said.
Thornton -- whose show, "Dessert First," launched on the foodie channel in October 2010 -- was told the popular program would not be renewed when its second season ended.
"The network was very concerned because many of her recipes were close, with only a few minor edits, to other chefs' recipes," a source close to the production said Wednesday.
Among the sweet sensations that raised eyebrows were the frosting for Thornton's German Chocolate Cupcakes, a near replica of Martha Stewart's 2009 Coconut-Pecan Frosting recipe, give or take a handful of pecans and a dollop of butter.
And the New York pastry chef's Luscious Lemon Squares were very similar to a 1999 recipe from Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa.
A recipe Thornton cooked up for Mascarpone-Stuffed French Toast closely mimicked one published in 2006 in the cookbook "The Essence of Chocolate." A side-by-side comparison of those two recipes shows Thornton added orange zest to the mix and topped hers with strawberry, rather than maple syrup.
The wording of the cooking instructions is also very similar.
"The network discovered the similarities during the second season of the show," a source said. "They went back and reviewed her first season, and discovered what looked like copying then, too."
A Food Network spokeswoman declined to address whether there was any issue over the origin of Thornton's recipes Wednesday.
"Anne's show, 'Dessert First,' was not renewed after its second season purely due to ratings/performance," she said in a statement.
Reached Wednesday, Thornton insisted there was never any issue over the originality of her recipes. "This is all news to me," she said.
"I get inspiration from all my heroes," Thornton, who counts the Barefoot Contessa among her biggest influences, said. "You take what you learn from them and then you riff on that. As for lemon squares, there's only so many ways you can make them, so of course there will be similarities."
"It's chemistry; it's not just cooking. So there are always going to be things that are the same," she added.