First celebrity cooks invaded our living rooms on PBS and the Food Network. Now they’re taking over the kitchen with their eponymous sauces, soups and other products. But does adding an A-list name like Lidia Bastianich, Mario Batali or Giada De Laurentiis guarantee good taste? Consumer Reports tests show that sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.
In our most recent tests of celebrity products, we tasted foods likely to appear on our readers’ shopping lists including pasta sauces, salad dressings and soups. In addition to brand-name celebrities we tasted brands from such restaurant favorites as Original Bookbinder’s in Philadelphia, and Delmonico’s and Rao’s in New York City as well as from Hollywood heavyweights including Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Newman and Paul Sorvino.
Our conclusion: Don’t be starstruck. Although many of the celebrity sauces, soups, and dressings we tested were a step up from the leading national brands, some were merely okay and others had faults. There was an excellent or very good pasta sauce to suit most tastes. Give first consideration to top-rated Giada De Laurentiis Tomato Basil, a buttery rich sauce sold only at Target. It costs $3 and is a CR Best Buy. Most consumers would not expect that sauce to come from a jar, our testers concluded.
Other sauces are expensive but worth a try. Mario Batali’s is the choice if you love garlic, Rao’s if you like it slightly spicy, and Paul Sorvino’s if you prefer a mild sauce that tastes mostly of tomatoes.
Among soups, Wolfgang Puck’s Tomato Basil Bisque was the standout: It was creamy, thick, and fresh-tasting. Our tasters weren’t impressed by any of the minestrone soups, even Puck’s, because most had mushy vegetables or pasta. As for salad dressing, Rao’s was the best of the bunch, but Cardini’s was very good and was lower in fat than the rest.
Full Ratings of all the soups and sauces we tasted can be found in Whose star shines the brightest? You can also see how other celebrity products fared including red wines, coffee, detergent, cookware, knives, blenders, food processors and a variety of other foods. Greg Norman Shiraz anyone?
—Mary H.J. Farrell