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Veggie controversy mars 'Iron Chef' White House episode

This undated photo courtesy of the Food Network

This undated photo courtesy of the Food Network shows chef Bobby Flay, from left, and White House chef Cristeta Comerford, Alton Brown, first lady Michelle Obama, chef Mario Batali and chef Emeril Lagasse. Credit: AP

The heavily promoted special that opened the Food Network's third season of "Iron Chef America" promised a very special guest, first lady Michelle Obama, and a very special "Super Chef Battle" in which the four-star chefs could use anything they found in the White House garden as ingredients.

There was, as it turns out, only one very special problem - the ingredients didn't actually come from the White House garden.

A Web site reported Wednesday that the vegetables used on the special taped in New York last November at the so-called "Kitchen Stadium" were in fact ringers - or "stunt doubles."

"The show did not disclose that 'stunt double vegetables' were used and not produce from the first family's garden," according to Politics Daily, which has been covering Obama's efforts to battle childhood obesity, which the special in part was promoting.

The program was seen by many Long Islanders Sunday on WPIX/11, after the Food Network was blocked from Cablevision viewers in a dispute over money. An early news release describing the program noted that the chefs were to be greeted by the first lady, "who explains that the chefs will be allowed to use anything found in the White House kitchen garden to help them create their meals. After receiving their challenge, the chefs are split into two teams [and] immediately head to the garden, where they are tasked with harvesting their ingredients. Then it's off to Kitchen Stadium, where the battle begins."

A spokeswoman for Food Network - who didn't return a call or e-mail Thursday - sent a statement to Politics Daily: "Due to the production delay between the shoot at the White House and the shoot at Food Network, the produce used in Kitchen Stadium during the 'Super Chef Battle' was not actually from the White House garden."

The statement noted that the "same types" of produce were used, while the White House produce that was picked "was donated to a local pantry." The only produce that did originate at the White House? Honey.

A call left with the first lady's communications office was not returned.

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