Valerie Bertinelli’s departure from “Kids Baking Championship” is not a cut-and-dry case of Food Network firing the “One Day at a Time” alum from her role as co-host and judge of the show. Rather, it’s the aftermath of the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned channel deciding not to renew Bertinelli’s larger exclusive deal with the network when it ended in 2022, sources tell Variety.
Bertinelli signed a multi-series deal with Food Network in 2018, which expired in 2021. The pact was extended for an additional year and came to an end in 2022, when the currently airing Season 12 of “Kids Baking Championship” was taped back to back with Season 11. Bertinelli has co-hosted and judged ‘Kids,” a spinoff of Food Network’s larger “Baking Championship” competition franchise that includes holiday and seasonal iterations, alongside Duff Goldman since it first debuted on Food Network in 2015.
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“Her deal expired, they opted not to renew it. They could have come to me with an offer just for ‘Kids.’ They never did. Simple as that,” Bertinelli’s longtime manager Marc Schwartz told Variety Tuesday.
According to insiders, the choice to not renew Bertinelli’s deal in 2022 was made by development execs that no longer work at the network: Former president Courtney White exited Food Network in March 2022 ahead of the close of the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger, followed soon by her replacement Jane Latman in December 2022. Betsy Ayala has been in the chief post since that time.
Bertinelli’s deal ended more than a year ago, and she has no projects currently filming or in development at Food Network. A source close to the situation says an offer was not made by the network for Bertinelli to continue as co-host on “Kids” because Food Network was led to believe that if it didn’t also renew her exclusive multi-series overall deal, Bertinelli would not accept an offer to continue on “Kids.” (Food Network opted not to renew Bertinelli’s overall deal amid budget cuts and mass layoffs across Warner Bros. Discovery in its post-merger consolidation.)
Representatives for Food Network and Bertinelli declined to comment for this story.
In a video posted to Instagram Saturday, Bertinelli said she received confirmation Friday night on something she had been “avoiding facing”: she had not been asked back to “Kids Baking Championship” for a 13th season.
“Kids” is currently airing its 12th season, with episodes that feature Bertinelli and were taped back to back with Season 11 in the summer of 2022. Variety has confirmed “Delicious Miss Brown” host Kardea Brown, who hosted the 2023 “Kids Baking Championship” holiday special with Goldman, will return as judge for the 2024 holiday edition of “Kids,” but that no decision has been made at the network regarding talent attached to future seasons of the main series, which has not yet been renewed for Season 13. No episodes of “Kids Baking Championship” proper have been filmed without Bertinelli.
Bertinelli told her followers Saturday that she believed Food Network’s decision to not ask her to return as host was due to “budget cuts,” and noted the currently airing “Kids Baking Championship” episodes were recorded in the summer of 2022, her “apex year of hell,” while she was going through her divorce from ex-husband Tom Vitale.
“Without sounding like a drama queen, the show saved my life,” Bertinelli, who previously hosted “Valerie’s Home Cooking” and “Family Food Showdown” at Food Network, said in the Instagram video. “Just working with all of those really wonderful people and feeling productive and knowing I could spread some kindness, and not just wallow in my hell and just try to keep my head above water. It helped me, it was like a flotation device. So it really hurts that I won’t be able to go back and see everybody and say, ‘Hey, I made it through,'” she added.
On Sunday, Bertinelli took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to clarify a “tad misleading” People magazine headline that cited sources saying “talks stalled” with Food Network execs over her return to “Kids”: “There were never any talks, so no talks could be stalled. I got an inkling I might not be asked back when I saw I was not in the holiday specials. I got a text by a third party on Friday that told me I would not be back. LOL I was basically ghosted.”
Bertinelli added in a followup post: “I have zero ill will toward anyone at FN, I enjoyed every single moment I worked for them, and they are all lovely, kind, hard-working people. And I understand business is business. But I won’t tolerate lies. I am a lot of things, but I am not greedy, nor am I a liar.”
A source close to Bertinelli told Variety Tuesday, “Obviously, she’s disappointed. She had a great time working on the show,” but that “she has no ill-will toward Food Network.”
Next up, Bertinelli is heading out on her cookbook tour for “Indulge: Delicious and Decadent Dishes to Enjoy and Share.” She is currently evaluating offers from other platforms for future projects and deals.
She is scheduled to attend the upcoming Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, taking place Feb. 22-25, in Miami.
BreAnna Bell contributed to this story.
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