To the scientific community, he is a false prophet; to his supporters in the alternative health movement, he is a fearless truth-teller.
But to those who know Pete Evans best, he is just a man who lost his way after being seduced by the celebrity spotlight.
The 47-year-old former My Kitchen Rules judge – known as ‘Paleo Pete’ for his evangelical support of the fad Paleolithic diet – was once something of a wunderkind in the restaurant world, but his early prestige is now a distant memory.
From kitchen prodigy to national joke: How MKR judge Pete Evans was ‘changed by fame’ and seduced by pseudoscience – as his brother and ex reveal another side to the Paleo chef
Pete’s brother, Dave, and his ex-partner and mother of his two children, Astrid Edlinger, both seem to agree that he underwent a shift in personality in about 2011.
Astrid, who dated Pete for 11 years until 2011, said after their break-up: ‘He’s got more famous and it inevitably changes anyone.’
She wasn’t wrong. While Pete had earned the respect of the culinary world, it wasn’t until he became a judge on Channel Seven’s My Kitchen Rules in 2010 that he became a bona fide celebrity alongside his French sidekick, Manu Feildel.
A changed man? Astrid Edlinger, who was Pete’s partner for 11 years until 2011, said after their break-up: ‘He’s got more famous and it inevitably changes anyone.’ Pictured together on December 14, 2010 in Sydney
At about this time, Pete is said to have ‘walked out’ on the Hugos restaurant group he and his brother had built together in order to focus on his burgeoning TV career.
In 2012, The Daily Telegraph reported that Dave Evans shared Astrid’s view that fame had had a detrimental effect on his younger sibling.
Pete’s decision to step back as a ‘working partner’ at Hugos also resulted in years of silence between the brothers. (Dave confirmed to the Manly Daily in 2017 they had reconciled and were speaking again.)
Pete Evans’ restaurant career
1993: Pete, then 19, opens his first restaurant with brother Dave, The Pantry, in Brighton, Melbourne
1996: The brothers move to Sydney and open Hugos Bondi with David Corsi, starting the award-winning Hugos Restaurant Group
2000: Hugos Lounge opens in Kings Cross
2004: Hugos Bar Pizza opens its doors, also in Kings Cross
2005: Hugos wins ‘World’s Best Pizza’ at the New York Pizza Show
2008: Hugos Manly opens; Pete’s involvement in the business begins to wind down
2010: Pete debuts as a judge on Seven’s My Kitchen Rules
2012: Pete exits Hugos to focus on his television career
Dave did not comment publicly on Pete’s departure at the time, but a company spokesperson made it clear there was no love lost between them.
‘For the past five years, Pete has had less and less to do with the business as he spends 10 months a year working full time on MKR and his other television and book commitments,’ said a Hugos representative.
Five years later, Dave said his brother had been ‘brought down’ by fame.
‘Celebrity creates a loss of your privacy – and I like my life the way it is,’ the owner of Hugos at Manly Wharf said in August 2017.
‘I look what happened to people like my brother, other people, they’re set up to be brought down by the fame.
‘It’s a vicious cycle, a slippery slope. I’ve watched too may people, they’ve become famous, also not enjoy losing their own privacy. Just running a restaurant is enough.’
While neither Astrid nor Dave has spoken about Pete’s more controversial views – which include advising against wearing sunscreen and endorsing anti-vaxxers – it is telling that they noticed something different about him as early as nine years ago.
However, Astrid did tell Daily Mail Australia in 2015 that she did not agree with the Paleolithic diet, which she described as ‘a little extreme’.
(Sometimes referred to as the ‘Caveman Diet,’ the Paleo diet advocates eating unprocessed foods that our ancestors would have eaten in the Paleolithic era. It involves eating vegetables, berries, nuts and lean meats while discarding dairy, grains, caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars.)
Troubled relationship: In 2012, it was reported that Dave Evans (pictured) shared Astrid’s view that fame had had a detrimental effect on his younger brother
Pete reportedly began to embrace an alternative lifestyle after meeting his now-wife, New Zealand model Nicola Robinson, in 2011.
It’s believed that Nicola, formerly known as Nicky Watson, introduced her husband to the Paleo diet, which would go on to become a cornerstone of his health philosophy.
The self-styled ‘nutrition mermaid’ was an odd match for Pete, according to his ex.
‘All I’m going to say is Pete has had down-to-earth girlfriends so I’m not sure what’s happened now. I’m a down-to-earth and natural person. I don’t know what she is like,’ said Astrid.
The origins of ‘Paleo Pete’ can be traced back to late 2012, when he lost a significant amount of weight before the fourth season of My Kitchen Rules.
Influential: Pete reportedly began to embrace an alternative lifestyle after meeting his now-wife, Nicola Robinson (left), in 2011. It’s believed that she introduced her husband to the Paleo diet, which would go on to become a cornerstone of his health philosophy
He credited his weight loss to a radical diet of superfoods, including activated almonds, which was widely mocked on Twitter at the time.
From there, Pete began to embrace more alarming ideas.
In 2014, he claimed the modern Australian diet was behind the rise in autism. (There is no scientific link between diet and autism.)
Transformation: The origins of ‘Paleo Pete’ can be traced back to late 2012, when he lost a significant amount of weight before the fourth season of My Kitchen Rules. Pictured left on January 25, 2012; and right on January 24, 2013
The following year, his cookbook was pulled from shelves due to its bone broth recipe for infants that experts warned could be deadly.
He went on to claim that osteoporosis suffers shouldn’t eat dairy; that Wi-Fi is ‘dangerous’; that camel milk can supplement breastfeeding; and that it’s okay to look directly into the sun, to list a few examples.
His most recent controversy occurred last month, when he was fined $25,200 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for promoting a ‘healing lamp’ he claimed could help cure coronavirus.
On Friday, it emerged Pete had ‘amicably’ parted ways with Channel Seven after 10 years as a judge on My Kitchen Rules.
It effectively marked his break from the mainstream after years of flirting with off-the-wall ideas during his tenure at the network.
MKR rivalry: For years, it was rumoured that Manu Feildel (left), an affable French bon vivant, did not get along with his Paleo-obsessed colleague. According to Woman’s Day in 2017, he found Pete ‘stranger than strange’. Pictured on January 20, 2014
News of his departure followed weeks of silence from Seven regarding the controversial host’s employment status.
The broadcaster had been ignoring inquiries from journalists about Pete ever since he was fined by the TGA for making unscientific claims about COVID-19.
While most high-profile departures from free-to-air networks are met with a chorus of tributes, there has been deafening silence for Pete.
Seven declined to offer an on-the-record statement to Daily Mail Australia, and his MKR co-host Manu Feildel – who remains at Seven and will be appearing on another cooking show, Plate of Origin, later this year – has yet to comment.
For years, it was rumoured that Manu, an affable French bon vivant, did not get along with his Paleo-obsessed colleague.
Departure: The only colleague to comment on Pete’s exit has been MKR judge Colin Fassnidge (pictured). He told The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday that Pete was a ‘good bloke’, but hastened to add he didn’t agree with his views
In 2017, Woman’s Day reported that things had become ‘so bad’ between them they had to travel separately while filming MKR.
A source claimed the two men had ‘nothing in common’. Pete was said to find Manu an ‘attention seeker’, while Manu thought Pete was ‘stranger than strange’.
They both strongly denied any feud, but Manu reignited the rumours in January 2018 when he revealed Pete had not attended his wedding to Clarissa Weerasena.
The only colleague to comment on Pete’s exit has been MKR judge Colin Fassnidge.
He told The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday that Pete was a ‘good bloke’, but hastened to add he didn’t agree with his views.
‘He is a good bloke, you might not always agree with what he says, but he says it with passion. It would be pretty boring if we were all the same,’ Colin said, diplomatically.
‘It’s television, no one knows if they’ve got a job next week let alone next year, but you just have to look at the ratings [for MKR] this year to see something has to change. I’d probably get three new judges.’
Following his departure from Seven, Pete plans to expand his ‘alternative lifestyle empire’ by marketing books, documentaries and other merchandise.
Having been ousted by the mainstream, he is relocating to Australia’s hippy capital, Byron Bay, where locals are more likely to be receptive to his pseudoscientific ideas.
Work in progress: Having been ousted by the mainstream, he is relocating to Australia’s hippy capital, Byron Bay, where locals are more likely to be receptive to his pseudoscientific ideas. He is set to open a ‘healing clinic’ in the Habitat retail precinct (site pictured)
He is set to open a ‘healing clinic’ in the Habitat retail precinct off Bayshore Drive, according to the Northern Star newspaper.
For the time being, he is living with Nicola and his two children, Chilli and Indii, at their $1.2million ranch in Pottsville in northern NSW.
In a potential sign of things to come, he has been sharing Instagram posts alluding to (but not explicitly endorsing) conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and Bill Gates.
He has also been defying the government by flouting social distancing rules during the pandemic by visiting and hugging his elderly mother.
It remains to be seen if his release from Seven will be the start of a new and troubling chapter of the ‘Paleo Pete’ saga.
Inside Pete Evans’ history of controversy – including bizarre claims the Paleo diet can prevent autism and advising against wearing sunscreen – after he was fined for promoting a ‘healing lamp’ he claimed could treat the ‘Wuhan virus’
Celebrity chef Pete Evans was fined $25,200 last month for promoting a lamp that he claimed could help treat coronavirus.
But it wasn’t the first time the My Kitchen Rules judge, 47, had found himself in hot water over his bizarre theories and unscientific claims.
From questionable diet advice to strange views on health and wellness, Daily Mail Australia takes a look at Pete’s long history of controversy.
It’s also worth noting that while Pete has drawn the ire of scientists with his views, he has a devoted following in the alternative health space and is regarded by some as a martyr who sacrificed mainstream acceptability in order to preach ‘the truth’.
Divisive: Pete Evans was fined $25,200 earlier this month for promoting a lamp that he claimed could help treat coronavirus – but it wasn’t the first time the My Kitchen Rules judge had found himself in hot water over his bizarre theories and unscientific claims
October 2014: Pete claims the Paleo diet can prevent autism
In October 2014, Pete posted a 2,100-word rant on Facebook bizarrely claiming that the modern Australian diet was behind the rise in autism.
Pete took aim at the Heart Foundation and the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) while promoting the supposed benefits of the Paleo diet.
‘Why has our rate of autism jumped from 1 in 10,000 children in 1974, to 1 in 50 in 2014? Where do you think it will be in another 40 years if it is escalating at this rate? This has grown rapidly since the guidelines have been in place!’ he wrote.
History of Pete Evans’ controversies
October 2014: Pete claims the Paleo diet can prevent autism
March 2015: His book is pulled from shelves due to its bone broth recipe for infants
July 2016: Pete claims vegan women should eat meat during pregnancy, advises against wearing ‘normal’ sunscreen, and claims Wi-Fi is ‘dangerous’
August 2016: He says osteoporosis suffers shouldn’t eat dairy
September 2016: Pete claims camel milk could supplement breastfeeding
April 2017: Pete campaigns against the ‘mass fluoridation of public water’
December 2018: Pete reveals he looks directly into the sun
April 2020: Pete’s ketogenic recipe book is slammed by health professionals and he is fined for promoting his ‘healing lamp’
Among the experts who slammed Pete’s claims at the time was renowned autism expert Professor Cheryl Dissanayake.
‘There is absolutely no evidence that diet is the cause of autism,’ Professor Dissanayake said.
WHAT IS THE PALEO DIET?
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Caveman Diet,’ the Paleo diet advocates eating unprocessed foods that our ancestors would have eaten in the Paleolithic era.
WHAT DOES IT INCLUDE?
Eating vegetables, berries, nuts and lean meats while discarding dairy, grains, caffeine, alcohol and refined sugars.
WHAT DO PROFESSIONALS THINK?
Despite the growing popularity of the diet, some medical professionals have spoken out against it, saying those who practice it can miss out on some essential vitamins and nutrients.
March 2015: Pete’s book is pulled from shelves due to its bone broth recipe for infants
Pete’s Paleo cookbook for children, Bubba Yum Yum, was pulled from shelves in March 2015.
An expert claimed the book’s bone broth recipe for infants could kill a baby due to its high vitamin A content.
The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) released a statement saying that the book could lead to the deaths of children across the country.
Pulled: Pete’s Paleo cookbook for children, Bubba Yum Yum, was pulled from shelves in March 2015 after an expert claimed the book’s bone broth recipe could potentially kill infants
‘In my view, there’s a very real possibility that a baby may die if this book goes ahead,’ said Professor Heather Yeatman, president of the PHAA.
Pete instead published the book independently online.
July 2016: Pete claims vegan women should eat meat during pregnancy
Pete angered fans on Facebook in July 2016 by telling women not to follow a vegan diet if they ‘are wanting to reproduce’.
However, health experts warned the public not to follow Pete’s advice without doing their own research.
‘I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone’: Pete angered fans on Facebook in July 2016 when he told women not to follow a vegan diet if they ‘are wanting to reproduce’
‘The guy is dangerous. Pete Evans is a cook, he is not an anthropologist,’ Robyn Chuter of Empower Total Health told Daily Mail Australia at the time.
Despite the criticism, Pete didn’t back down from his position.
‘The most sensible approach to pregnancy is a diet filled with animal fats and protein,’ he said at the time.
July 2016: Pete advises against wearing ‘normal’ sunscreen
Pete infamously discouraged fans from wearing ‘normal sunscreen’ in July 2016, claiming it was filled with ‘poisonous chemicals’.
‘The silly thing is people put on normal chemical sunscreen then lay out in the sun for hours on end and think that they are safe because they have covered themselves in poisonous chemicals, which is a recipe for disaster as we are witnessing these days,’ he wrote on Facebook at the time.
‘We need to respect the sun but not hide from it either as it is so beneficial for us, but use common sense. The goal is always never to burn yourself.’
‘We need to respect the sun but not hide from it’: Pete infamously discouraged fans from wearing ‘normal sunscreen’ in July 2016, claiming it was filled with ‘poisonous chemicals’
Pete, who admitted he used ‘generally nothing’ for sun protection, enraged skin cancer experts with his remarks.
A year later he clarified his comments on Sunday Night, saying: ‘A lot of sunscreens are full of toxic chemicals that you would not put on your face or on your kids’ faces.
‘So I’ve never said, “Don’t use sunscreen.” I’ve said [to] make sure you choose one that’s the least toxic that’s out there.’
July 2016: Pete claims Wi-Fi is ‘dangerous’
In July 2016, the outspoken chef revealed he keeps his Internet switched off when he’s not using it due to fears Wi-Fi can cause health issues.
Bizarre routine: In July 2016, the outspoken chef revealed he keeps his Internet switched off when he’s not using it due to fears Wi-Fi can cause health issues
‘We turn off Wi-Fi at night at home and have our house EMF [electromagnetic field] friendly,’ he wrote on Facebook in response to a fan’s question about the supposed ‘dangers of Wi-Fi’.
‘If people have not educated themselves on this yet, then I urge them to do so as well. EMFs are causing a lot of issues for people,’ he added.
In November 2016, Pete said he uses ‘Earthing mats’ to fight what he believes are the ‘dangerous’ electromagnetic fields caused by Wi-Fi.
Oddball: In November 2016, Pete said he uses ‘Earthing mats’ to fight what he believes are the ‘dangerous’ electromagnetic fields caused by Wi-Fi
‘When you’re sitting at your computer, you put your feet onto a little mat and it sort of, potentially, negates any of the Wi-Fi issues and reconnects you to the Earth,’ he told The Age, adding: ‘So that to me sounds like, wow, that’s a positive thing.’
Prominent American clinical neurologist Steven Novella slammed the theory in a blog post, writing: ‘This is just one of many pseudosciences that fits into the “just make s**t up” category.’
August 2016: Pete claims osteoporosis suffers shouldn’t eat dairy
Pete was slammed in August 2016 for dishing out unqualified medical advice when he told a woman with osteoporosis to stop consuming dairy.
The advice appears to be opposite to the common medical direction that dairy products help protect against the disease, which results in brittle and fragile bones due to vitamin D and calcium deficiencies.
‘Most doctors do not know this information’: Pete was slammed in August 2016 for dishing out unqualified medical advice when he told a woman with osteoporosis to stop consuming dairy
Pete gave the advice to a follower during one of his Facebook Q&A sessions.
The woman wrote: ‘I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. My doctor insists that medication is the only way. Can Paleo help?’
Pete responded: ‘I would strongly suggest removing dairy and eat the Paleo way as calcium from dairy can remove the calcium from your bones… Most doctors do not know this information.’
Quirky couple: Pete and his wife, Nicola Robinson (left), have raised eyebrows over the years by documenting themselves doing bizarre rituals, including spiritual tea ceremonies
The woman behind it all! Former Playboy model Nicola (pictured on the runway in 2009) is said to have introduced Pete to the Paleo diet when they started dating in 2011
Pete was slammed by Professor Peter Ebeling, an endocrinologist and medical director of Osteoporosis Australia, who told The Daily Telegraph: ‘He shouldn’t be saying these things. It’s really bad and just not true.
‘The keystone to preventing osteoporosis is adequate calcium intake and this is achieved by three [daily] serves of calcium-rich foods like dairy. Dairy is the most easily available source and has the highest calcium content in it.’
September 2016: Pete says camel milk can replace breastfeeding
Pete stirred up controversy in September 2016 when he claimed that camel milk was ‘nearly identical in its total composition to human milk’ and could ‘supplement regular breastfeeding’.
In a post on his website, he said camel milk was ‘expensive and a bit hard to come by but is generally safe from an immune reactive standpoint’.
More claims: Pete stirred up controversy in September 2016 when he claimed that camel milk was ‘nearly identical in its total composition to human milk’ and could ‘supplement regular breastfeeding’. Pete is pictured with his children, Indii, 11, and Chilli Evans, 14, whom he shares with his ex-wife, Astrid Edlinger
‘[Camel milk] may prove useful where supplementing regular breastfeeding might be necessary, as well as a non-immune reactive dairy alternative,’ the post continued.
However, the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) said camel milk could cause kidney damage in infants because of its high protein content.
April 2017: Pete campaigns against the ‘mass fluoridation of public water’
Pete raised eyebrows again in April 2017 when he posted a photo to Instagram of water flowing out of a tap and forming the poison symbol.
In the accompanying caption, he shared his concerns over the ‘mass fluoridation of public water’.
‘I am concerned’: Pete raised eyebrows again in April 2017 when he posted this photo to Instagram of water flowing out of a tap and forming the poison symbol. In the accompanying caption, he shared his concerns over the ‘mass fluoridation of public water’
‘I am concerned about mass fluoridation of public water, and I strongly believe that if people want to add fluoride to their drinking water then they should, but it should be a choice that each person has the ability and the right to make for their own household,’ he wrote.
Fluoride is added to water to prevent tooth decay and is endorsed by Australian medical bodies.
It wasn’t the first time Pete had expressed such views, as he’d supported a Western Australian anti-fluoride group in 2014.
Making his beliefs known: It wasn’t the first time Pete had expressed such views, as he’d supported a Western Australian anti-fluoride group in 2014 (pictured)
December 2018: Pete reveals he looks into the sun
Pete was slammed in December 2018 when he revealed that he looks directly into the sun and takes a swim daily for ‘free medicine’.
Pete shared a photo to social media of himself sitting on a cliff after a dip in the ocean, drenched in sunlight.
He captioned his post: ‘Every day I love to immerse myself in an experience within the cleansing ocean water as well as a brief gaze into the radiant light of the early rising or late setting sun.’
Sunlight saga: Pete was slammed in December 2018 when he revealed that he looks directly into the sun and takes a swim daily for ‘free medicine’
‘These simple, yet powerful practices have got to be two of the best forms of free medicine on the planet for body, mind and spirit.’
The Australian Medical Association blasted Pete’s post, tweeting: ‘We’re getting a little tired of saying this but: please don’t follow advice from Pete Evans. Especially if he’s suggesting you “gaze” at the sun.’
In response, Pete said he was being unfairly targeted by the AMA, writing on Facebook: ‘They’ve singled me out for enjoying a sunrise and being in great health!’
April 2020: Pete’s ketogenic recipe book is slammed by health professionals
Pete’s Easy Keto Dinners: 60+ Simple Keto Meals for Any Night of the Week was released in February this year.
Two months later, the cookbook was criticised for its promotion of the ketogenic diet and for prioritising meat over carbs and dairy.
A number of health professionals shared their concerns about the book to the Herald Sun, including VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio.
Slammed: Pete’s Easy Keto Dinners: 60+ Simple Keto Meals for Any Night of the Week was released in February this year. Two months later, the cookbook was criticised for its promotion of the ketogenic diet and for prioritising meat over carbs and dairy
Dr Demaio said he was concerned that people following a ‘carnivore ketogenic’ diet could miss out on important nutrients.
‘This is not a sustainable and accessible approach for most of us and can lead to people not getting enough nutrients in their diets,’ he said.
‘When it comes to health, it’s recommended people get dietary advice from a reputable source like a health expert — rather than a celebrity chef.’
WHAT IS THE KETO DIET?
The ketogenic diet is basically a low-carb, high-fat way of eating.
Following this eating plan forces the body into a metabolic state, known as ketosis, which starves the body of carbohydrates but not calories.
Carbs are shunned in the keto diet as they cause the body to produce glucose, which is used as energy over fat.
WHAT DOES IT INCLUDE?
Meat, leafy greens and most vegetables, full-fat dairy, nuts and seeds, avocados and berries, and fats such as coconut oil.
WHAT DOES IT EXCLUDE?
Grains including rice and wheat, sugar like honey and maple syrup, most fruit, white or sweet potatoes.
WHAT DO PROFESSIONALS THINK?
Some medical professionals have warned that those who follow the ketogenic diet may be missing out on some of the healthiest foods in the world.
April 2020: Pete is fined for promoting ‘healing lamp’ that he claimed could help cure the ‘Wuhan virus’
In April, Pete was fined $25,200 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for promoting a lamp that he bizarrely claimed could help treat coronavirus.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration issued two infringement notices to Pete’s company for alleged breaches of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.
The celebrity chef live-streamed a video on Facebook on April 9 claiming a ‘BioCharger’ device could be used in relation to ‘Wuhan Coronavirus’.
The TGA said the claims had no foundation in science.
Fined: In April, Pete was fined $25,200 for promoting a lamp that he bizarrely claimed could help treat coronavirus
The TGA has recently issued a warning to advertisers about the legality of making health claims in regards to coronavirus.
The fines were issued for the video and for advertising material on Pete’s website.
The advertisements on the website claimed the lamp was ‘proven to restore strength, stamina, co-ordination and mental clarity’.
Pete said the TGA’s ruling was ‘unfounded’ in a statement to Daily Mail Australia.
Claims: Pete had promoted his BioCharger NG Subtle Energy Platform on social media earlier this month, describing it as a ‘hybrid subtle energy revitalisation platform’
‘The claims made by the TGA are totally unfounded and we will be strongly defending these claims. It is now in the hands of my lawyers,’ he said.
Pete had promoted his BioCharger NG Subtle Energy Platform on social media earlier this month, describing it as a ‘hybrid subtle energy revitalisation platform’.
Apparently, his family uses the ‘non-invasive’ lamp every day.
‘It works to optimize your health, wellness, and athletic performance by aligning and balancing the energy of every cell in your body,’ Pete claimed.
Pete also said the lamp was programmed with thousands of recipes, several of which might help treat ‘Wuhan coronavirus’.
There is no evidence that the BioCharger has any effect on COVID-19.
Device: The machine claims to use ‘light, frequencies and harmonics, pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) and voltage’. There is no evidence the BioCharger has any effect on COVID-19