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See 11 Celebrity Chefs Before They Were Famous

From soccer players to fashion models, see what celebrity chefs did before they found the kitchen.

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From judges on Top Chef to stars on the Food Network, no celebrity chefs started out famous. See ’em all before they made their mark on the culinary world!

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Martha Stewart

The chef, crafter and homemaker extraordinaire Martha Stewart started in the world of finance. In 1967, Queen Martha was a stockbroker! It took a renovation project with her then-husband, Andrew, for her to identify her instinct for design and DIY. By 1976, she was running a catering business out of her basement. The rest is history! Read up on our interview with her.

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Ina Garten

To many of us, Ina Garten has always been “The Barefoot Contessa.” However, that was actually the name of the specialty food store she ran in East Hampton! She only took on the now-famous moniker when she published her first cookbook in 1999. Get the recipe for Ina Garten’s famous chocolate cake.

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Alton Brown

Alton Brown went to film school and had a career in directing before he started to focus on food and “Good Eats.” He was the cinematographer for several music videos, including “The One I Love” by R.E.M.

Guess what guilty pleasure food Alton Brown craves.

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Carla Hall

Many people may think they know Carla Hall’s backstory as a caterer who got her big break on Top Chef. But Hall had several jobs before she found the world of food. She worked as a CPA for a few years and then left the business world to become a runway model. Her modeling career took her to some of the world’s great food destinations, like Paris and Milan.

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Richard BlaisInstagram / richardblais

Richard Blais

The Top Chef contestant and winner of Top Chef All-Stars started his food career early on. (The first time he ever worked in a kitchen was at a McDonald’s in Long Island.) But after training with chefs like Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz, it’s safe to say his McDonald’s days are long gone. Read up on these 8 polite habits that secretly annoy fast food workers.

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Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray started her career at the candy counter at Macy’s Marketplace. When she realized fashion retail wasn’t for her, she moved on to a specialty food store where she gathered the inspiration to follow her passion for all things “Yum-O!”

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Tom Colicchio

Before Top Chef, Tom Colicchio was the chef at Gramercy Tavern, a beloved restaurant in New York. In 2003 and 2005, Gramercy Tavern was voted the Best Restaurant in New York City by Zagat. Today, Colicchio has restaurants in Las Vegas, New York City and Los Angeles.

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Nigella Lawson

It’s no surprise that Nigella Lawson started her career as a journalist at 23, because she now has eight best-selling cookbooks. Clearly, the writing bug got to her young! Nigella is adamant that she is not a celebrity chef, but instead a home cook like her readers.

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Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay’s path to culinary fame had a shaky start when he dropped out of high school at 17. After working at chains like Baskin-Robbins, he took a job at Joe Allen Restaurant where his father was a business partner. Although he started out making salads, his knack for the world of food inspired Joe Allen himself to pay for Flay’s culinary school tuition. Get started on your culinary adventure with these leafy salads.

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Ree Drummond

The Pioneer Woman wasn’t always cooking for her family on the ranch. She went to college in Los Angeles to study journalism. She was all set to move to Chicago to pursue her career when she met her husband. Ree Drummond moved to the ranch and started her blog—and now we all get her delicious recipes.

See what happens when you cook like the Pioneer Woman.

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Gail Simmons

The beloved Top Chef judge and cookbook author is known for her approachable demeanor and expertise in describing food. Her love of food started as a young girl in Toronto, where her mother regularly taught culinary classes out of the family’s home kitchen.

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Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay, known for his Las Vegas restaurants and fast temper on shows like Hell’s Kitchen, wasn’t always a hotheaded chef. He was quite the athlete when he was younger! Ramsay played soccer (or “football”) so well that he was invited to try out for a national team. Lucky for us, a career in sports didn’t work out.

See what Gordon Ramsay’s cardinal rule of cooking is.

Mandy Naglich
Mandy is a food and beverage writer with bylines at WNYC, Munchies, Mic and October. She's a Certified Cicerone and award-winning homebrewer living, writing and cooking in New York City.