Blast From The Past: How Did These Industry Celebrities Get Started?

We all got our start somewhere and these celebrity restauranteurs are no different. Take a look at where these money-making restauranteurs kicked off their careers in the industry. More important question, what did they look like? 


Anthony Bourdain: An American chef, author, and television personality. 

Bourdain dropped out of college and began working in various Provincetown, MA seafood restaurants, sparking his decision to pursue a culinary career. He attended the Culinary Institute of America, graduating in 1978; from there he went on to run multiple New York restaurants. His fame took off after he published his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Although he also had quite a rocky start


Emeril Lagasse: An American celebrity chef, restaurateur, television personality, and cookbook author.

Emeril began working in a Portuguese bakery in Fall River, MA as a teenager where he discovered his cooking talents. He enrolled in a culinary arts program at a Vocational Technical High School. He earned a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music as a percussionist but chose instead to attend Johnson & Wales University in hopes of becoming a chef. 

In 1990, Emeril became an executive chef and went on to open his first restaurant, Emeril’s, in New Orleans, and was designated "Restaurant of the Year" in Esquire magazine that year. After appearing on several FoodTV programs, Emeril launched his own show with Food Network, The Essence of Emeril. He was one of 16 chefs featured in the 1993 Julia Child series Cooking With Master Chefs.


Ina Garten: An American author and host of the Food Network program Barefoot Contessa.

Ina Garten actually had no formal food training; she taught herself her culinary techniques using French and New England cookbooks. Ina earned her MBA from George Washington University before working in the White House for the Office of Management and Budgets department. Her main task was writing nuclear energy budget & policy papers on nuclear centrifuge plants for Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

Strained by the difficulties of working in the White House, she began selling her baked goods to raise money for her next career move; opening the Barefoot Contessa specialty food store in East Hampton, NY. In 1999, she started publishing her recipes and was approached by Food Network to host her show, Barefoot Contessa


Geoffrey Zakarian: An American Iron Chef, restaurateur, television personality and author.


Geoffrey earned a degree in economics from Worcester State University and then traveled to France, where he decided to be a chef. He began his culinary career with an associate degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. As an apprentice chef, he began working at a trendy New York restaurant and went on to own multiple New York restaurants one of which earned a Michelin Star. Geoffrey is now a consultant at an Atlantic City hotel and executive chef at an elite New York restaurant in addition to appearing on Food Network. 


Bobby Flay: an American celebrity chef, restaurateur, and reality television personality.


Bobby dropped out of high school at age 17 and began working at both a local pizza parlor and a Baskin Robins. He then took a position making salads at a Manhattan restaurant where his father was a partner. The owner was impressed by Bobby's natural ability and agreed to pay his partner's son's tuition at the French Culinary Institute. After culinary school, he started working as a sous-chef, then was handed the executive chef's position when the executive chef was fired a week later. Bobby quit, however, when he realized he was not ready to run a kitchen.

After returning to the kitchen, Bobby caught the attention of a restauranteur and was offered executive chef position in 1991, and became a partner shortly thereafter. Currently, he has gone on to open Bobby's Burger Palace in 19 locations across 11 states and has hosted multiple Food Network shows. 


Giada De Laurentiis: An Italian-born American chef, writer, television personality, and Food Network host.

Giada was born in Rome, Italy but moved to Southern California after her parents' divorce. She then attended UCLA, earning a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology in 1996. Giada then studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris with aspirations of becoming a pastry chef. After returning to the United States, she became a professional chef working in several Los Angeles restaurants. She later worked as a food stylist and was contacted by the Food Network after styling a piece in Food & Wine Magazine in 2002.

Her Food Network cooking show, Everyday Italian, premiered a year later. When the show first aired, the Food Network received mail accusing the network of hiring a model or actress pretending to cook instead of a real chef. In July 2014, she opened her first restaurant with an open kitchen called GIADA in Las Vegas which received rave reviews.

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