Cooking shows have become a big part of the reality television landscape. Networks like PBS, Bravo, and ABC have had their fair share of cooking shows over the years. The Cooking Channel and Food Network are exclusively focused on food and cooking. Even streaming giants Hulu and Netflix are in on the action.
The popularity of food and cooking shows have turned chefs into bonafide celebrities. You can even sometimes catch them walking the red carpets just like other stars.
But what if I told you that not all those celebrity chefs ever went to culinary school?
That might be more believable – or maybe even expected – when it comes to the host of a competition that we never actually see prepare food. However, even some of your favorite celeb chefs that show off cooking techniques, favorite recipes, and other food-related content aren’t formally trained! All that talent was learned the hard way: with mentors, life experiences, and dedicated work.
You have seen him as the head judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, and he is also the host, judge, and exec producer of Bravo’s Best New Restaurant. Tom Colicchio is also an acclaimed restaurateur and chef who runs restaurants all over the place. He’s extremely talented in the food and entertainment industries, but he didn’t learn any of that in school.
Colicchio picked up experience by working in restaurant and hotel kitchens. After working in a seafood spot in his hometown, he eventually honed his culinary skills in the kitchens of acclaimed New York City restaurants. He made his way to TV with Top Chef in 2006 and also won the Outstanding Chef award from the James Beard Foundation a few years later.
We know Paula Deen for penning several cookbooks, hosting her own shows on Food Network, and being a guest host on Masterchef, but she relies entirely on skills she learned from life. She has no culinary degree to speak of.
Deen learned how to cook from her grandmother. She married and started a family at the age of 18, so she spent a lot of time cooking for her household before starting her own catering service. After jumping into the restaurant biz, she published plenty of cookbooks and gained the attention of Food Network.
Loudmouth celeb chef Gordon Ramsay doesn’t need a culinary degree to make aspiring chefs cook risotto on network television. He didn’t need the degree to earn all those Michelin stars, either. While he did study hotel management, it was his time spent working under world-renowned chefs that taught him everything he knows. He trained with the likes of Albert Roux, Guy Savoy, and Joël Robuchon.
He isn’t just showing off his fiery temper on Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares. Ramsay owns 35 restaurants across the globe, and his restaurant group has been awarded 16 Michelin stars overall.
I really enjoy watching Kardea Brown, also known as Delicious Miss Brown – which is also the title of her Food Network show that premiered in 2019. Brown makes a lot of amazing food that I don’t see on other Food Network shows. She is from Charleston, South Carolina, and is of Gullah descent. As you can probably guess, she cooks a lot of Southern recipes that are seafood-heavy.
She created the pop-up New Gullah Supper Club, with a menu that pays homage to the dishes passed down to her from her grandmother and mother. Not only does she have her own Food Network show that’s been on the air since 2019, but we’ve also seen her on Beat Bobby Flay, Chopped Junior, Cooks vs. Cons, Family Food Showdown, and Farmhouse Rules. Pretty impressive, and it was all done without a culinary degree!
If you already knew who Valerie Bertinelli was before she began hosting cooking shows, then you probably aren’t surprised to learn that she does not have a culinary degree. She first gained recognition at the age of 15 as an actress on One Day at a Time. Bertinelli held plenty of other roles in the years after, starring in shows like Touched by an Angel and Hot in Cleveland.
It was in 2015 that she transitioned from scripted shows to hosting her own cooking show on Food Network. Despite not having any formal training, she’s been cooking since she was a kid, and she brings that love to her recipes.
Ree Drummond, also known as the Pioneer Woman, has definitely made a name for herself in the culinary world. She has appeared on several TV shows, but she also hosts one of the most popular shows on Food Network. On top of all that, she has multiple books and her own products, including a line of cooking and dinnerware products.
All that being said, Drummond does not have any formal culinary degrees. She actually rose to celeb chef status through her lifestyle blog. While attending college, she studied gerontology and had plans to attend law school. It wasn’t until she moved to the ranch with her husband and launched her blog that she found success in the food world.
These days, Martha Stewart is associated with all things related to cooking and crafting, but she didn’t go to school for any of them. In fact, she started as a model. She then graduated with a double major in history and architectural history before starting a career as a stockbroker.
In 1976, Stewart started a catering business with a colleague from her modeling days, and it eventually snowballed into a successful career. After catering a book release party for her husband’s publishing company, she found herself developing her first cookbook. She obviously went on to pen several other cookbooks while also becoming a prominent figure in the food world – among other industries.
Relatively new to the Food Network lineup of celebrity chef hosts, Molly Yeh was given her own cooking show on Food Network in 2018 titled Girl Meets Farm. It takes place in the kitchen of her own home, which is located on her farm on the border of Minnesota and North Dakota. She has also hosted the show Ben and Jerry’s Clash of the Cones and Spring Baking Championship.
Her journey to celebrity chef didn’t start with a formal culinary education, though. She fell in love with food while attending the Juilliard School in New York City. She earned a Bachelor of Music there and met her husband, fellow music major Nick Hagen. He is also a fifth-generation farmer, and the two moved back to his family’s Minnesota farm together. It’s here that she started penning cookbooks, and the rest is history.
Guy Fieri is featured on multiple shows, and it seems like Fieri-centered programming makes up something like half of the Food Network at this point. But all that success certainly didn’t come from being formally trained. That’s right! One of Food Network’s biggest stars doesn’t have a culinary degree.
Fieri did spend a year in France, but it was during high school when he was 16. Instead of a culinary education, he earned a degree in hotel management from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He learned most of what he knows first-hand by working in and then managing restaurants.
Best-selling author and cooking show star Ina Garten might have the longest-running show on Food Network, but cooking wasn’t originally her career. She is actually a former staff member of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and her job involved nuclear energy.
So, how did she get from the White House to the food industry? She made the jump into food when she and her husband purchased a specialty food store on a whim. The name of the store was Barefoot Contessa, which would go on to become the name of her Food Network show. Barefoot Contessa has been on Food Network since 2002, making it the oldest show currently still on the network.
Rachael Ray has been a Food Network staple for a couple of decades at this point, making her quite the celebrity chef. But she didn’t get there with a formal culinary degree–and in fact, she doesn’t even consider herself a chef at all.
She got her start in an upstate New York grocery store, where she taught easy “30 Minute Meals” classes to folks who needed a little help tackling the kitchen. A local TV station caught wind and offered her a weekly segment for her 30 Minute Meals. That, along with her first book being published, gained her a Today show spot and her first contract with the Food Network.