As a society, we often tend to put celebrities on a pedestal – making it easy to forget that they are simply human beings – just like everyone else. In truth, many celebrities didn’t become famous until later in life and this especially true for one group of individuals, that being celebrity chefs.
In order to become a culinary megastar, one must attend culinary school – or at the very least spend countless years in the kitchen perfecting his or her craft. This why so many kitchen all-stars don’t get their big breaks until they are middle-aged adults or older.
However, thanks to outlets like the Food Network, we have become so familiar with these figures that it seems feels like they have been stars forever. Of course, these famous individuals, whose programs and food we have come to enjoy over the years, all have their own unique (and often very interesting) pasts.
To celebrate our favorite celebrity chef’s pasts, we have found 20 vintage photos that feature some of the biggest names in the industry. These shots show culinary standouts living their lives, long before anyone had a clue who they were.
In many cases, despite their relative youth, these kitchen kings and queens are still immediately recognizable. However, there are also plenty of images of top chef’s that defiantly need a caption, in order to help folks identify them.
Now it’s time to take a trip down memory lane and check in on some of the culinary industry’s most influential figures.
20 Cat Cora
Cat Cora is a groundbreaking culinary star, who made history by becoming the first female Iron Chef. As her fans well know, Cora competed in the first 10 seasons of Iron Chef America. She also co-hosted Bravo’s short-lived series Around the World in 80 plates. Outside of television appearance, the Iron Chef opened her own restaurants, some of which are located in major airports throughout the United States.
Even her most hardcore fans probably won’t recognize Cora in this photo – after all, she was only a child when the picture was taken. This fun photo shows the Food Network star with her brothers taking a pic with Santa.
19 Gordon Ramsay
Born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland, Gordon Ramsay is a celebrity chef and restaurant owner. Folks will likely recognize the popular TV personality from shows like Hell’s Kitchen, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and MasterChef. Outside of television, he also owns several very successful restaurants. According to Forbes, Ramsay is one highest earning chefs in the world.
Before he made a name for himself by screaming at contestants on Hell’s Kitchen, Ramsay spend years mastering the culinary arts. Here we see Ramsay do something he rarely does on air – smile. This shot was taken in France when the future star was only 22 years of age.
18 Martha Stewart
Jersey City, New Jersey’s Martha Stewart has used her culinary knowledge to build a media empire. The retail executive and television personality is the founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia –a media and merchandising company. The 77-year-old has appeared on countless television programs and has her very successful line of products. As of 2011, it’s estimated that Stewarts new worth is around $638 million (USD).
Before she became a world-renowned businesswoman and television star, Stewart was a model in college. Here we see a photo that was likely taken in the late-50s (or early-60s) that shows the famous media guru striking a pose.
17 Wolfgang Puck
Though he now resides in Los Angeles, all-star chef Wolf Gang Puck originally hails from Sankt Veit an der Galan, Carinthia, Austria – which is a mouthful. He’s open multiple high-end restaurants that have been very successful. The 69-year-old has also appeared on several television shows. As the star of his own hit show Wolfgang Puck, he was awarded a Daytime Emmy in 2002. Recently, the culinary master received his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
This fun throwback photo shows Puck in his early days. He may have already been a minor star when this pic was taken, but he had yet to achieve anywhere near the level of notoriety he enjoys today.
16 Rachael Ray
Glen Falls, New York’s Rachael Ray is a celebrity chef and talk show host. She originally made a name for herself appearing on Food Network programs like 30 Minute Meals and Rachel Ray’s Tasty Travels. Newer fans know her as the host of Rachael Ray (aka The Rachel Ray Show) – a lifestyle program that airs on CBS. Over the course of her career, Ray has managed to take home a total of 3 Daytime Emmy Awards.
Given the peppy personality she displays on-air, it’s easy to believe that Rachael Ray was a cheerleader in high school, as this fun throwback photo confirms.
15 Guy Fieri
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri was born in Columbus, Ohio. The 50-year-old became a star back in 2006, when we won the 3rd season of The Next Food Network Star. After winning the show, Fieri was given his own series Guy's Big Bite, which aired from 2006 through 2016. Folks also known the celebrity chef as the host of Guy’s Grocery Games – a cooking-based game show.
Though it isn’t easy to recognize him without his signature spiky blonde hair, the photo here shows a young Guy Fieri. Long before becoming one of the Food Network’s most marketable stars, Fieri was just an ordinary kid from Ohio.
14 Giada De Laurentiis
Giada De Laurentiis is a TV personality and celebrity chef who was born in Rome, Italy. She achieved fame as the host of Giada at Home – a Food Network show that focused on dishes from Italy. De Laurentiis would go on to win an Emmy for her work on the show. More recently, she has appeared as a guest host on The Today Show. The 48-year-old officially became a member of the Culinary Hall of Fame in 2012.
This pic shows the Food Network star in her teens. Even back in the 80s, when the image was captured, she still had the signature smile her fans have come grown to love.
13 Anthony Bourdain
The late, great Anthony Bourdain was an author and celebrity chef who documented his travels on programs such as Anthony Bourdain: No Reservation and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. After spending the early portion of his life in relative obscurity, he published his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventure in the Culinary Underbelly, which became a best seller. He then went on to become one of the world’s most well-known travel documentarians.
Long before his famous book was published, we see a young Anthony Bourdain in culinary school. This memorable image shows Bourdain doing what he loved and was likely taken in the 1970s.
12 Katie Lee
Huntington, West Virginia's Katie Lee is a television personality, chef, and novelist. She is arguably best known as the host of Food Network’s talk show The Chew. The chef’s high-profile marriage to singer Billy Joel, which lasted from 2004 to 2010, also heightened her celebrity profile. Fans of the Cooking Channel may have seen the 37-year-old hosting Beach Bites with Katie Lee.
Here we have the Food Network starlet in her youth. The photo shows her feeding a chicken, which she would later go on to cook. OK, so that might not be entirely (or partially) true...
11 Bobby Flay
Bobby Flay is a New York City native who has both hosted and appeared on several well-known Food Network programs. He is the chef and owner of several restaurants throughout the world – including Booby’s Burger Place, which has eleven locations in the US. Flay is also an Iron Chef who has competed on Iron Chef America. Fans of the HBO hit series Entourage may remember the 54-year-old chef’s appearances in the show’s final season.
This black and white photo shows a young Bobby Flay preparing what looks like a magnificent dish. The pic here proves that the Iron Chef has been cooking for quite a while.
10 Paula Deen
Paula Deen is a television personality, celebrity chef and author out of Albany, Georgia. Most folks know her as the host of Paula’s Home Cooking – a show that aired on the Food Network from 2002 to 2012. The 71-year-old star has published 15 cookbooks over the course of her career. The southern cooking specialist owns 2 restaurants and is the mother of Bobby and Jamie Deen – both of whom were Food Networks hosts at one point.
Here is a throwback photo that shows Paula Deen in a cheerleading uniform. This picture was taken during her senior year in High School, back in the 1960s.
9 Carla Hall
Carla Hall is a celebrity chef from Nashville, Tennessee. Hall made a name for herself in 2008 when she appeared on the 5th season of the competitive cooking show Top Chef. While she didn’t end up winning her season, Hall was the runner-up and her career since has eclipsed that of the eventual champion, Hosea Rosenberg. She returned for the 8th season of the show, Top Chef: All-Stars, and ended up finishing 5th. The 54-year-old also co-hosted ABC’s The Chew – a cooking-themed talk show.
Prior to becoming a culinary superstar, Hall modeled in places like London and Paris – producing photos like the one seen here in the process.
8 Ree Drummond
Bartlesville, Oklahoma’s Ree Drummond is a blogger, cook, and television personality. The Food Network faithful know her as the “Pioneer Woman” – which is also the name of her popular television series. The 49-year-old first made a name for herself as a blogger, prior to being offered her own show. Her series gives folks a glimpse into what it’s like living (and cooking) on a ranch.
Here we see the red-haired culinary star with her kids when they were still very young.
7 Sunny Anderson
Sunny Anderson is a 43-year-old celebrity chef and television personality who is from Lawton, Oklahoma. After appearing as a guest on the Food Network’s Emeril Live, Anderson would go on to host her own show, How’d That Get On My Plate?. She has also appeared as a guest chef on shows such as The View and Good Morning American. These days, Anderson co-hosts the Food Network cooking-themed talk show, The Kitchen.
Before becoming a well-known television personality, Sunny Anderson was a member of the United States Air Force.
6 Masaharu Morimoto
Masaharu Morimoto is a chef who was born in Hiroshima, Japan. He became a celebrity after appearing on the original Iron Chef (the version that was filmed in Japan). Morimoto also appeared on the Iron Chef America spin-off. Outside of television work, the Iron Chef has opened several restaurants. His most famous restaurant concept, Morimoto, has several locations around the world.
Before he became one of the most iconic figures from the Iron Chef series, Morimoto has just a sushi chef who was trying to make a name for himself. This rare photo shows the future culinary superstar working in a small kitchen as a young man.
5 Emeril Lagasse
Fall River, Massachusetts’ Emeril Lagasse is the man who made the phrase “Kick it up a notch!” famous. The celebrity chef and restaurant owner became a culinary star when he debuted as the host of Food Network’s Essence of Emeril, which aired from 1994 to 2007. He was also the host of a similar cooking show, Emeril Live. Lagasse, who specializes in New Orleans style dishes, has established himself as a major player in the culinary world.
This black and white photo shows a young Emeril Lagasse as he tries to climb the culinary ladder. The 59-year-old spent many years in the kitchen, prior to becoming the celebrity we all know today.
4 Ina Garten
Ina Garten is a Food Network star who originally hails from Brooklyn, New York. The celebrity chef and author previously worked for the United States government prior to opening her own specialty food shop known as Barefoot Contessa. After publishing several successful cookbooks and making television appearances, the now 70-year-old was offered her own Food Network Series, which is also called Barefoot Contessa.
This photo was taken back when Garten was running her Barefoot Contessa gourmet food store, which was quite the hot spot in its day. Apparently, she always had the uplifting smile and positive demeanor that helped make a television star.
3 Chef Boyardee (Ettore Boiardi)
Ettore Boiardi (aka Hector Boyarde) was a chef from Piacenza, Italy. While his name may not sound immediately familiar, the brand he created, Chef Boyardee, will certainly ring a bell. His vision was to provide affordable spaghetti products for families everywhere, which resulted in the creation of one of America’s best selling canned foods. Though Boiardi passed away in 1985, his image remains on Chef Boyardee products to this day.
Here he have a photo that shows Hector Boyarde (2nd from the left) posing with business partners. This old-school black and white photo give folks a glimpse into the early days of the Chef Boyardee brand.
2 Julia Child
Julia Child was a celebrity chef, before becoming a celebrity chef was cool. This culinary O.G. is credited with making food from France popular in the United States. Her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, inspired countless chefs to take an interest in the culinary arts. Child also had her own television shows, including The French Chef, which was quite popular in the 1960s.
This photo show’s a young Julia Child, who looks like she is posing for a sculptor. The image was captured during her time in France and was taken by her husband, Paul Cushing Child, who was an American diplomat.
1 Tom Colicchio
Elizabeth, New Jersey’s Tom Colicchio is a celebrity chef and restaurant owner. The 56-year-old is best known as the head judge on Top Chef – a competitive cooking show that airs on Bravo. He also lends his judging skills to another popular program, Best New Restaurants – a show he also helps produce. When the 56-year-old isn’t appearing on television, Colicchio is overseeing his restaurant, the Gramercy Tavern.
Here we have a black and white photo that shows a young Tom Colicchio wearing traditional chef attire. The Top Chef judge looks cool, calm, and collected as he poses for the camera in a photo his fans are sure to love.