Since its humble beginnings more than 20 years ago, The Food Network has become a cultural juggernaut. Every day, millions of viewers tune in to watch chefs and cooks that have become household names prepare dishes and travel the country seeking out great food. But where did these hosts come from? From Alton Brown to Sunny Anderson, their backgrounds prove that with enough hard work, you can make it to the top.
In Food Network’s early days, the programs were hosted by folks like David Rosengarten, Donna Hanover, Curtis Aikens, and chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. Most of the early hosts attained a certain level of fame, but their time on Food Network didn’t exactly make them household names. But then one man came along, and everything changed: Emeril.
Chef Emeril Lagasse wasn’t the first celebrity chef, and he wasn’t even the first chef who became famous thanks to television (Julia Child was certainly a superstar long before Food Network). What he was, however, was the first fully-fledged Food Network star. When the network launched Emeril Live! in 1996, audiences ate it up, launching Lagasse to superstar status and ushering in the age of the celebrity chef as we know it.
Today, Food Network’s biggest stars are so famous that they only need one name: Giada, Alton, Rachael, Bobby. There’s even a reality competition show that aims to crown The Next Food Network Star, which is how Guy Fieri became famous. Both chefs and amateur cooks from all across the country dream of one day being just as famous, and certainly that the next big-name Food Network star is one of them.
Each of today’s biggest Food Network stars came from different backgrounds. Some were professional chefs. Others spent their time working in specialty food stores. Others simply made it their mission to host a show on Food Network, and certainly succeeded.
Read on to learn what 10 of the biggest Food Network stars did before they were famous.
Emeril Worked in a Portuguese bakery in Massachusetts as a teenager, after which he attended Johnson & Wales University. In 1982 he took over for Paul Prudhomme as head chef at New Orleans’ Commander’s Palace, which won him plenty of local renown and an invitation to guest-host a couple episodes of the Food Network show How to Boil Water. That led to him getting his own show, The Essence of Emeril, and the rest is history. Bam!
After dropping out of high school, Flay took a job making salads at New York’s Theater District standby Joe Allen. Allen took a shine to him and paid his tuition to the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), and ended up working his way up the culinary ladder, for a time under the wing of Jonathan Waxman. He then became executive chef at New York’s Mesa Grill, where he caught the eye of Food Network executives, who offered him a gig as host of his first show, Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay.