Alton, Giada, Rachael: Before They Were Food Network Stars

Since its humble beginnings more than 20 years ago, 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 start out? From Alton Brown to Geoffrey Zakarian, their backgrounds prove that with enough hard work, you can make it to the top.

Alton, Giada, Rachael: Before They Were Food Network Stars (Slideshow)

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 who 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 long-running 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.

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; and others simply made it their mission to host a show on Food Network, and they certainly succeeded.

Read on to learn what 11 of the biggest Food Network stars did before they were famous.