Despite long nights in the kitchen in a career notorious for the toll it takes on its practitioners, these chefs and critics prove that you don’t need to starve yourself to live a long life. They’ve eaten their way around the world and come out on the other side with Michelin stars, book deals, and their names in lights.
Some began their careers in the kitchen, toiling away as line chefs and apprentices and moving up to have their names on the restaurants. Others, like Alice Waters, took twirl in other fields before coming to food. No matter the path there, once they found the culinary world, it stuck. There is more than a century of culinary expertise behind these 10 professionals and each has mentored and launched the next (and the next) generations of chefs, bakers, and critics.
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Alice Waters may have launched the farm-to-table movement with Chez Panisse in 1971. She’s since moved out of the kitchen to more philanthropic pursuits in line with the mission of local provisions. She helped launch the Edible Schoolyard Project, which promotes school gardens and improved lunches. Since 2002, she’s been vice president of Slow Food International.
Critical in developing the Nouvelle Cuisine movement, Frédy Girardet is considered one of the greatest chefs of the twentieth century. Though he cooks in the French tradition, Girardet is Swiss. He opened his eponymous restaurant in Crissier, Switzerland, in 1971, and received three Michelin stars. He retired in 1996 but remains universally respected amongst his peers due to his work ethic and exceptionally high standards.
Already a successful chef in France, Jacques Pépin came to New York City in 1959 to work at the legendary Le Pavillon. Pépin soon met Julia Child and James Beard, and what was supposed to be a short stay became a lifetime — he and his wife currently reside in Connecticut. Although he makes fewer public appearances these days, this longtime chef is still dean at the International Culinary Center, where he’s headed the special programs department since 1988. His many hours of cooking shows for PBS and multiple cookbooks have also improved meals prepared by the home cook.
Known for her elaborate hats, the “Insatiable Critic” began writing restaurant reviews for New York magazine in 1968 and held that position until 2002. She currently runs her own website while continuing to contribute to the big-name publications in the industry. Her New York-centric writings have traced the evolution of dining in the Big Apple through six decades.
For over 34 years the Alsatian-born chef presided over New York City’s Lutèce, which garnered a four-star rating from The New York Times and was crowned by W magazine as one of "Les Six, the last bastions of grand luxe dining in New York." Soltner is a dean at the International Culinary Center in New York, and has received numerous honors, including the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award and the prestigious Légion d'Honneur from the French government.
Bruno Cordioli for CIBVS / Wikimedia Commons
Considered the founder of modern Italian cuisine, Gualtiero Marchesi learned his craft at an early age, working in the kitchen of his parents’ hotel and restaurant. After working in restaurants in St. Moritz, Paris, and Dijon, Marchesi returned to Milan to open his first restaurant in 1977. Within a year he earned his first Michelin star, and seven years down the road he became the first Italian chef to earn three Michelin stars. Marchesi has mentored some of Italy’s greatest chefs, including Andrea Berton and Carlo Cracco.
This icon of French cooking still walks the dining room of his namesake restaurant greeting his guests. He took over his family’s restaurant outside Lyon in 1959 and took it from floundering to three-Michelin-starred. In 2013, at 87, he opened the Culinary Institute of America’s first new restaurant in 40 years, The Bocuse Restaurant. The institute had named him the Chef of the Century in 2011.
The food critic and author of 1,000 Things To Eat Before You Die still keeps active writing, eating, and tweeting. Although she didn’t begin her journalism career covering food, Sheraton had a passion for food markets and restaurants when traveling that eventually led her to become a food critic first in 1975 for The New York Times and later for Time. Her immersive writing style has led her to spend weeks in China and take extended road trips around the United States.
Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons
Considered to be one of the greatest authorities on Mexican cuisine and ingredients, English-born Diana Kennedy has traveled extensively throughout Mexico, especially to remote areas to research cooking techniques and native edible plants. She helped introduce home cooks to Mexican cuisine by authoring nine books, including The Cuisines of Mexico, and has been extremely influential in the development of interest in Mexican cooking in the United States and abroad, and has inspired many, including Rick Bayless. She has resided at Quinta Diana, her home in a tiny Mexican village, since 1976, focusing on environmental projects as well as cooking, research, and writing.