Guy Fieri and 6 Other Celebrity Chefs Who Never Attended Culinary School

Although furthering your education is usually the best route, sometimes you end up in a field you didn’t study. That’s the case with these celebrity chefs, who found culinary fame without ever setting foot in a cooking school.

1. Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray visits Fox & Friends at FOX Studios
The famous Food Network host doesn’t have formal training. | D Dipasupil/Getty Images

This “celebrity chef” doesn’t actually consider herself a chef at all; she thinks it disrespects true chefs. The Food Network star actually got her culinary start by working at a grocery store in upstate New York, where she taught “30-minute meals” to those who were hesitant to tackle the kitchen. A local newscast soon picked up the idea and had Ray appear in a weekly segment. In 2001, Ray signed a contract with Food Network for a television series, which led her to today’s stardom.

Next: She was pursuing a law degree.


2. Ree Drummond

Ree Drummond attends The Pioneer Woman Magazine Celebration
Ree Drummond | Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Drummond attend college in California with the intent to pursue a law degree. It wasn’t until she met her husband, Ladd Drummond, that she completely changed course in her career. The two met at a bar in her home state of Oklahoma, and Drummond never looked back. She moved to the ranch with her husband and launched a blog called The Pioneer Woman about her life as a stay at home mom. The blog took off and eventually landed Drummond a contract with Food Network, which set the stage for her culinary career. Today, Drummond has a television show, multiple books, and thousands of recipes.

Next: His parents owned a pub.

3. Jamie Oliver

Chef Jamie Oliver smiles and gives a peace sign
Chef Jamie Oliver | Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

This British chef does have a background in cooking, but it’s not exactly culinary school. Oliver’s parents owned a pub, so he was exposed to the food industry early in life. He enrolled in a hospitality and catering program at Westminster-Kingsway College but does not have a formal culinary degree. Oliver’s food was minimalist and clean, and he paid close attention to garden-fresh, organic foods, which caught the attention of many television foodies. He produced multiple television shows and documentaries about his cooking style, which spawned a successful career.

Next: She began her career in the White House.

4. Ina Garten

TV personality Ina Garten
Ina Garten | Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Garten’s career began in the White House — and had nothing to do with food. She was working on a nuclear energy policy; it wasn’t where she wanted to be. Garten eventually saw an ad for a small food store on Long Island. She bought the place and grew the business tenfold. She eventually wrote her first cookbook in 1999 and signed a contract with Food Network just a couple of years later. Her show premiered in 2002, and Garten has been a household name ever since.

Next: Here’s how Guy Fieri got his start.

5. Guy Fieri

Guy Fieri Meet & Greet at Mount Airy Casino Resort
Fieri isn’t formally trained. | Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

This “Guy” received his degree in hospitality management from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He worked multiple restaurant jobs while in school, and then became a restaurant manager. He eventually opened a restaurant called Johnny Garlic’s with a business partner. Fieri auditioned for Food Network’s Next Food Network Star in 2005 and won the competition, which kick-started his career as a chef and foodie.

Next: This Top Chef star learned to cook from his family.

6. Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio
Tom Colicchio | Brian Ach/Getty Images for Food & Wine

An Italian-American from New Jersey, Colicchio learned how to cook from his mother and grandmother. He got his culinary start in the kitchen of a seafood restaurant in his hometown, which eventually led to the New York City restaurant scene. Colicchio opened Manhattan’s renowned Gramercy Tavern with a business partner in 1994, though he no longer has a stake in the restaurant. He opened various restaurants and eventually became the host of Top Chef, a reality show on Bravo, which led to his culinary fame.

Next: This Southern belle learned to cook from her grandmother.

7. Paula Deen

Paula Deen in the kitchen
Paula Deen | Aaron Davidson/Getty Images

After a divorce, and with no money to her name, Deen moved to Savannah, Georgia, and launched a catering business to deliver bagged lunches to businesses. Deen learned Southern cooking from her grandmother, and it helped her quickly become well-known in the Savannah area. She opened her first restaurant in 1990, and it was named “Most Memorable Meal of the Year” in 1999 by a USA Today writer. Deen signed a contract with Food Network, and her show premiered in 2002.

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