The Food Network has been bringing haute cuisine to living rooms since the early ’90s, and its chefs have become global icons with massive followings. But what were the network’s biggest stars doing before they made cooking look easy on television?
Click through to see what your favorite celebrities did before they made it big on the Food Network.
Alton Brown: Cinematographer
During his decade-long career as a cinematographer and video editor, Alton Brown spent his spare time watching cooking shows, according to the Food Network website. Bored by the genre’s current offerings, Brown vowed to create his own show.
His dedication paid off, and “Good Eats” premiered in 1999. Not only did Brown host the show, which aired for 14 seasons on Food Network, but he also served as a writer and producer. Brown currently hosts “Cutthroat Kitchen,” a Food Network competition show. He has a net worth of $13 million.
Click through to see what the richest Food Network stars are up to now.
Amy Finley: Cook
When she bested the other Season 3 competitors, Amy Finley became the first female winner of “Food Network Star.” She then briefly hosted “The Gourmet Next Door” on Cooking Channel.
While Finley served as a cook in San Diego before appearing on Food Network, it’s what she did after landing her TV show that makes her stand out in the field. After just six episodes, she voluntarily left the show and moved with her family to a rural farm in Burgundy, France.
Anne Burrell: Understudy to Mario Batali
From New York City to Italy, Anne Burrell has traveled the world in pursuit of culinary achievement. Although she graduated from college with a degree in communications, she enrolled in cooking school soon after.
She worked in multiple facets of the industry and taught cooking before meeting legendary chef Mario Batali. She served as Batali’s sous chef when he joined the hit program “Iron Chef.”
So, what is she doing now? Burrell currently stars in “Worst Cooks in America” — which teaches contestants to cook food at home — with Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray. She has a net worth of $5 million.
Anthony Bourdain: Crime Novelist
One of the most visible faces in the culinary world, Anthony Bourdain has hosted, judged, starred in and produced hit shows like “Top Chef,” “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and “The Mind of a Chef.”
The four-time Primetime Emmy winner also has plenty of budget-friendly recipes to his name and had a career as a crime novelist. He participated in the documentary “Always at the Carlyle” about the famous Carlyle Hotel, which is slated for release in 2018. Bourdain has a net worth of $16 million.
Bobby Flay: Restaurateur and Executive Chef
One of the culinary world’s biggest celebrities, Bobby Flay debuted on Food Network in 1994. He has been hosting shows ever since. Currently, Flay stars in “Iron Chef America,” “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” and “Food Network Star.”
Flay got his start at just 17 years old from his father, who was a partner in a restaurant. He went on to attend a prestigious culinary school, became an executive chef by 25 and developed a career as a successful restaurateur. Flay’s net worth is $30 million.
Brian Boitano: Olympic Figure Skater
Food Network fans might know Brian Boitano from his show, “What Would Brian Boitano Make?” To figure skating aficionados, however, he is an iconic giant of the sport who skated in three Olympic Games and served as an alternate in another.
Among his many accolades is the Olympic gold medal he won in 1988. Boitano has a net worth of $18 million.
Duff Goldman: Personal Chef
Food Network fans are likely familiar with Charm City Cakes, the bakery that Duff Goldman opened in 2002. The shop was launched into international prominence thanks to the show “Ace of Cakes,” which ran for 10 seasons.
Before he quit his job to pursue baking, Goldman worked as a personal chef. His culinary career began when he was just 14 years old and working at a local bagel shop, however.
Goldman currently hosts “Kids Baking Championship” on Food Network and has a net worth of $5 million.
Emeril Lagasse: Celebrity Chef
Emeril Lagasse is arguably the world’s most famous culinary television personality. Before embarking on his career as a celebrity chef, however, he was, well, a celebrity chef.
Over the course of his impressive career, Lagasse has opened more than a dozen restaurants and racked up 60 television credits dating back to 1993. He is due to appear in a documentary called “Finding Sandler,” which is currently in post-production. Lagasse has an estimated net worth of $70 million.
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Giada De Laurentiis: Caterer
Born in Rome, Giada De Laurentiis is an Emmy Award-winning television personality and culinary celebrity. Before appearing on Food Network shows like “Giada’s Weekend Getaways” and “Everyday Italian,” De Laurentiis owned a catering company.
Over the years, she has created delicious cuisine and worked in some of the fanciest restaurants in the world owned by the most notable chefs. She penned several cookbooks and serves as a judge on “Food Network Star.” Her net worth is $20 million.
Guy Fieri: Child Pretzel Salesman
California culinary rock star Guy Fieri is known worldwide as the host of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” among other hit Food Network shows. But he got his start years earlier with a childhood job selling pretzels.
Young Guy Fieri sold pretzels out of a three-wheeled cart that he built with his father, eventually saving enough cash to study abroad in France. Today, his net worth is estimated at $8.5 million.
Ina Garten: Nuclear Energy Policy Analyst
Seeking a change of pace from her White House nuclear energy job, Ina Garten rolled the dice and bought a small specialty foods store in 1978 with her husband. Forty years later, she has a net worth of $50 million.
Garten’s gamble earned her more than just money. Her Barefoot Contessa store turned into an empire, which includes cookbooks and a Food Network show of the same name.
Jamie Oliver: Documentary Star
Jamie Oliver rose through the culinary ranks working at lavish establishments in France and London. His career didn’t truly take off until he appeared in a documentary about one of those restaurants, the celebrated River Cafe, however.
After the documentary, Oliver was offered his own show on Food Network, “The Naked Chef.” He now has an estimated net worth of $400 million.
Try This Recipe: Jamie Oliver’s Boiled Eggs and Asparagus
Mario Batali: Culinary Apprentice
Mario Batali is one of the most acclaimed chefs in the world and boasts a restaurant empire stretching from the U.S. to Hong Kong. His net worth is estimated at $25 million.
Batali trained to be a chef in an Italian village of just 200 people. His intense, three-year culinary apprenticeship prepared him to return to his native United States and appear on shows like “Iron Chef America.”
Melissa d’Arabian: Disney Finance Professional
Melissa d’Arabian gained star status after winning Season 5 of “Food Network Star” and landing her own show, “Ten Dollar Dinners.” She has also appeared on several other shows and penned a few cookbooks.
Before dominating the culinary TV landscape, however, she worked in a different area of show business. She took a job in Disney’s corporate finance offices after graduating from Georgetown with an MBA.
Ming Tsai: Food Allergy Crusader
Ming Tsai’s empire includes his own line with Target, four cookbooks, a pioneering video podcast, the “Simply Ming” television show, too many awards to list and a net worth of $10 million.
He is also, however, the creator of the “Allergy Reference Book,” a widely used tool for foodies who suffer from serious allergies. His passion on the subject was so intense that it led the Yale mechanical engineering graduate to help write Massachusetts Bill S.2701, which deals with precautionary labeling. He’s also a national spokesperson for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.
Nigella Lawson: Literary Editor and Writer
Before she sold 6 million books, developed her own iPhone app and starred in “Nigella Kitchen,” Nigella Lawson found success in a completely different profession.
She worked as a literary editor with the prestigious Sunday Times before moving on to become a freelance writer for the Evening Standard, the Guardian and several other well-regarded publications. Lawson has a net worth of $20 million.
Paula Deen: Independent Caterer
Before she was a global culinary icon and host of “Paula’s Best Dishes” and “Paula’s Home Cooking,” news-making chef Paula Deen fed hungry businesspeople in Downtown Savannah, Ga.
Deen started her home-based catering business after getting divorced and moving from another part of the state with just $200. Her business blossomed and spawned a restaurant, which is now a Savannah mainstay.
Deen’s Southern cooking — and charm — led to an impressive career that includes multiple television shows, cookbooks and products. She has a $14 million net worth.
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Rachael Ray: Macy’s Employee
Culinary superstar Rachael Ray parlayed her charm and talent into an empire that includes cookbooks, her own syndicated daytime show and a lifestyle magazine. Ray’s net worth is $80 million.
Before she was a star, however, Ray worked at the candy counter and fresh food department at Macy’s in New York City. After an introduction to the Manhattan food scene, Ray returned to New York, where she grew up, and was soon discovered by the CBS station in Albany-Schenectady.
Ray’s affordable yet delicious recipes now enjoy a place of prominence on dinner tables across America.
Robert Irvine: British Royal Navy Cook
British celebrity chef Robert Irvine boasts a culinary career that spans a quarter century — and much of the globe. His television resume includes shows like “Dinner: Impossible,” “Worst Cooks in America” and “Restaurant: Impossible.” He has a net worth of $15 million.
And it all started when he was just 15 years old. After joining the British Royal Navy, Irvine began working in the kitchen and quickly attracted the attention of his superiors. They sent him to work aboard a yacht where the royal family regularly dined.
Sandra Lee: Cooking School Pioneer
Sandra Lee has written more than 20 books and appeared on “Good Morning America,” as well as TV series on Cooking Channel, Food Network, HGTV and Great American Country. Her net worth is estimated at $20 million.
Lee attributes her success in part to a difficult childhood, which forced her to make do with very little. Her trademark “semi-homemade” approach to cooking was solidified when she entered Canada’s Cordon Bleu culinary school. According to the Daily Mail, she surprised instructors by mixing some fresh ingredients with some packaged ones. The philosophy caught on and helped make Lee a star.
Trisha Yearwood: Country Music Superstar
A three-time Grammy winner, Yearwood boasts 19 top 10 singles and is considered one of the biggest stars in country music. She has a net worth of $40 million.
Ever since she landed her own show on Food Network, “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen,” Trisha Yearwood has been a star in the celebrity cooking world.
Wolfgang Puck: Restaurateur to the Stars
Before his name was synonymous with fine cuisine, Wolfgang Puck was well known among the Hollywood elite. His flagship restaurant, Spago, was serving gourmet pizza to Los Angeles big shots on the Sunset Strip long before Food Network launched.
Boasting 90 television credits and a global culinary empire, Wolfgang Puck is the son of a chef. Born into Austria’s culinary world, he started work at 14 and held positions in some of Europe’s most famous restaurants before moving to the U.S. and becoming a star. Wolfgang Puck’s net worth is $90 million.
All net worth figures are according to Celebrity Net Worth unless otherwise noted.