Restaurants where celebrity chefs actually cook in the kitchen

Celebrity chef-owned restaurants are not exactly what you'd call hard to find. From Gordon Ramsay to Jamie Oliver to Wolfgang Puck, Marco Pierre White, Rick Stein and beyond, it seems that (perhaps unsurprisingly) basically every chef who's ever written a book, presented a television show or had their talents showcased to the public has ended up owning at least one of their own restaurants, if not a chain.

The crucial word here, however, is "owned." While Jamie might have his Jamie's Kitchens and Marco Pierre White may have his London grills and restaurants, these places' connections with their namesakes often ends at the name. This isn't the case everywhere, though. Some restaurants aren't just owned or represented by the famous chefs who first established them — they're still staffed by them on a day-to-day basis. If it's real celebrity cooking you're after, these places are where you want to be eating.

Vetri Cucina, Philadelphia

Marc Vetri is a Philadelphian chef and author who has penned such works as Il Viaggio di Vetri, Rustic Italian Food, Mastering Pasta and Mastering Pizza. Until 2017, he also held an executive position at URBN and Urban Outfitters, and he has appeared on television shows such as Unique Eats, The Chew and Iron Chef America. Vetri also runs a chain of restaurants, the flagship branch of which is Vetri Cucina.

Opened in 1998, Vetri soon found its place on the map after receiving a number of awards. Today, the restaurant offers innovative, artful, Italian-inspired cuisine based off the time Vetri himself spent as a chef in Italy. Vetri continues to work in the kitchen at Vetri Cucina, often popping up to create and perfect certain dishes on the menu. Not only this, but Vetri (along with a few other guest chefs) also hosts a series of cookery master classes at the restaurant.

The River Café, London

Ruth Rogers is an American-born, British chef most famous for her partnership with fellow cook Rose Gray. The pair have trained an impressive number of celebrity chefs, including Jamie Oliver, Theo Randall, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Sam Clark, and Rogers herself has written a number of books about cooking and the culinary culture.

Rogers spent much of her adult youth living in France, then later moved to Florence with her husband (the architect and English baron Richard Rogers). In 1987, Gray and Rogers opened the River Café, an Italian restaurant in Hammersmith, London. It earned a Michelin star a few years later, has earned celebrity endorsement (Steve Martin cited it as having the best Italian food in the world) and has gained name recognition for the series of cookbooks released by the restaurant. After Gray's death, Rogers became sole owner of the River Café. Today, she remains at the helm, trains chefs, writes the menus and, of course, cooks.

La Gavroche, London

Michel Roux Jr.'s career in the limelight has been long and fruitful. He's appeared on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen, judged MasterChef: The Professionals from 2008 to 2013, and has presented or co-presented a wide range of television shows, including The Chef's Protege, Food and Drink, First Class Chefs and Saturday Kitchen. Nowadays, he's counted as one of the U.K.'s most recognizable and well-known celebrity chefs — and one of the most well-respected ones, too.

La Gavroche is Michel Roux Jr.'s London-based restaurant. It was opened in 1967 by his father and uncle, and today holds two Michelin stars. According to the restaurant itself, Michel Roux Jr. still handles the day-to-day running of the kitchen after taking over from his father in 1991. He tastes and checks dishes constantly throughout the day, making sure every section of the kitchen is working to perfection — during both the lunch and dinner service.

The Breslin (and others), New York

April Bloomfield is perhaps best known for achieving the highest score of any challenger on Iron Chef America, with a whopping 56 points over rival chef Michael Symon's 53, back in 2008. She's a British chef who trained under a certain Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers at the River Café before being scouted by Mario Batali and offered the chance to open a restaurant for him in New York. In recent months, she's been forced back into the public eye after her business partner, Ken Friedman, was accused of sexual harassment and subsequently resigned from his position.

Today, Bloomfield works in the kitchen at many of her restaurants. The most famous is the Spotted Pig, but she also cooks at the John Dory — where, during a 2011 interview with Rachel Cooke, the latter remarked on her impressive rapport with her kitchen staff — and the Breslin, where she is most often found.

Trois Mec, Los Angeles

You might recognize French chef Ludo Lefebvre from his appearances on Iron Chef America, Top Chef Masters and Hell's Kitchen, as well as the recent ABC cooking competition The Taste, on which he appeared as a judge. He has released three books, has won a number of awards for his cooking, and is now regarded as one of the most influential chefs in the United States, being one of the flag carriers for Los Angeles' fine dining scene.

Lefebvre's most famous restaurant is Trois Mec (literally, "three guys"), which was opened in partnership with fellow chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo in 2013. Since then, it's been frequently heralded as one of L.A.'s best restaurants and serves five-course tasting menus cooked in an open kitchen by Lefebvre and his team. The trio also own Trois Mec's sister restaurant, Petit Trois, which, conveniently enough, is located right next door.

The Fat Duck, Bray

Heston Blumenthal is unarguably one of the world's most famous chefs. He's helmed a small fleet of television shows in the U.K., owns some of the finest restaurants in the world (including Dinner and the Bray Inn in London) and is legendary for his avant-garde, experimental approach to cooking. He has cooked for the Queen, received an OBE for his services to British gastronomy and has been showered with accolades and awards over the course of his career.

By far his most well-known restaurant, the Fat Duck, is at the heart of Blumenthal's off-kilter approach to cooking. More theater than dining, it features mock turtle soups with dissolvable gold pocket watches, snail porridge and a velouté of rabbit — which manages to be simultaneously hot and cold. Blumenthal, being as busy as he is, is hardly a regular staple at the Fat Duck's kitchen, but he has been known to make appearances and lend a hand — if a personal friend is dining in the restaurant that evening, for example — and originally worked so hard cooking at the restaurant that he slept only 15 hours a week.  

Prune, New York

Gabrielle Hamilton isn't necessarily a celebrity chef made for the spotlight — when she screen-tested for Iron Chef, she was asked why she wanted to be the next Iron Chef and promptly declared that she didn't before tearing off her microphone and leaving. She is, however, widely known for her books, which include her cookbook, Prune, and the NYT Bestseller Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, which is her own memoir and was lauded by Vanity Fair as "easily one of the best food memoirs ever written between shifts." Her life and career has also been the subject of Season 4 of PBS' The Mind of a Chef.

Hamilton's restaurant is Prune, in New York City, which opened in 1999 and has become a landmark on NYC's culinary scene — and is particularly well-known for its brunch menu. Hamilton continues to cook at Prune, and is especially likely to be present on special occasions, such as Valentine's Day.

Locanda Locatelli, London

Giorgio Locatelli is an Italian chef who has appeared on a number of television series', including Rome Unpacked, The Big Family Cooking Showdown, Italy Unpacked, Michael Winner's Dining Stars and MasterChef. He has penned a handful of cook books, including Made in Italy, Made in Sicily and Made at Home, and is a bearer of the Commendatore OMRI for services to Italian gastronomy. All-in-all, he's probably one of the best known Italian chefs in the U.K.

His restaurant is Locanda Locatelli, one of London's best Italian eateries. It offers homely, classic Italian fare and is the holder of a Michelin star — the second earned by a restaurant Locatelli has worked at. Locatelli himself continues to work in the kitchen at Locanda, on both the lunch and dinner service. Whether this continues to remain true as his career trajectory increases and his name becomes more of a staple on the British cooking scene, however, has yet to be seen.

N/Naka, Los Angeles

Niki Nakayama, who non-foodies and non-L.A.-ers might recognize by her appearance in an episode of Netflix's Chef's Table back in 2015, is a chef who specializes in kaiseki cuisine. Kaiseki is a very fancy, very expensive and very complicated multi-course Japanese dinner, and is counted as something of a peer to what the West knows as haute cuisine. Nakayama is one of the few women on the planet to have truly mastered it.

Nakayama and her wife both cook and work at their own restaurant, N/Naka, which is located in central L.A. and serves guests a renowned 13-course fixed-price menu. Being one of the legends of kaiseki, it should come as no surprise that Nakayama presides over the kitchen throughout each and every day. According to her reputation, she's also known to appear to guests at the end of each meal to record and accept their appraisals and criticisms.

Marcus, London

Marcus Wareing is one of the U.K.'s most well-known celeb chefs. He featured on a 1998 documentary as Gordon Ramsay's sous chef before appearing in Great British Menu, MasterChef and MasterChef: The Professionals, the latter of which he succeeded Michel Roux Jr. as a judge during the seventh series.

Wareing's home restaurant is Marcus, at the Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge, London. It's got two Michelin stars, a stellar review record and the opportunity to eat at the Chef's Table for up to 10 people. Despite his fame, Wareing remains in the kitchen at Marcus. He told The Guardian that he runs the company in his chef's jacket and is present at the restaurant every day to watch, guide and taste. So while he may not be chopping your onions, you can at least be sure that every dish you order will have been approved and perfected by the man himself.