What These Celebrity Chefs Looked Like Before The Fame

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They might be living lives of glitz and glamour, but at the end of the day celebrity chefs are people just like everyone else. While these celebrity chefs tend to be meticulously groomed and spiffily dressed for their television appearances, there was a time when they — like most people in the world — had to get ready without the assistance of makeup artists and hairdressers.

How much has fame changed our beloved celebrity chefs? Some of them seem to have been blessed with an impeccable sense of style from an early age, while others have clearly switched up their look quite a bit since hitting the big time. If you have ever wondered if your favorite celebrity chef had bad hair days or exhibited questionable fashion choices in their pre-fame days, keep reading. You won't believe just how different some of Food Network's biggest stars looked before they became famous.

Rachael Ray

Before her infectious smile and laugh took over Food Network and won the hearts of fans all over the world, Rachael Ray was bringing spirit to her high school as a member of the cheerleading team. Ray was comfortable in the limelight even then, and was the cheerleader tumbling off of the top of the pyramid.

That wasn't Ray's only pastime as a teen, though. Ray exhibited her entrepreneurial spirit early, launching a business called Delicious Liaisons that delivered gift baskets that she packed with things like pasta and cocoa. Her love for food, combined with her talent for business, would lead to a successful career in the food industry, where she is still noted for the pep that made her such an outgoing cheerleader. A few decades have passed since Ray graduated from high school in 1986, but the celeb still looks as young and peppy as she did back in her teen years.

Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay may have grown up, but his boyish grin has remained with him even into adulthood. The New York City native didn't know he would grow up to become a household name, but he did grow up knowing that he wanted to have a career in the food industry. Flay began cooking when he was a little boy and enjoyed being in the kitchen so much that, as a child, he asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas.

Dropping out of high school at the age of 17, Flay got his first job in the business as a busboy. From there, he worked his way up the ranks, and eventually received his GED and then graduated from Manhattan's French Culinary Institute. After opening his first restaurant, Mesa, in 1991, Flay began to attract attention from the culinary world. In 1994, he made his first appearance on Food Network, and the rest is history. 

Michael Symon

Fans of Michael Symon know that the chef has something of a fondness for hats. In that, at least, Symon has remained unchanged from his early years. In a throwback picture from the 1980s that Symon posted on his Instagram, we can see that Symon has always loved hats — although they covered up a full head of curls back then. These days, Symon rocks a clean-shaven head, but looks as youthful as ever.

Little did Symon know in the '80s that in the following decade, in 1998, he would be named Best New Chef by Food & Wine. A mainstay of Food Network, Symon pays homage to his hometown of Cleveland, as well as his Greek and Sicilian roots by serving up delicious dishes with true Midwestern hospitality. While he's a down-to-earth, clean-cut guy, Symon does enjoy letting loose and rides a motorcycle, although he needs to trade his trademark hat for a helmet when he's on his bike. 

Paula Deen

Before Paula Deen was the matriarch of good, old-fashioned Southern cooking, she was the belle of the ball. The Georgia native was a high school cheerleader and got married to her first husband shortly after graduation. Her business grew gradually. She started with a home-based catering company called The Bag Lady in 1989 which became so big that she started her first restaurant, The Lady and Sons, in 1996. Deen was in her mid-50s in 2001 when she first shot her first pilot for Food Network, and became a mainstay on the channel for the next decade.

In 2013, a lawsuit and accusations of racism threatened to derail her career after Deen admitted to having used the "N word." While Deen apologized, she was dropped from Food Network and other companies she had been working with. Deen laid low for a while, but has since staged a comeback and returned to cable TV in 2018.

Eric Ripert

While many celeb chefs have a bad reputation for having tempers or being egotistical, Ripert is one chef who seems to be universally beloved. Ripert was a close friend of the late Anthony Bourdain, and was devastated after Bourdain's untimely death in June 2018. Ripert's devotion to his friend is just one example of Ripert's kind-hearted nature. Ripert has also called out so-called "angry" celeb chefs like Gordon Ramsay, who he believes should operate with more kindness.

These days, Ripert is noted for his laid-back demeanor, but there was a time when the French chef had a quick temper of his own. That all changed when he discovered Buddhism, however. "[Buddhism] gives me respect for the lives of the products that we are using, and I try to create an environment that is as peaceful as I can and to promote Buddhist principles of tolerance and compassion," he told Tricycle. "It's an exercise that I practice for myself, then for my team and for the restaurant." 

Ina Garten

The Barefoot Contessa star charms her fans with her sweet, grandmotherly ways, but half a century ago Ina Garten was a young bride. Her relationship with her husband, Jeffrey Garten, is an inspiring story of true love and lasting devotion. The pair met when Garten was just 16 years old, on a visit to see her brother who was studying at Dartmouth.The Gartens have been going strong ever since, and her husband, the Dean of Yale Business School, is her biggest fan.

The two have chosen to live their lives focusing on their careers and on each other, opting not to have any kids or even any pets. Even decades after their wedding, they still seem to be inseparable. "The secret is just that you care about each other and admire each other and support each other — and you get that back," Garten told Katie Couric (via Today).

Marco Pierre White

Culinary bad boy Marco Pierre White was one of the first modern celeb chefs. The high school dropout began to train in his chosen career when he was just 16 years old. His talent helped put him on the map at a young age. At just 24, White became the co-owner and Head chef of Harveys, where he served as a mentor to a young Gordon Ramsay. At the age of 33, White became a legend in the business, when he became the youngest chef ever to be given three Michelin stars.

White doesn't care much for the fame that he has achieved, however, and these days stays largely out of the limelight, opting to spend time on his farm. "I don't think I'm a celebrity," he told OX Magazine. "I don't think I have the personality to be a celebrity."

Nigella Lawson

Has there ever been a time when Nigella Lawson wasn't fabulous? After graduating with a degree in medieval and modern languages from Oxford University, Lawson began a career in publishing as an editor, and later became a restaurant critic and the food editor of British Vogue. Her first book, How to Eat, was released in 1998, when she was nearly 40 years old. She later told The Guardian that she had her sister, Thomasina, and her mother in mind when she was writing it. Both of them had died young, and Lawson wanted a way to memorialize them and the food they loved. "But I suppose I was also writing for myself, as cooking and enjoying food is a way of accepting and celebrating being alive, which can be hard when those you love have died," she said.

How to Eat was followed by Lawson's first television program, Nigella Bites, in 2000. Since then, she has become a household name in both the UK and the US, writing several more books and making many television appearances over the decades, all while looking effortlessly put-together.

Emeril Lagasse

You could say that Emeril Lagasse hasn't so much as aged but has rather kicked it up a notch. A gifted chef from a young age, Lagasse began working at a local bakery when he was still a teenager. He eventually had to choose between his two great passions: music and cooking. Lagasse is a percussionist and was offered a full scholarship to attend the New England Conservatory of Music. Cooking eventually won out, and we're glad that it did.

While one of the most recognizable celebrity chef names out there, only a small part of Lagasse's career has been spent in front of the camera. He ruled Food Network for years, and was one of the network's earliest employees, but these days he spends more time working in his many restaurants than he does on television screens. Lagasse told GQ that his restaurants are "what really makes my clock go."

Gordon Ramsay

These days, Gordon Ramsay is typically sporting bleached blonde locks that are carefully spiked to create a messy-but-stylish look. The chef's hairstyle has become an iconic part of his style, but he didn't always wear his hair this way. Back in the '90s, Ramsay was a young chef still learning the ropes of the restaurant business. One of his earliest jobs was as at London's Harveys, where he worked under Chef Marco Pierre White.

The two chefs would eventually clash and become embroiled in a bitter feud, with Ramsay claiming that White made him cry in the time that they worked together. For a while, though, Ramsay was a devoted protege. In this video clip, filmed when Ramsay worked for White, we can see that he is sporting locks that are a bit darker and not as perfectly coiffed as they are now that he is a globally recognized celebrity.