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Alton, Giada, Rachael: Before They Were Food Network Stars

07/07/2014 11:53 am ET | Updated Sep 06, 2014
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Since its humble beginnings more than 20 years ago, The Food Network has become a cultural juggernaut. Every day, millions of viewers tune in to watch chefs and cooks that have become household names prepare dishes and travel the country seeking out great food. But where did these hosts come from? From Alton Brown to Sunny Anderson, their backgrounds prove that with enough hard work, you can make it to the top.

In Food Network's early days, the programs were hosted by folks like David Rosengarten, Donna Hanover, Curtis Aikens, and chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. Most of the early hosts attained a certain level of fame, but their time on Food Network didn't exactly make them household names. But then one man came along, and everything changed: Emeril.

  • Rachael Ray
  • Ray moved to New York in 1995, and worked at the candy counter at Macy’s as well as specialty food store Agata & Valentina before becoming a buyer for a gourmet shop in Albany. While there she taught a class on how to cook meals in less than 30 minutes, which led to a weekly segment on a local newscast, radio appearances, and a book. Food Network executives took notice, and she signed her first contract with the network in 2001. Photo Credit: PR Newswire Click Here to see Guy, Emeril and More Before They Were Food Network Stars
  • Alton Brown
  • The Georgia native actually began his career as a cinematographer, working on music videos including REM’s The One I Love. He was unhappy with the current state of cooking shows, so simply set out to make his own. He put himself through cooking school and made the pilot for Good Eats himself, which he shopped around; thankfully it was noticed by an eager Food Network staffer who convinced his superiors to pick the show up. Photo Credit: Food Network
  • Giada De Laurentiis
  • Giada was born in Rome and spent a lot of time in her youth in the restaurant owned by her grandfather, producer Dino De Laurentiis. She studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and after graduating worked in several high-profile Los Angeles restaurants, including Spago. In 2002, her photo was featured in an issue of Food & Wine Magazine alongside some of her food styling, which caught the attention of the network. The next year, Everyday Italian premiered. Photo Credit: Food Network Click Here to see Guy, Emeril and More Before They Were Food Network Stars
  • Sunny Anderson
  • This New Orleans native grew up as an army brat, giving her the opportunity to sample food all over the world. She was in the Air Force from 1993 to 1997, and until 2001 she hosted radio shows in several markets. In 2003 she launched her own catering company, Sunny's Delicious Dishes, and a 2005 guest spot on Emeril Live led to her very own show. Photo Credit: Food Network
  • Tyler Florence
  • Florence began working in restaurants at his native Greenville, South Carolina at the age of 15, and graduated from Johnson & Wales University in 1991. He then moved to New York City, where he got a job working in kitchens including Charlie Palmer’s Aureole, and in 1998 he struck out on his own, becoming head chef at Cibo before opening Cafeteria in Chelsea. Their success led to appearances on the network’s How to Boil Water, and the following year he got his own show, Food 911. Click Here to see Guy, Emeril and More Before They Were Food Network Stars Photo Credit: Food Network

Chef Emeril Lagasse wasn't the first celebrity chef, and he wasn't even the first chef who became famous thanks to television (Julia Child was certainly a superstar long before Food Network). What he was, however, was the first fully-fledged Food Network star. When the network launched Emeril Live! in 1996, audiences ate it up, launching Lagasse to superstar status and ushering in the age of the celebrity chef as we know it.

Today, Food Network's biggest stars are so famous that they only need one name: Giada, Alton, Rachael, Bobby. There's even a reality competition show that aims to crown The Next Food Network Star, which is how Guy Fieri became famous. Both chefs and amateur cooks from all across the country dream of one day being just as famous, and certainly that the next big-name Food Network star is one of them.

Each of today's biggest Food Network stars came from different backgrounds. Some were professional chefs. Others spent their time working in specialty food stores. Others simply made it their mission to host a show on Food Network, and certainly succeeded.

Read on to learn what 10 of the biggest Food Network stars did before they were famous.

-Dan Myers, The Daily Meal

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