As young adults, college students understand the pressure of decision-making. If you ask anyone still living the dream, most of us have thought about what we want to do after these four short years.
And actually, if you think about it, we’ve been asked this question since the day we could talk, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
If you’re lucky, you’ve always known you were going to be a doctor. Or a conservation biologist. Or the first female president of the United States (unless Hillz snags that from ya). Or, you’re like me — undecided, just hoping one day you’ll figure out who exactly you’re meant to be.
Although we may put them on pedestals, many celebrity chefs and tv personalities didn’t know that they were going to be famous foodies one day. Surprisingly, many of them used to be just like us college kids simply getting a degree in something that interested them.
Whether or not they completed their degree, or even still use it, doesn’t really matter (they’re doing alright either way, right?). What really matters is if you and your alma mater can claim any of these famous chefs as one of your own. #braggingrights
Barnard College (New York, New York): Martha Stewart & Alex Guarnaschelli
Martha Stewart is famously known for her television show and magazine, titled Martha Stewart Living, and infamously known for receiving jail time for insider trading.
However, before she decided to leave her day job on Wall Street to pursue her love of cooking in the 1970s (self-taught by reading Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking), she attended Barnard and graduated with a degree in European and architectural history.
Who knew that degree would be useful in creating a million dollar business based on cookbooks and entertaining?
You know Chef Alex Guarnaschelli as a judge on Iron Chef America and Chopped, the host of the television show Alex’s Day Off, and the winner of Next Iron Chef in 2012.
But before that? She graduated from Barnard in 1991 with a degree in art history.
Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts): Joe Bastianich
Most recently recognized as a judge on MasterChef and MasterChef Junior, Joe Bastianich is commonly referred to as the Simon Cowell of the food industry due to his brutally honest and snarky remarks.
But he didn’t always want to be a part of the food world. In fact, he sought out to separate himself from his Italian upbringing by studying philosophy and political science at BC, and then went on to pursue a job on Wall Street.
Clearly that didn’t last long, and soon enough he was partnering with good friend Mario Batali to take over the Italian-American food scene.
Boston University (Boston, Massachusetts): Rocco DiSpirito
He got his start in the food industry by attending the Culinary Institute for America in Hyde Park, NY, at the age of 16. Following his graduation, he traveled to France to continue his culinary studies at Jardin de Cygne. He then came back to the US to get his bachelor’s degree in business from BU.
After working in several restaurants and starting his own, Union Pacific (now closed), DiSpirito appeared on The Melting Pot, starred on his own reality tv show The Restaurant, and wrote ten very popular cookbooks. Maybe these should be your business class textbooks instead?
Canisius College (Buffalo, NY): Anne Burrell
Anne Burrell is the spiky blonde, insanely cool Food Network star that we all know and love. However, it wasn’t until after she earned her degree in English and Communications at Canisius that she decided to join the food scene.
Shortly after graduating college, she attended the Culinary Institute of America and then spent a year in Italy at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners. When Burrell returned to the States she worked at several restaurants, taught at the Institute for Culinary Education in NYC, and then joined the Batali-Bastianich empire.
While working at Italian Wine Merchants, she became good friends with Mario Batali (#casual). When he was asked to be on Iron Chef America, he took Burrell with him as his sous chef. The rest, my friends, is history.
Clark University (Worcester, Massachusetts): Padma Lakshmi
Unsurprisingly, the drop dead gorgeous host of Top Chef actually started her career as a model at age 14. Four years later she decided to put modeling on hold to attend Clark University, first as a psych major, but later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theater.
After college she continued her modeling career, making headlines as the first Indian model to be successful in Paris, Milan and New York.
Her beauty led to acting jobs, and one of those roles had her gain 30 pounds. She was clearly able to shed the weight, and to prove how she published a cookbook called Easy Exotic. Food Network loved it so much they offered to give Lakshmi her own show titled Padma’s Passport. Now you can watch her on season 13 of Bravo’s Top Chef.
Don’t feel so bad about switching majors now, do ya?
Concordia College (Montreal, Canada): Hugh Acheson
Currently one of the three judges on Top Chef, Acheson began his incredible culinary career as a dishwasher at the age of 15.
He tried out the college thing for a bit as a philosophy major, but dropped out to pursue his love of cooking in Montreal. He made his move to the States after his wife got into graduate school at the University of Georgia, and shortly after they moved to San Francisco.
Some of the amazing chefs he worked with before rising to fame include Rob MacDonald, Mike Fenelly and Gary Danko. Later on he got a call to help open a new restaurant in Georgia, and now he owns several different restaurants in the state.
And as you may have already noticed, he is also known for his unibrow. #Hughnibrow
Guildford College (Greensboro, North Carolina): Todd English
Todd English is best known for his restaurant Olives, which can now can be found in multiple locations around the nation.
Although English began his career at the age of 15, the chef originally attended Guildford College on a baseball scholarship. However, when his injuries got the best of him, English dropped out to attend the Culinary Institute of America.
After graduating with honors, English traveled to Italy where he learned the ways of Italian cooking. At 25, the chef returned to the States and quickly became recognized for his talents.
You can now find him appearing on multiple television shows, hosting Food Trip with Todd English, and as an author to three critically acclaimed cookbooks.
Howard University (Washington, D.C.): Carla Hall
Hootie hoo! Yes, we’re talking about kooky Carla Hall. You know her as the slightly odd but lovable contestant on Top Chef and as current co-host on The Chew.
Before realizing she had a passion for food, Hall received a degree in Accounting from Howard. After working for Price Waterhouse, she decided accounting wasn’t for her so she went to Europe to work as a model. While there, she fell in love with cooking, and shortly after returning to the States she attended culinary school in Maryland.
Now you can buy a little bit of love from Carla through her own company, Carla Hall Petite Cookies.
James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Virginia): Christina Tosi
She’s beauty, she’s grace, she’s… Christina Tosi. As the newest judge on MasterChef, Tosi is boldly dubbed one of the greatest pastry chefs of our time. Known for dropping cookie bombs on fellow food companies and blasting music in her kitchen while baking said cookies, this hardbody seemingly has it all: personality, beauty and talent.
If you’re all about female empowerment, look no further; Tosi claims that her love of baking came from growing up surrounded by matriarchs that all loved to cook or bake. Her mental toughness, which is essential in a kitchen, was shaped by her mother.
Although her parents wanted her to pursue a college degree to have something to fall back on, her passion for oddly powerful food combinations remained. After spending one year at the University of Virgina, Tosi went to Florence for a year. After her time abroad, Tosi eventually graduated from JMU with a degree in Applied Math and Italian.
After graduating, she quickly enrolled in the French Culinary Institute (now the ICC), and went on to work at Bouley, WD~50, and ultimately landed at the Momofuku Empire. With David Chang’s encouragement, her future was sealed.
Her Milk Bar empire now spans 6 NYC locations, one Toronto location, one bakery soon to be opened in D.C., and it undoubtedly will not stop there.
Johnson & Wales University (Providence, Rhode Island): Emeril Lagasse & Graham Elliot
Famous for his catchphrase, “BAM!” it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know and love Emeril.
He started cooking at a very young age, mastering the art of bread and pastry before graduating high school by working in a Portuguese bakery. Talented in more ways than one, Emeril was offered a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music, but turned it down to pursue cooking instead.
After graduating college, Emeril went to Lyon and Paris to learn the art of French cooking, and when he returned he honed his skills in several cities in the Northeast. Eventually, Emeril found his way down to New Orleans and worked for just over seven years at Commander’s Palace.
Following his time there, he opened a few places of his own, and after receiving great reviews quickly climbed to the top. Most famous for his live cooking show Emeril Live!, Lagasse went on to appear in many other cooking shows, wrote 18 cookbooks, and even has his own line of cookware. Bam!
Graham Elliot Bowles, the MasterChef and MasterChef Jr. judge that wowed us with a dramatic weight loss in 2013, is full of wit and humor. A graduate from J&W, Elliot is best known for Chicago’s first “bistronomic” restaurant – that is, a restaurant that marries a four star gastronomic style with a laid-back bistro setting.
After receiving many accolades for this culinary leap and for his talents prior to opening the self-named establishment in 2008, Elliot appeared on season 1 and 2 of Top Chef Masters.
Fun fact, he’s also the culinary ambassador of Lollapolooza, so if the music alone isn’t enough to get you there, eating his food should be.
McGill University (Montreal, Québec): Gail Simmons
As one of Bravo’s Top Chef judges and proclaimed trained culinary expert and food writer, Gail Simmons is surprisingly relatable. Like us, Simmons began writing about food in college when she was getting her degree in Spanish and Anthropology.
Although she had always loved food growing up, Simmons strived to create an identity that was different from her mother’s (don’t we all?) because her mother was a food columnist.
After graduating college with a few writing jobs, Simmons decided she wanted more, so she said buh-bye to Canada and moved to NYC to attend the Institute of Culinary Education. Post-culinary school, Simmons snagged jobs at Daniel, Vogue and Food & Wine.
Now we can read about her in her memoir and watch her all day errday on Bravo. Like, can we just be you?
Check out her thoughts on going to college and figuring out her career path.
New York University (New York, New York): Bethenny Frankel
Uh, why are we proud to call Bethenny Frankel an alum? Skinnygirl Cocktails. You’re welcome.
After Frankel graduated from NYU with a degree in Communications and Psychology, she moved to Los Angeles to be an actress. When that didn’t work out, she moved back to NYC where she attended the Natural Gourmet Institute.
Post-grad, she created her own company called BethennyBakes, a healthier Mrs. Fields (according to her). Surprisingly, her company was talked about enough that she landed a spot on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.
Although she didn’t win, she was subsequently cast in The Real Housewives of New York City, where she then called herself the “token skinny girl.” Ah, now we get it.
Pace University (New York, New York): Rachael Ray
For all of you considering dropping outta school, Ms. “30-Minute Meals” proves that you don’t need a college degree to make a living.
Rachael Ray always knew how to cook because her family owned several restaurants in Cape Cod before they moved to upstate New York. Apparently her first word was even “vino.”
After high school, Ray decided to pursue a degree in literature and communications at Pace, but dropped out after two years to focus on her career and to save money. Shortly after she moved back upstate, she was recruited to be a food buyer by a large gourmet market in Albany.
During the holidays, Ray decided to host “30-Minute Mediterranean Meals” to boost sales. The class was so popular that the local CBS station signed her on to do 30-Minute Meals during the evening news.
She won two regional Emmys for the segment in its first year. The rest is history (orrrr just the same show just on a larger network).
Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey): Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne
Who is this, you ask? Just the blonde co-founder and co-owner of Georgetown Cupcakes, duh. Yeah, that’s right, you’ve seen her on TLC’s DC Cupcakes and probably loved her. She’s also pretty freakin’ smart, too.
LaMontagne attended Princeton with the intention of majoring in chemical engineering, but then fell in love with molecular biology because she enjoyed working in the lab. After graduating, she went on to work at The Lewin Group in D.C., where she worked with fellow Princeton grads on national healthcare policy issues.
Her next move was to Boston, where she worked for Highland Capital Partners as a venture capitalist. Even though this job gave her little downtime, she somehow managed to find time to bake.
In an article she wrote for Princeton University, she stated, “To me, baking was just like doing science experiments in the kitchen—carefully measuring exact ratios of ingredients that would react together—except that you could eat your results!”
Eventually, her passion for baking got the best of her. In 2007, LaMontagne and her sister both quit their jobs to start the bakery they always dreamed of having. On February 14, 2008, Georgetown Cupcakes opened its doors and haven’t closed them since.
Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana): Ted Allen
Ted Allen is the host we all know and love from the show Chopped. Allen has also been a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef and Food Network’s Iron Chef America, and since 1997 has been a contributing editor to Esquire magazine.
Before being an acclaimed chef and journalist, Allen attended Purdue University and received a degree in Psychology and eventually attended NYU to get his masters in journalism. Although he grew up with southern food courtesy of his mother, Allen didn’t join the food industry until he became the senior editor and food critic of Chicago Magazine.
In 2003, he found his way to television on the show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy as a food and wine specialist. Since then, he’s written several different books and has been on many well-known food shows.
So now you can tell all of your friends that are obsessed with Chopped that Ted is ya boy.
Reed College (Portland, Oregon): James Beard
The man, the myth, the legend: James Beard. To (sort of) share an educational background with the one and only is a huge bragging right.
Not only is there an entire foundation named after him that is revered in the culinary world, but he has also been titled “Dean of the American Cookery” by The New York Times in 1954, and is commonly referred to as the father of American-style gourmet cooking.
Like many cooks, Beard grew up around food but didn’t begin a career in the food industry until much later. Expelled from college during his freshman year because rumor had it he was gay, Beard then traveled to Europe with a theater troop to pursue a career in acting and singing.
When acting didn’t bring in the money, he started a catering company. Soon after, Beard opened his first food shop: Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc. Following its success, Beard wrote several different cookbooks, and was subsequently featured on NBC’s I Love to Eat once the war was over. Later on he created the James Beard Cooking School in both New York City and Seaside, Oregon.
In 1976, Reed College presented Beard with an honorary degree to make amends for the past. And on January 21, 1985, James Beard passed away, but his legacy remains more alive than ever.
Feeling inspired to learn his ways? Here’s a complete list of his cookbooks. Go ahead, get cookin.’ (Who needs to do homework anyway?)
Rutgers University (New Brunswick, New Jersey): Mario Batali
Who says a degree in Spanish theater (the Golden Age, to be specific) can’t make you a famous chef?
Batali is not your ordinary grad. Having gone to high school in Spain, his major makes sense. But he was always passionate about food, so after graduating college he decided to attend Le Cordon Bleu in London, only to drop out to apprentice with the famed Marco Pierre White.
He then trained for three years in a village in northern Italy, where he gained the necessary skills to come back to America to change the Italian restaurant scene.
Now you can learn how to cook like him by buying any of his ten cookbooks, watch him co-host The Chew, and you can even help him feed and educate children though the Mario Batali Foundation.
Smith College (Northampton, Massachusetts): Julia Child
Let’s be real, who doesn’t love Julia Child? You may recognize the name from the 2009 film Julie & Julia, but the movie doesn’t even come close to doing this woman justice.
Another culinary legend, Julia Child greatly changed the face of American food by making the seemingly complex French cuisine approachable to the everyday American.
Julia Child graduated from Smith College in 1934 with a history degree, but she even admits in her memoir that most of her college career was devoted to growing up (sound familiar?). She quickly moved to NYC to become a writer, but then moved back to her hometown in California when her mother passed away.
Suddenly WWII was upon the nation and Child found herself in Washington D.C. as a typist for the US Information Agency. She eventually became a researcher for the division and, later when she was positioned abroad, became the Chief of the OSS Registry. While in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), she also met her future husband: Paul Child.
After the war, Julia enrolled in the Los Angeles cooking school to prepare herself to be a wife, and then married Paul Child in 1946. The year after their marriage, the two moved to Paris for Paul’s job, and after one of her first experiences with French food, Julia enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu.
After graduating, she collaborated with two other French female women to create a cooking school: L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes.
In 1961, the two moved back to Cambridge, MA, where Julia then published her first cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It proved to be a great success, so much so that in 1963 she was given her own weekly thirty-minute television show called The French Chef.
Julia quickly rose to fame, and once she was revered in the industry, nothing could stop her. After many years of receiving prestigious awards and accolades, Julia Child donated the kitchen from her Cambridge home (yes, the entire thing) to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where is resides today.
So maybe instead of going to Cancun for spring break you and your friends can road trip it to D.C. to honor your fellow alumnae? No? Well, it was worth a shot.
Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York): Ina Garten
Whether you love to hate her or hate to love her, Ina Garten (aka Barefoot Contessa) is the queen bee of food television. Whichever side you’re on, we all know she’s the bomb dot com.
For starters, she graduated from Syracuse with a degree in Economics (although she had planned to study fashion). Then, after Jeffrey’s 4 years of military service during the Vietnam war, they traveled to Paris. Que the “ah ha!” moment.
Once back in the States, Ina cracked open all of Julia Child’s books to learn the ways of French cooking while simultaneously beginning her long tradition of hosting dinner parties.
The next phase of her life was no joke. While working in the White House, Ina was also taking business courses at George Washington University, where she eventually received her MBA.
But let’s back up, she didn’t just work in the White House – she was working in the White House Office of Management and Budget developing nuclear energy policies. Yeah. #casual
Apparently the job wasn’t creative enough for her, so when she saw an ad for a small food shop in the Hamptons she bought it, and Barefoot Contessa was born. Although she sold the store to her employees, who eventually closed the store entirely in 2003, she created a legacy.
With cookbooks and a television show that both have a cult following, Ina Garten has become not only a household name, but a woman who proves that your major and job never have to define what you do for the rest of your life.
Fun fact: She met Jeffrey at the age of 15.
Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut): David Chang
David Chang is the king of the Momofuku empire that has enveloped New York City, Toronto, Sydney, and soon Washington, D.C. His eminence in the food industry is undeniable. I mean, there’s an entire season of The Mind of a Chef dedicated just to him.
Although not the epitome of a great student, Chang graduated from Trinity in seven semesters with a degree in Religious Studies. Not too long after college, he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in NYC, now called the International Culinary Center, where he finally found his calling.
When Chang returned to the states, he worked at Café Boulud before he opened Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004. Even though the restaurant thrives today, in the beginning Noodle Bar struggled – struggled bad. One day Chang had enough of strugg city and said, “Screw it, I’m going to cook what I want.” Word spread, and the empire began.
Chang proceeded to open the rest of his famed establishments, which include Ssäm Bar, Ko, Milk Bar, and Ma Peche, in that order. Since then, he has helped create the pastry icon that is Christina Tosi and her own empire of Milk Bars.
He’s received countless accolades, including many James Beard awards, titled one of GQ’s men of the year, and has been included in Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2010. To put it simply, David Chang is pure badass.
Tufts University (Medford, Massachusetts): Dan Barber
Dan Barber is hands down one of the coolest chefs of our time. Co-owner and head chef of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stones Barns, Barber has been a major proponent of farm-to-table cooking and its ability to change the dynamics of our current food system.
Barber graduated from Tufts in 1992 with a degree in Political Science and English. After graduating, he went on to work under Alice Waters at Chez Panisse and eventually moved back to NYC to attend the French Culinary Institute (now the ICC). By 1996, Barber started his own catering company that would soon become the start of Blue Hill.
In 2000, Dan Barber opened Blue Hill in Greenwich Village with his brother and Laureen Barber. One year later, David Rockefeller approached him with the proposal to take over his 3,500 acre plot of land in Westchester, NY. The Barbers agreed and opened Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
It was here that Barber could really connect with the land, his childhood experiences at his grandparent’s farm in Massachusetts, and hone in on delivering great plates of locally sourced, sustainable food.
Since then, Dan Barber has been a force to be reckoned with. Recently, the chef has rocked the culinary world with his insightful and eye-opening book The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food.
For three weeks this past spring, Barber and many other famous chefs collaborated to create a dining experience that focused on the infamous issue of food waste. WastED has since had lingering impacts, including many articles that are focused on applying the techniques he used to recipes that can be made at home.
Moreover, there is an entire episode dedicated to him on the Netflix docu-series Chef’s Table, which I implore you to watch.
Dan Barber is a game-changer, I’m willing to bet on it. Be proud, jumbos.
University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, California): Alice Waters
If you’re into the sustainable food movement, Alice Waters is your girl. At her famed restaurant Chez Panisse, she focuses her cooking on locally sourced, fresh seasonal ingredients.
Waters’ love of food began when she studied abroad in Paris for a semester in college. She was blown away by how great the markets and small restaurants were that she wanted nothing more than to create the same atmosphere in the states. After graduating Berkeley in 1967 with a degree in French Cultural Studies, she did just that.
After returning to London and France to deepen her knowledge of the food that inspired her in Paris, Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971. She worked closely with farmers, producers, fisherman and foragers to grow fresh local food for her restaurant in Berkeley.
Chez Panisse is now known as one of the greatest restaurants in the world, inspiring chefs, like Dan Barber, to change the American food system.
Other than owning a restaurant and writing numerous cookbooks, Waters has begun the Edible Schoolyard foundation, which aims to educate young kids how to harvest and prepare food for their lunches.
University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California): Giada Pamela De Laurentiis
A Food Network star, Giada reinvents traditional Italian dishes for the everyday American. Born in Rome, Giada grew up cooking with her family, and even after moving to the States at a young age, she always found the time to help her family with creating a meal.
Giada graduated from UCLA with a degree in Anthropology, but her passion for cooking never subsided. Following her heart, she attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to learn both culinary and pastry techniques. After completing culinary school, Giada returned to Los Angeles where she eventually opened her own catering company.
In 2002, Giada was discovered by the Food Network after they had read an article about her and her family. She quickly became a household name and even received an Emmy for her original show Everyday Italian.
Now you can watch her newest show, Giada at Home, or read up on her recipes in the numerous cookbooks she has written.
University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia): Alton Brown
It’s hard not to love the witty and entertaining host of the acclaimed Food Network show Good Eats. Actually, it’s possible we may love him just as much as we love the food he’s told us about.
Although he somewhat grew up around food, Brown really developed his cooking skills at college to get more dates (wink wink). After studying film at the University of Georgia, Brown became a cinematographer and director. At some point, Brown realized that between shoots all he did was watch underwhelming cooking shows, and decided that was his next move.
Good Eats was created from Brown’s intense desire to understand exactly what happens when you cook. Impressively, Brown wrote, produced and directed the show for 13 years. During that time he also wrote several cookbooks.
Most recently, Brown created the Show Cutthroat Kitchen, which still airs on Food Network, along with appearances on many other shows on the network.
University of Las Vegas (Las Vegas, Nevada): Guy Fieri
The host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is quite a character. His outgoing and loud personality attracts many fans… and some haters. Either way, this guy has shown us how awesome the underdogs of the food world can be.
Unsurprisingly, Fieri loved cooking as a child. So much that he opened a pretzel cart at the age of 10. When he turned 16, he became an exchange student and studied in France for a year. How, you ask? With the money he made from his pretzel cart and from washing dishes.
It’s a no-brainer then that Fieri graduated college with a degree in hospitality management. Eventually, Fieri sent in a video to the Food Network to be on their new reality tv show, The Next Food Network Star. His super cool rock ‘n’ roll personality got him onto the show. In 2006, he won.
Now you can watch him on numerous shows on the Food Network, watch him host Minute to Win It, read a bunch of cookbooks written by him, or eat at the infamous Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar in NYC. Either way, he’s everywhere.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Baltimore, Maryland): Duff Goldman
At the age of 14, Duff was already working in professional kitchens. Later on, Duff graduated from UMD with a degree in philosophy and history, but when on to study art at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in D.C., where he became a local graffiti artist.
With encouragement from his family, Duff learned to focus his inner artist with baking. He went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America in California, but eventually found his way back to Baltimore. In 2002, Duff quit his day job to open Charm City Cakes.
I doubt he has looked back since.
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan): David Burtka
Yes, this man has literally got it all: good looks, numerous talents, the cutest twins in the world, and the love of everyone’s life: Neil Patrick Harris. *Insert emoji with heart eyes here.*
While getting his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, Burtka simultaneously trained at the William Esper Studios. Not surprisingly, he made his first Broadway and television appearance shortly after that. Since then, you’ve seen him on The West Wing, Crossing Jordan and How I Met Your Mother. But he is much more than just a celeb.
Somewhere during his acting career, Burtka found the time to get his culinary arts degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. Afterwards, he trained at Babbo and also with Gina De Palma. In 2010, he founded a catering company called Gourmet M.D.
I don’t know about you, but David Burtka can cook for me anytime. Watch out NPH, we’re comin’ for yo man.
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, California): Ree Drummond
The self-proclaimed domestic country wife is the star of the Food Network’s The Pioneer Woman. The premise of the show? She lives on a ranch in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma with her husband and kids, does some household chores, and cooks for them. She also chronicles this lifestyle in her blog, ThePioneerWoman.com.
However random this idea may sound, Drummond has received praise and a cult following for both her show and blog. The ranch life is a distant concept to most, and apparently we suburbanites love to hear about this foreign lifestyle seemingly only found in old novels.
But she didn’t always live that way. Actually, she grew up in a wealthy area north of Tulsa and moved to Los Angeles for college. At USC, she studied broadcast journalism and gerontology in the hope of becoming the next Jane Pauley.
Later on she returned to her hometown to begin studying for the LSAT when she met and fell for her current husband, whom she calls Marlboro Man. It was only a matter of time before she got her own show.
So, if you feel up for the ranch life but not enough to move there, just hope on her blog instead. Or you can buy her cookbook or memoir to get your rural fix. Either way, Ree Drummond is waitin’ for ya.
University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, Mississippi): Cat Cora
As the first female Iron Chef America winner, Cat Cora always felt she had a lot to prove to the world. Despite frequent discouragement from culinary teachers, this inspiring gal took advice to follow her dreams from the one and only Julia Child.
Before pursuing her culinary career, Cora attended college and graduated with a degree in Exercise Physiology and Biology. After college she tried to open her own restaurant, but did not find success. Unsure of which direction to take next, she happened to get the chance to meet Julia Child at a book signing, who encouraged her to attend the Culinary Institute of America. So she did.
Women were just beginning to attend CIA at that time, and some of the older professors frequently told her that she should be fulfilling a traditional female role at home rather than pursuing a culinary degree. However frustrating, these comments only furthered Cora’s desire to become one of the best female chefs out there. And boy did she prove them wrong.
Cat Cora has become one of the most renowned female chefs, appearing on shows such as Melting Pot, My Country My Kitchen, and of course Iron Chef America. She also owns two restaurants, has written 3 cookbooks and has an iPad app. Hold on while I download that now…
University of Vermont (Burlington, Vermont): Melissa d’Arabian
The season five winner of The Next Food Network Star is relatable to many home cooks across America. On her show Ten Dollar Dinners, d’Arabian demonstrates recipes that can be made with a budget of ten dollars. If I had known this show existed, it could have been very useful in college. So read up UVM.
Although d’Arabian was also raised on a small budget, that never stopped her family from cooking meals together. This notion always stuck with her, even through college. After graduating with a degree in Political Science, she worked for a year on a cruise and then went to Georgetown to receive her MBA.
d’Arabian’s “real life” began with consulting and some time at corporate Disney in California, where she met her husband. It wasn’t long before she had four daughters in three years (props girl, props) and made the decision to become a stay-at-home mom.
It was then that she channeled her mom and calculated expenses so their large family could live on one income. And it was one home video (think YouTube before it was a thing) of her making homemade yogurt that saved her mad dolla dolla billz every year that threw her into fame.
Next time you find yourself eating an eggo for dinner because #college, just think, “What would Melissa do?” All of your food budget problems will be solved.
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (La Crosse, Wisconsin): Sandra Lee
Host of four television shows and the editor-in-chief of Sandra Lee Magazine, Sandra Lee has quite the empire. Surprisingly, Lee never wanted to do a cooking show. She only has two weeks of professional culinary training; other than that, she’s just like us (sort of).
Haters gunna hate, but Sandra Lee didn’t rise to fame with ease. Her childhood was especially rough, having been abandoned by her teenage mother at a very young age and physically abused by her stepfather. When she was 12 she had to take care of her four younger siblings and was not allowed to visit her grandmother, whom she actually enjoyed being around.
Although her childhood was far from perfect, during this time she figured out cheap ways to make filling meals, which she would later use on her cooking shows. When it came time for college, she attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse until her junior year but dropped out to move to California.
After hitting it big with creating a product called the Kurtain Kraft, Lee wrote her first cookbook: Semi-Homemade Cooking. It was quite popular, and the Food Network loved it (so much they titled her first television show the same thing).
Now Lee has an empire of four shows, including Sandra’s Money Saving Meals, Sandra Lee Celebrates, Sandra Lee’s Taverns, Lounges & Clubs, and Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee. Moreover, she’s written over 25 books and cookbooks. Like damn girl, high five for turning your life around and not needing a college degree to do it.
Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, New York): Anthony Bourdain & Andrew Zimmern
Although not technically a grad from Vassar, it’s still pretty darn cool that Anthony Bourdain went there for two years. I mean, he’s one of the most respected chefs in the culinary world. That has to count for something, right?
Bourdain grew up in a suburb in Jersey, but by the age of ten he was yearning to live in San Francisco where youngsters were currently dropping acid and sleeping with hippies. Bourdain grew to resent his stable upbringing, wishing to exchange it for a life filled with rock ‘n’ roll movie scenes.
However, this phase didn’t last forever. Bourdain credits his father for introducing him to the crazy range of food that Manhattan offered. Shortly after dropping out of college, the young Bourdain attended the Culinary Institute of America. Returning to NYC, he worked at several restaurants before opening his now-esteemed Les Halles.
Bourdain is also a phenomenal food writer, rising to fame with his tell-all article, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” which exposed the underside of the restaurant business. He went on to further detail his kitchen experiences in the book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.
The renowned chef also claimed many popular television shows, including A Cook’s Tour, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, while also appearing on popular cooking shows as well.
Still thinking about graduating? Dropping out to attend culinary school to travel the world to explore different cuisines doesn’t sound so bad though…
This guy has guts. Or maybe he just enjoys eating them… yep, he’s the star of the tv show franchise Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. Known as the “guy who eats weird food,” Andrew Zimmern travels around the world to try foods that viewers might consider abnormal. But his story isn’t just bizarre, it’s inspiring.
Zimmern grew up in New York City constantly being introduced to worldly foods with his Dad. Although he had a great childhood, he found solace in drugs. He had built a solid foundation for his drug addiction by the time he went to college, so much that it took him well over four years to graduate.
In one interview, Zimmern describes his college career as on-again off-again. Frequently taking time off to get credits at Sarah Lawrence or to travel around Europe, the young chef felt he could not handle school with his dependence on drugs and alcohol. Although he graduated in 1984, his addiction only worsened and eventually he found himself homeless in Manhattan.
There came a point in his 30s that the drug abuse became so debilitating that Zimmern was flown out to Minnesota by his family to get treatment at Hazelden. After his time there he came back to the food industry, this time sober.
After several jobs, Zimmern decided to just trust his gut. He believed he saw food trends several years before they happened and wanted to channel that somewhere. That somewhere became Bizarre Foods. Now we can watch him eat the grossest things and laugh because he’s the one doing it, not us. We think to ourselves, “Maybe I would do that,” but we all know we’re lying. We’ll leave the goat brains to you, Andrew.
If you or any family members or friends are struggling with an addiction, please do not be afraid to seek help.