10 Self Taught Chefs You Should Know - Rhineland Cutlery

10 Self Taught Chefs You Should Know

10 Self Taught Chefs You Should Know

Many chefs with household names have started their career without professional training. The following chefs can be an inspiration for people who question what their love for food and cooking can turn into. Here are 10 self taught chefs you should know:

1. Ina Garten

Ina Garten spent years working for the White House developing policies related to nuclear energy. She spent day in and day out doing a job that did not make her feel complete. One day, Garten came across an ad for a tiny food store in New York and was immediately intrigued. Within days, she traveled to New York to tour the place and fell in love on the spot. She and her husband made an offer on the store, and she was declared the owner quickly. She named the store Barefoot Contessa, which is a name she still uses today for all her business pursuits.

Even though Garten had little experience, she had a dream and a passion for cooking, and she was determined to make it work. Over two decades, Barefoot Contessa grew tremendously with over 20 cooks and bakers and about 10 times the size of the tiny store. She decided to sell it to the chef and manager because she was interested in trying something new once again. Since then, she has written twelve different cookbooks, filmed a long-running show for Food Network, and written food columns for several different magazines.

2. Rachael Ray

Although Rachael Ray was born into a family who was deeply involved in the food and restaurant business, she taught herself mostly everything that she knows about cooking. She was employed by several different companies in the food industry before catching her big break, which was her “30 Minute Meals” television classes. This led Ray to gaining positions as the host of various Food Network shows and becoming the author of several cookbooks. In addition, she created her own magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and began a talk show, which has been buzzing with interest from chef listeners around the world for some time.

3. Charlie Trotter

Charlie Trotter did not come from a family in the food business, work in any restaurants, nor go to college for culinary arts. In fact, he did not realize that he was interested in cooking and the restaurant industry until he was already in college. He discovered this passion while assisting his roommate with a recipe, and this one simple task led him to become one of the most successful self taught chefs in the United States.

Trotter taught himself everything there is to know about different foods, recipes, and the restaurant industry. Once he felt fully prepared, he opened his very own restaurant in Chicago at the young age of 28. His restaurant took off and became one of the most renowned restaurants around the globe. Customers enjoyed his unique, modern cuisine choices which often included Asian spices and foods. As his restaurant continued to grow, it went on to receive high rankings and awards from different institutions.

Trotter eventually expanded his business and opened a to-go shop in Chicago and another restaurant located in Las Vegas. He also wrote many different cookbooks, education books on managing a business, and hosted a cooking show on PBS.

4. Kia Damon

One of the proudest and most inspiring self taught chefs is Kia Damon. She is the creator of The Supper Club from Nowhere, a series that focuses on dinner recipes.

Damon quickly earned the nickname “Kia Cooks” while cooking for pop up dinners, doing cooking demos, and cooking for private parties. She moved to New York and landed a role as an Executive Chef at the young age of 24 and quickly earned the position of Culinary Director for Cherry Bombe Magazine. Recently, the New York Times acknowledged her as one of the “16 black chefs changing food in America.”

5. Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay began a career as an athlete but stumbled upon his love for food and cooking. He decided to leave his soccer career and become an established chef in the United Kingdom. Therefore, he immediately started teaching himself the techniques and methods of cooking that he still uses today. He also started being mentored by some of Europe’s top-ranked chefs such as Marco Pierre White, Albert Roux, Joel Robuchon, and Guy Savoy.

Ramsay felt like he was ready to begin working in the food industry and was hired at Aubergine, a two-star restaurant in London. After several years at Aubergine, he then opened his own restaurant, which was named Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. The restaurant was successful and earned three stars. This gave him the confidence to open several more restaurants. Ramsay is now known as one of the most successful self taught chefs and is widely recognized for his role as the hosts of the popular cooking television shows called Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef.

6. Jamie Oliver

A well-known chef who advocates for healthier foods for school-age children, Jamie Oliver is an incredible self taught chef who spent his time in several different restaurants across the city of London. After college, he began working at River Café, which is the restaurant that earned him a feature in a documentary. Oliver then went on to star in his own show, The Naked Chef, which analyzed recipes from the very beginning of the process to the end.

Since Oliver’s success began, he has written many books and filmed several series, but he is most proud of his Feed Me Better campaign. The campaign launched in hopes of producing better lunch options for children in schools. In response, he has dedicated his time to forming a website that provides alternative ingredients to make healthier food options for children.

7. Makini Howell

Makini Howell is known for her plant-based recipes and food choices, as she is a vegan and encourages others to create and develop vegan recipes. She owns and operates Makini Howell Plum Vegan Restaurants and Plum Bistro, an international plant-based restaurant in Seattle.

Howell is a self-taught chef, who has served various celebrities such as Queen Latifah, Serena Williams, Stevie Wonder, and more. She also advises top companies in their culinary and food departments. Howell has written a cookbook, which is an insightful treasure to every vegan individual throughout the world. She takes great pride in promoting easy and tasty plant-based diets at home.

8. Thomas Keller

Thomas Keller taught himself the art of cooking at a young age. He moved to France from Florida and began working for many top-tier restaurants. When he returned to the United States, he decided to open his own establishment, Rakel, in New York City.

Later, Keller relocated to Los Angeles, California and gained employment as the Executive Chef for the Checkers Hotel. He is known to be one of the finest chefs in California as well as America. Keller has shared his experiences and techniques with others through his five cookbooks, and he continues to leave a wonderful mark on the hospitality industry that will be remembered for years to come.

9. Tom Colicchio

Owner and head chef of Crafter Hospitality, Tom Colicchio is a New Jersey native who made his way to New York to become one of the city’s finest self-taught chefs. He is passionate about solving food issues, which led him to become the executive producer of the documentary named A Place at the Table. This documentary analyzes and explains the causes of hunger in America and how to address this problem. Colicchio takes pride in his work, especially his advocacy efforts to ensure that food is affordable, accessible, and healthy. He has worked on the campaign named the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, and his restaurants donate funds to the Children of Bellevue, Wholesome Wave, and City Harvest to help with this issue.

10. Tunde Wey

Tunde Wey is an impressive self-taught chef, who uses his time to educate his fans and viewers on how to prepare, present, and sell a variety of different foods and recipes. He has written columns that focus on the food culture in America and the adaptation to certain foods.

Wey’s parents had high expectations of him pursuing medical school to become a doctor, but he realized that was not an interest at all for him. His passion for food erupted when he was helping a roommate start a restaurant business. In a few short months, he became the co-founder of Revolver in Detroit, Michigan. However, he left the restaurant a couple years later and decided to do pop-up cooking events around the country, which mainly consist of Nigerian recipes. He enjoys cooking up new foods for people to experience for the first time as well as constantly changing the taste of foods.


The road to culinary greatness has no particular beaten path. These world-renowned chefs are proof that betting on yourself and passion can lead to great things.