8 Spots Where Famous Chefs Learned To Cook

We all have to start somewhere. For most of us, our first jobs entailed folding sweaters or repeating some form of the phrase, "Do you want fries with that?" But, for the celebrity chefs we know and love, there seems to be one common denominator in their humble workforce beginnings: hotels.
Yep, many star chefs started working their ways up the culinary ladder while deep in the back-of-house kitchens of some of the best hotels in the world. Savvy hoteliers have always been quick to hire top students right out of culinary school, capitalizing on their eager spirits and freshly gleaned skills. So, it only makes sense that some of our favorites began their forays into food at such hospitable locations.
Imagine Giada De Laurentiis prepping the pasta for your room-service order, or Ming Tsai perfecting his knife skills on vegetable cuts for your French stew in the lobby bar. It's not that these hotels made these culinary kings and queens famous — but it's pretty clear they were a high-caliber stepping stone for some of the best chefs of our century.
From the hotel where Stephanie Izard worked before making it big on Bravo’s Top Chef to the family-run inn and restaurant that inspired Jamie Oliver’s love of food, the following properties are still fully prepped (and plated) for inspiration. Ahead, take a peek inside their gastronomic gates.
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Photo: Courtesy of Mark Alpert.
Chef: John Besh
Began At: Romantik Hotel Spielweg In Münstertal, Germany

John Besh is best known for his dedication to his native southern Louisiana cuisine — at his acclaimed dining spots, Lüke and Restaurant August in New Orleans (along with his six other restaurants spread around the U.S.). He's a chef, a TV personality, a philanthropist, a restaurateur, and an author.

But, before this Food Network regular made a name for himself, he worked an arduous apprenticeship under the famed “wild chef” Karl Josef Fuchs at the Michelin-starred Romantik Hotel Spielweg in Münstertal, Germany, where he formed his food philosophy. Not only did Chef Fuchs teach Besh everything he knew about making ingredients from scratch (from butchering the meat for homemade sausage to the best hand techniques for preparing gnocchi); the entire restaurant is run farm-to-table. So much so, in fact, that guests can even take baths in fresh whey from the cows that produce all of Fuchs' cheese. The hotel has been in the Fuchs family since 1861, and is a rustic respite in the heart of the Black Forest of Germany.

Romantik Hotel Spielweg, Spielweg 61, 79244 Münstertal; +49-7636-7090.
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Photo: Courtesy of Clift Hotel.
Chef: Mario Batali
Began At: Clift Hotel San Francisco

Before this Iron Chef was parading his orange-clad feet around television kitchens and signing autographs at numerous food festivals around the world, he was working the day shift as sous-chef for the Clift Hotel in San Francisco. At the time, it was the Four Seasons Clift Hotel; now, it's part of the Morgans Hotel Group’s luxury boutique line. The kitchen still holds the same esteem as when Chef Batali worked the floor, but the hotel has since seen a massive renovation — with a Philippe Starck design throughout and authentic furnishings, including chairs from Ray and Charles Eames, an original Salvador Dalí coffee table, and a surreal stool by René Magritte.

Clift Hotel, 495 Geary Street (between Taylor and Mason streets); 415-775-4700.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Napoleon.
Chef: Ming Tsai
Began At: Hotel Napoleon Paris

Long before starring as the host of Ming’s Quest and Simply Ming, Tsai was a commis chef on a quest to make a name for himself at the Hotel Napoleon Paris. Chef Tsai graduated from Yale University and enrolled in the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Before heading back to the U.S., he spent time in the kitchen of this romantic hotel. Here, he found himself taking direction from a 16-year-old, from whom he actually learned a few lessons.

In the 1920s, this hotel was given as a wedding gift to the bride of a Russian entrepreneur — so she could entertain Paris’ elite society members in style. To this day, the hotel is still run by that family. With only 51 rooms and 51 suites, it's a proud member of the Preferred Hotel Group and sits snugly in the 8th arrondissement — only steps from the Champs-Élysées.

Hotel Napoleon, 40 Avenue de Friedland, 75008, +33-1-56-68-43-21.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Cricketers.
Chef: Jamie Oliver
Began At: The Cricketers At Clavering In North Essex, England

It makes sense that Jamie Oliver — who grew up among the thatched cottages and rolling hills of the charming little village of Clavering, in North Essex — has developed such an affinity for healthy living and fresh produce. Plus, young Oliver was always helping out in the kitchen of his parents' restaurant and inn, The Cricketers. He watched intently as mum and dad kneaded bread, stirred sauces, and even planned seasonal menus. Jamie took his passion to new heights with his food-focused television shows, numerous cookbooks, and his latest crusade for improved worldwide food education. As for the Inn, it remains just as cozy and bucolic as ever. The hotel boasts 20 double rooms and a stellar complimentary English breakfast.

The Cricketers, Clavering, Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 4QT; +44-179-955-0442.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Wroxton House Hotel.
Chef: Gordon Ramsay
Began At: The Wroxton House Hotel In Cotswald Village, England

Known best for his fiery temper, extreme perfectionism, and less-than-pristine “phyllo-talk” in the kitchen, Gordon Ramsay’s larger-than-life career actually began in a quite humble setting: a thatched-roof manor house. After attending hotel-management school, Ramsay went to work as a commis chef at the Wroxton House Hotel in Cotswald Village, just 15 minutes away from where he was raised in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Parts of the hotel date back to 1649, and it pays homage to that history by displaying exposed brick walls, claw-foot bathtubs, and an inglenook fireplace in the dining area — where guests can experience a daily, changing menu based on seasonal produce.

The Wroxton House Hotel, Silver St, Wroxton, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX15 6QB; +44-845-373-0799.
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Photo: Courtesy of Marriott.
Chef: Stephanie Izard
Began At: JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa

Stephanie Izard sautéed her way into our hearts on season four of Top Chef. Then, she made a name for herself on the dining scene with Girl & The Goat in Chicago (as well as other concepts like Little Goat Diner, Little Goat Bread, and Little Goat Kitchen). But, before the goat, Izard was a Le Cordon Bleu Scottsdale culinary grad navigating her way around the upscale Camelback Inn Resort. The hotel is an amazing respite in the desert — with luxury accommodations, an award-winning spa, and tons of outdoor activity options on the premises. And, of course, it's home to some truly memorable dining experiences.

JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort and Spa, 5402 East Lincoln Drive; 480-948-1700.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hotel De Paris.
Chef: Wolfgang Puck
Began At: Hotel De Paris Monte-Carlo In Monaco

It comes as no surprise that a chef as much-loved as Wolfgang Puck started his career off young — and in one of the most glamorous places on earth. Chef Puck was taught to cook by his mom, an Austrian chef. He went off on his own to put his skills into practice at the age of 14. One of Puck's first jobs was cooking at the Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo, a five-star Leading Hotels of the World-designated sanctuary set in the heart of Monte Carlo. The hotel was built in 1864 and retains the grandeur of the times, with romantic terraces and intricate carvings towering above its three-star restaurant, which gazes out on the blue waters below.

Hotel De Paris Monte-Carlo, Place du Casino, 98000; +377-98-06-30-00.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.
Chef: Giada De Laurentiis
Began At: The Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Ray In Los Angeles, CA

It’s fitting that this leading lady of gastronomy opened her first-ever restaurant in a hotel; her namesake eatery, Giada, just opened a few months ago at The Cromwell Hotel in Las Vegas. One of De Laurentiis' first jobs after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Paris was cooking in the kitchen of the equally swanky Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey in Los Angeles. The hotel is located right off the water; from their private Juliet balconies, guests can gaze across a sea of boats in the marina.

The Ritz-Carlton at Marina del Ray, 4375 Admiralty Way (near Via Regatta); 310-823-1700.
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