What’s the difference between a chef and a cook? Chefs would probably argue that cooking is their profession, one that they spent years cultivating in culinary schools and respected kitchens. But a growing number of chefs are spending just as much time in front of the camera as they do behind the stove. There has been no shortage of celebrity chefs flowing from the kitchen to Hollywood. Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, and Bobby Flay have all had their turn in the spotlight, with numerous cooking shows, cookbooks, and guest appearances, but these days it seems the term "celebrity chef" is taking on a whole new meaning.
A number of celebrities are stepping off the red carpet and onto linoleum, exchanging gowns and tuxes for aprons in hopes of being recognized for their talents in the kitchen as well. They may not have formal culinary training, but armed with fancy warming ovens, family recipes, and secret tricks, they’re establishing a niche for themselves on the cooking scene.
Of the many ways to a fan’s stomach, TV seems to provide the most opportunities. Heck, even shows like Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off give celebrities like former *NSYNC singer Joey Fatone the chance to fight for culinary glory. Spoiler alert: Fatone was eliminated but he can always follow Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria and open a restaurant, or write his own cookbook like a number of stars on our list.
Gourmet cooking can never fully escape the health-conscious mindset of Hollywood, though. That’s where healthy eating "gurus" Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Seinfeld come in, to remind Paula Deen fans that there is such a thing as too much butter and too many carbs.
Whether it’s with quinoa and smoothies or barbecue ribs and roast chicken, here are culinary stars who give the term "celebrity chef" a new meaning.
1. Gwyneth Paltrow
Famous for her movie roles and the low-carb diet she feed her kids, Paltrow hosted PBS food and travel show Spain… on the Road Again with Mario Batali. She also has a thing for "delicious, easy recipes," as evidenced by the titles of her two cookbooks, It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great and My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness. They include specialty dishes like brown rice pasta, sweet potato and five-spice muffins, and her father’s pancakes.
2. Christopher Walken
Call him the next Julia Child. Walken taught viewers how to roast a chicken on YouTube with just four ingredients: chicken, pears, salt, and pepper. His secret technique? Cut off the bottoms of the pears and use them to prevent the rest of the fruit from sticking to the pan.
Walken dished up seconds of the chicken in Cooking with Christopher Walken, another YouTube video in which he invited Law & Order star Richard Belzer over for lunch fit for an episode of Barefoot Contessa.
3. Lauren Conrad
She may not have had to lift a finger as a privileged teen on Laguna Beach, but the reality star-turned business mogul has developed some chops in the kitchen. Her website, LaurenConrad.com, offers readers recipes for spiked cider and mini chicken pot pies, as well as advice on whether to store certain food in the fridge or cupboard. Conrad told PopSugar in 2011 that when it comes to Thanksgiving, she’s the main chef. Her motivation?
"I learned very quickly that you get to stay in the kitchen all day and you don’t have to do any dishes at the end." Conrad took home cooking to another level with her latest purchase, a $3.7 million house in Brentwood, Calif., complete with a chef’s kitchen.
4. Matthew McConaughey
While fans salivate over McConaughey, he’s busy cooking his own meat. He’s on the road to becoming a "master barbecue chef," and even mixes his own dry rubs. He and wife Camila Alves take turns playing chef in the kitchen, and Top Chef is a mainstay on his DVR.
McConaughey used his culinary skills for a good cause when he teamed up with Guy Fieri for a series of cooking lessons for J.K. Livin Foundation, which empowers high schoolers to lead active, healthy lives.
5. Eva Longoria
Her Desperate Housewives character Gabby may have avoided the kitchen at all costs, but Longoria has a warming oven, a deep-fryer, and a giant island to display her cookbook Eva’s Kitchen in hers. She owns multiple restaurants, including Beso in Hollywood (with chef Todd English) and SHe in Las Vegas, and has been a guest judge on Food Network Star and MasterChef. And she’s not just a restaurant owner in name. According to MasterChef judge and restaurateur Joe Bastianich, Longoria is a "serious restaurateur" who "knows food and the nuances that make this industry so trying."
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