'90s Celebrity Chefs You Don't Hear About Anymore

Rocco DiSpirito on cooking set
Rocco DiSpirito on cooking set - Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

In the ever-evolving realm of celebrity chefs and culinary icons, the '90s were a defining era. It was a time when the culinary world witnessed an explosion of talent, innovation, and personalities that left an indelible mark on both the kitchen and pop culture. Names like Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, and Anthony Bourdain became household favorites, gracing our television screens and inspiring a new generation of home cooks.

As we revisit the culinary landscape of the '90s, we discover a time of culinary renaissance and transformation. These chefs weren't just cooking; they were crafting a culinary revolution. However, as time passed and the culinary scene continued to evolve, some of these once-prominent figures have faded from the spotlight, leaving us to wonder, "Where are they now?"

Join us on a journey down memory lane as we explore the rise, the fame, and the enigmatic journeys of '90s celebrity chefs you don't hear about anymore. From their meteoric ascents to their unexpected detours, each chef's story unveils a unique chapter in the ever-evolving saga of culinary stardom that took the world by storm in the '90s.

Read more: You Probably Forgot These Food Celebs Were Nepo Babies

Emeril Lagasse

Emeril Lagasse prepares food
Emeril Lagasse prepares food - Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

In the '90s, Emeril Lagasse was at the peak of his fame. He had a thriving restaurant empire, a string of best-selling cookbooks, and his own cooking shows. One reason for his waning celebrity was the changing trends in food television. Emeril's bombastic style, while endearing to many, started to lose appeal as viewers gravitated toward more competitive cooking shows.

Another factor according to Emeril himself is the people around him believed after "Emeril Live" ended in 2016, he should take a step back. After so many years in the spotlight, hosting a show, making appearances, and owning multiple restaurants on top of it all, it was time for Emeril to "Kick it 'down' a notch." In a 2016 interview with GQ, he said "Everybody felt like it was time for a little break. I didn't necessarily think that, but...everybody else thought...that maybe it was time for a break from Emeril." His disappearance is more directly explained when in the same interview he stated "I'm old-fashioned, and I want to teach people how to cook...I didn't necessarily at the time want to get into this competition stuff."

However, Emeril is still involved in fine dining and owns multiple restaurants to this day, even expanding to his first cruise ship location in collaboration with Carnival Cruise Ships in 2019. He has also focused on his son, who is following in his footsteps as the new chef at his restaurant and plans to open a new restaurant with him.

Thomas Keller

Thomas Keller inspects dish
Thomas Keller inspects dish

Thomas Keller grew up in a restaurant family and worked at a variety of prominent restaurants. He was trained in France to learn the culinary art of haute cuisine. In 1992 during a visit to Napa Valley, he came across the French Laundry, which he purchased from the Shmidt's in 1994 after acquiring $1.2 million from various investors.

His celebrity came from his many notable accolades, including the 1996 James Beard Best Chef of the Year, Best Restaurant in the World from Restaurant Magazine for two consecutive years, and was named America's Best Chef by Time in 2001. He and his wife also opened Per Se in New York and in 2006 it was the first American restaurant to be given 3 stars by the Michelin Guide.

However, Thomas Keller faced allegations related to a significant embezzlement scheme at his renowned restaurant, The French Laundry. In 2016, a former employee was charged with embezzling millions of dollars from the restaurant, leading to a federal investigation. In addition, he was accused in 2019 of discrimination against a pregnant employee. He ended up convincing a jury that he was not guilty and moved on to his continued success. His celebrity remained somewhat intact, but according to Keller in 2017, Keller told the New York Times, "At some point you want to say, 'I gave, I gave, I gave — now it's time for us," in reference to him and his wife retiring.

John Besh

John Besh gives interview
John Besh gives interview

John Besh was a prominent figure in the culinary world during the '90s, known for his dedication to Creole and Cajun cuisine. He built a successful restaurant empire and gained recognition for his culinary expertise. However, his career took a significant hit due to allegations of sexual misconduct.

In 2017, John Besh faced a scandal when reports of sexual harassment and a toxic work environment within his restaurant group came to light. Over 20 women came forward with sexual harassment in the workplace, and while most of the charges were against other male employees, some were directly linked to Besh. This scandal led to his resignation from the company he had founded and tarnished his reputation in the culinary world. It also raised important discussions about the culture of the restaurant industry and the treatment of women in professional kitchens.

Besh immediately stepped down from the company afterward and unlike other tarnished chefs, he has made no notable attempt at returning to the spotlight. However, the company rebranded itself to BRG in 2019 and is now run by CEO and former waitress, Shannon White.

Masaharu Morimoto

Masaharu Morimoto gives culinary demonstration
Masaharu Morimoto gives culinary demonstration - Dave Kotinsky/Getty

Masaharu Morimoto, a Japanese chef with a flair for fusion cuisine, gained fame during the '90s and beyond. His unique culinary style and skills in Japanese cuisine made him a standout figure in the culinary world, marked by his appearance on the original Iron Chef, which first appeared in Japan.

After an unfortunate injury that prevented a baseball career, Morimoto's journey changed to the world of cooking. He appeared on "Iron Chef Japan" in 1998, which led him from Japan to the United States, where he made a name for himself in prominent restaurants. He rose to international recognition as an Iron Chef on the American version of "Iron Chef" and later opened his own restaurants, including Morimoto in Philadelphia, New York City, Honolulu, Mumbai, Mexico City, and many more across the globe.

In recent years, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto has continued to be a respected figure in the culinary world. He has expanded his restaurant empire and although he is no longer known for his celebrity chef appearances, he maintains his presence in the culinary world with his never-ending expansion of his restaurants, including current locations in the MGM Grand Las Vegas. He also has other restaurants that don't bear his name, totaling 19 international locations.

Morimoto's enduring legacy is a testament to his culinary innovation and ability to bridge the gap between brief celebrity and culinary entrepreneurship.

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain smiles on the red carpet
Anthony Bourdain smiles on the red carpet

Anthony Bourdain was a trailblazing figure in the culinary world and a renowned celebrity chef during the '90s. His career was marked by a deep love for food, a passion for storytelling, and a fearless exploration of global cuisine.

Bourdain's journey took him from the kitchens of New York City to the far corners of the world. His breakthrough book, "Kitchen Confidential," provided a raw and unfiltered look at the restaurant industry, catapulting him to fame. He went on to host several acclaimed television series, including "No Reservations" and "Parts Unknown," where he shared his adventures and culinary discoveries with audiences worldwide.

Tragically, Anthony Bourdain's life was cut short in 2018 when he died by suicide. His passing was a profound loss to the culinary community and beyond. While Bourdain may no longer be with us, his impact on the culinary world, his exploration of culture through food, and his commitment to telling the stories of people and places through cuisine continue to inspire chefs and food enthusiasts globally.

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David Ruggerio

David Ruggerio wearing glasses
David Ruggerio wearing glasses - David Ruggerio

David Ruggerio's French cuisine landed him jobs at many of the best French restaurants in New York City in the '90s. Other accolades include cooking for celebrities like Martha Stewart and Sophia Loren; Presidents, including Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump; and even royalty, such as Prince Albert of Monaco. This earned him recognition and a spot in the limelight, with appearances on television and a successful cookbook. He even got his own PBS show called "Little Italy with David Ruggerio," as well as a Food Network show called "Ruggerio to Go." Everything was going as well as it possibly could.

But his career came to its abrupt end in '98 when he was served a warrant and arrested at Le Chantilly -- where he was a chef at the time -- on charges of defrauding the credit card company by falsifying customer tips to the amount of $190,000. However, in a shocking twist, he admitted in 2022 to having been involved in the Mafia, leading a secret double life. This revelation sent shockwaves through the culinary world.

According to his 2022 interview with Vanity Fair, Ruggerio admitted that his father was the cousin of Carlo Gambino, head of the Gambino crime family and leader of the five families that made up the New York Mafia. Ruggerio said he became involved in the 1980s and was involved in crimes like drug dealing, extortion, and even involvement in multiple murders. He even involved his restaurants by giving supply contracts to mob-associated vendors.

Christopher Kimball

Christopher Kimball hosts America's Test Kitchen
Christopher Kimball hosts America's Test Kitchen - Rick Friedman/Getty

Christopher Kimball, known for his role as the founder of America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated, was a prominent figure in the culinary world during the '90s. His dedication to perfecting recipes and kitchen techniques made him a trusted source for home cooks.

Kimball's journey in the culinary world was marked by his commitment to providing meticulously tested recipes and cooking advice. He re-launched Cook's Illustrated in 1993, his initial claim to fame, and later founded America's Test Kitchen, which became a valuable resource for home cooks seeking reliable recipes and kitchen tips.

In 2015, Christopher Kimball's well-publicized departure from America's Test Kitchen (ATK) was marked by a lawsuit. Kimball's former company, ATK, filed a lawsuit against him, alleging that he violated his contract and fiduciary duties by planning to start a new venture, Milk Street.

Despite the transition, and side-step from more mainstream media to public access, his dedication to helping home cooks has remained at the forefront of his work. Milk Street, or 177 Milk Street, its Boston address, is the location of the company's personal cooking school, as well as the headquarters for its public radio and TV show, and magazine. Christopher Kimball's influence on the culinary world persists through his commitment to making cooking accessible and enjoyable for all.

Eric Ripert

Eric Ripert gestures
Eric Ripert gestures - Vivien Killilea/Getty

Eric Ripert, a renowned French chef, made a name for himself in the culinary world during the '90s. He is best known for his exceptional seafood dishes and his role as the executive chef at Le Bernardin in New York City.

Ripert's culinary journey began in France, where he trained in some of the country's finest kitchens before moving to the United States. His expertise earned Le Bernardin in New York City three Michelin stars, of which he was executive chef, making it one of the most acclaimed seafood restaurants in the world.

Despite opportunities to expand his culinary empire, Eric Ripert has chosen to maintain a more focused approach. He has continued to lead Le Bernardin and also opened a restaurant in the Cayman Islands, all while staying true to his passion for creating exceptional seafood dishes.

It's clear why he chose not to pursue celebrity according to a statement he made to ABC News in 2016: "I'm always thinking about that TV show 'Hell's Kitchen' or 'Kitchen Nightmares' and that promotes this behavior of screaming at people, insulting them and humiliating them...and it's sending the wrong message." For Ripert, it's not about conquering the world but about crafting the perfect dish and passing on his knowledge and passion to those who share his culinary journey.

Keith Floyd

Chef Keith Floyd smiling
Chef Keith Floyd smiling - Marco Secchi/Getty

Keith Floyd was a charismatic British chef and television personality who captured the hearts of many during the '90s. Known for his unscripted cooking shows, Floyd's style was unconventional and entertaining.

Floyd's rise to fame was closely linked to his television career. His series, including "Floyd on Food" and "Floyd on France," took viewers on culinary adventures across the globe. His many shows were marked by his humorous and unpretentious approach to cooking, making him a beloved figure in the UK and beyond.

However, as the years went by, Keith Floyd faced personal challenges, including health issues. He struggled with alcoholism and depression, which affected both his personal life in the form of four divorces, and his career. These difficulties, combined with the changing landscape of food television, led to a decrease in his television appearances. In 1995, he decided to retire and move to Spain, and remained out of the spotlight for a while. In 2007, he had a successful tour called "Floyd Uncorked" and made a few cooking shows for UK broadcast.

Despite the ups and downs, Keith Floyd's influence on food television is undeniable. He left a lasting legacy as one of the pioneers of cooking shows, passing in 2009 at the age of 65.

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Rocco DiSpirito

Chef Rocco Dispirito gives speech
Chef Rocco Dispirito gives speech - Roy Rochlin/Getty

Rocco DiSpirito, known for his Italian-American cuisine, was a rising star in the culinary world during the '90s. He gained recognition for his restaurant Union Pacific and his appearances on television shows. However, his journey in the culinary industry took some unexpected twists and turns.

At the height of his fame, DiSpirito faced challenges in the restaurant business. In 2004, he was ordered out of his own restaurant, Rocco's on 22nd, due to disputes with his business partners. This setback marked a turning point in his career, as it was soon followed by an ousting at Union Pacific only months later.

Despite the challenges, DiSpirito made a stunning comeback years later. In 2019, he returned to the culinary scene with the Standard Grill, located in the Standard Hotel in New York City. The restaurant garnered attention for its modern American cuisine and DiSpirito's involvement. And though he may not be as big as he once was, he is still making his mark on the culinary world, proving that a chef's journey can have its ups and downs but still result in a successful and delicious outcome.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.