Out of the Blue

7 Late Bloomers in the Cooking World

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7 Late Bloomers in the Cooking World

Becoming a chef requires years of hard graft and learning from the bottom up, starting as young as possible. Or does it?

Here are seven culinary professionals that have demonstrated age is but a number when it comes to proving yourself in the kitchen. For one reason or another, all these well-known culinary icons started out in the kitchen later in life, to phenomenal success. Find out how below:

Chef Paul Sorgule explains 17 Ways Chefs get Better with Age


1. Heston Blumenthal - The Fat Duck, UK (3 Michelin Stars)

Despite early signs that the experimental British chef would go straight into the kitchen, it would take him until his late 20s to realise his professional destination.

After finishing school at age 18 Blumenthal spent a brief period at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir, but it would take another 10 years working in a "relatively undemanding series of jobs from credit controller to repo man" during the day, and studying the French classics by night, before his culinary epiphany.

Blumenthal's defining moment would come much later, when reading On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee, convincing him to open The Fat Duck restaurant just shy of 30, in 1995, becoming his first official employment in the industry. And the rest, as they say, is history.

2. Cristina Bowerman, Glass Hostaria, Italy (1 Michelin Star)


Starting out as a law graduate, cooking also came later in life to Italian chef Cristina BowermanHer turning point came after seeing a TV interview with Elena Arzak, in which she spoke of her studies at the Cordon Bleu Cookery School which inspired Cristina to do just the same and enrol, and it all went from there. It wouldn't be until 2006, and her 30s, that she started her fledgling career at the Glass Hostaria in Rome, where she was to make her name.

3. Martha Stewart, USA Cookbook Author and Writer

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Martha Stewart wasn't always the "lifestyle guru" that she has become so well known for. In fact it wasn't until 32 years of age that she would trade in her job as a stockbroker, starting a catering company at age 40, with cookbooks and a TV career to follow. These days the septuagenarian can be found with Snoop Doog on Potluck Dinner Party.

4. Julia Child, USA Cookbook Author and TV Chef

Julia Child took to the kitchen aged 36 after falling in love with French cuisine. However it wasn't until she was 49 that her Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook was published, followed by a subsequent further three decades as a US TV star. Not bad for a professional who actually started out as a copywriter in the advertising industry before a brief stint working for the intelligence services.

5. Mikael Jonsson, Hedone, UK (1 Michelin Star)

The Swedish chef started his professional life as a commercial lawyer before realising he lacked passion for the profession.  "... aged 44, it started to really grind in the back of my head that I should take my home-cooking skills and see how good I could become as a chef. I’d always believed that, if you’re able to be creative with the stuff you love, real happiness follows," he told The Guardian. His ingredient-led French style cooking at his Hedone restaurant in London is testament to just that.

6. Rick Bayless, USA

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Chicago TV chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless is famous for his endorsement of Mexican cuisine, which includes two acclaimed Mexican restaurants: Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. He started his professional career aged 27 and has never looked back since. 

7. Nigela Lawson, British TV Chef and Cookery Book Author

Nigella Lawson, British TV chef and cookbook author, started out in publishing before finding her culinary niche in her late 30s. She soon became a household name for her televised cookery shows and series of succesful cookbooks, earning her the title of "domestic goddess."

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