12 Stars Who Left The Food Network

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alton brown speaking into microphone - Brad Barket/Getty Images
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The Food Network has been home to many household-name chefs for decades. It has launched the careers of numerous celebrity chefs and personalities, bringing the comfort of food and cooking to the living rooms of millions of Americans. However, over the past two decades, almost all of the original Food Network stars that viewers know and love have left the channel for one reason or another.

From scandals to quiet exits, behind the Food Network scenes lies a series of departures and transitions. In more controversial cases, such as Paula Deen's fall from grace, it is pretty clear to viewers why a star left -- or was dropped from -- the network. There are many other cases, however, of chefs and hosts quietly vanishing from the television screen, leaving viewers wondering exactly what happened. From deals with streaming services to divorce or simply pursuing other passion projects, here are all the chefs that have departed from the Food Network, why they left, and what they are doing now.

Read more: The Biggest Scandals To Ever Hit The Food Network

Paula Deen

Paula Deen laughing
Paula Deen laughing - David Livingston/Getty Images

Paula Deen was a controversial staple of the Food Network for a long time. On her show, "Paula's Home Cooking," she brought Southern comfort into people's homes. Her recipes tended to be on the unhealthy side, sparking some discussion and prompting chef Anthony Bourdain to call Deen "the worst, most dangerous person" on television, according to TV Guide (via The Guardian). Nevertheless, Deen's show ran for 10 years, from 2002 until 2012, and even won two Emmys.

Then, scandal struck. In 2013, Deen admitted in a court deposition that she had "of course" used "the n-word" (via The Guardian). This admission in itself was enough to tank the chef. Unfortunately, it gets worse. Deen also admitted that she considered hiring a team of all-Black waiters for her brother's wedding, to fit with the event's old plantation theme. Her apologies after the fact simply would not cut it. Due to these overtly racist admissions, the Food Network announced in June 2013 that it would not be renewing Deen's contract, and the chef's time with the network ended.

Since leaving the Food Network, Deen has pursued different avenues to maintain her platform, including launching her own digital network. She has also launched a podcast, kept up with her magazine, "Cooking with Paula Deen," and released more cookbooks. More recently, Deen has found a home at Fox, hosting "At Home With Paula Deen" and appearing on shows like "Fox and Friends" and "MasterChef."

Giada De Laurentiis

Giada De Laurentiis at event
Giada De Laurentiis at event - Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Giada De Laurentiis is another chef who has been with Food Network for what seems like forever. Known for her show "Giada at Home" which ran for 12 years, as well as being a host on popular shows such as "Food Network Star," De Laurentiis was part of the network's DNA. But nothing lasts forever -- in 2023, De Laurentiis announced that she was leaving the Food Network.

The chef, known for her Italian flair, decided it was time to move on. She has since signed a new deal with Amazon Studios for a multi-year contract to produce an unscripted series. Of the move, De Laurentiis said in a press statement (via Parade), "I'm looking forward to this next chapter. I've been a fan of Amazon for a long time, and I'm excited for what we will accomplish together." Amazon Studios executive Lauren Anderson commented, "We look forward to developing an exciting slate of projects with Giada."

Since leaving the Food Network, De Laurentiis has launched her own pasta line and e-commerce platform, Giadzy. This brand is a passion project for the chef, who told People it was "a dream come true." Food Network and De Laurentiis remain on good terms, however -- after the chef's departure, the network told People, "Food Network will always be proud of the beautiful content we have created together, and our table will always have an open seat for Giada."

Emeril Lagasse

Emeril Lagasse at restaurant
Emeril Lagasse at restaurant - John Lamparski/Getty Images

Emeril Lagasse, the famous chef behind the catchphrase "BAM!," basically made the Food Network what it is today. Starting with his 1993 show "How to Boil Water," Lagasse moved on to "Emeril Live," which aired from 1997 until 2007. Celebrity chef, Aarón Sánchez, credits Lagasse with transforming Food Network, telling Saveur, "They were dump-and-stir shows. You get the recipe, you put the things in the pot, you stir ... Emeril added flair." "Emeril Live" was still incredibly popular when it ended in 2007, leaving viewers and industry executives stumped as to why Food Network canceled the show.

This was around the time the network shifted gears, trying to remain relevant in an industry increasingly saturated with reality television. As a result, the Food Network moved toward competitions and away from basic cooking shows. After Lagasse's departure, one executive told The New York Times, "All good things come to an end, and it was time to do something new."

After leaving Food Network, Lagasse moved on to other channels, working on ION Television, the Hallmark Channel, the Cooking Channel, and Amazon Prime. Lately, the chef has stepped away from the spotlight. His New Orleans restaurant, Emeril's, has been in business for over 30 years, and Lagasse remains very involved. "I'm in the kitchen every day," he told Saveur. He also founded a charitable foundation, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, which has awarded millions of dollars in grants for food projects in underserved communities.

Sara Moulton

Sara Moulton at event
Sara Moulton at event - Kris Connor/Getty Images

Sara Moulton is one of the Food Network's original chefs. She was a protegee of Julia Child, starting her career with Child on PBS. Her show, "Cooking Live Primetime," ran four nights a week on the Food Network from 1999 until 2005.

When "Cooking Live" ended, Moulton was upset. Her career continued though, and she made regular appearances on "Good Morning America" and developed a show for PBS called "Sara's Weeknight Meals." On top of that, she was the executive chef at Gourmet Magazine until its run ended in 2009. Since 2012, she has run a syndicated newspaper column for the Associated Press. All of this didn't take away the sting of being let go from the Food Network, however -- as the chef told Eater in 2010, "I didn't move, they dumped me. I'll say it. I was part of the old guard and every time a new president comes in they make changes."

Moulton explained that her show was canceled because the network's demographic shifted from women to 15- to 35-year-old males, and her show simply didn't fit in. Describing the disappointment she felt when she had to leave, Moulton told Eater, "I forgot who I was." She also talked about what she did for the network, saying, "I was really a workhorse. A lot of people were discovered on my show." Ming Tsai, Aarón Sánchez, and Anthony Bourdain are among the chefs who got their start on Moulton's show.

Alton Brown

Alton Brown at film festival
Alton Brown at film festival - Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images

Alton Brown is a name that has been synonymous with Food Network for two decades. He was the creator and star of "Good Eats," which ran from 1999 until 2012. He also hosted two of Food Network's most popular competition shows, "Iron Chef America" and "Cutthroat Kitchen." As of the end of 2020, however, Brown is no longer with the Food Network.

He left because he wanted to continue to work on a show that he was extremely passionate about from his time at the Food Network. "Iron Chef America" was recently rebooted on Netflix, and Brown simply couldn't not be a part of it. "if Netflix had taken a shot at 'Iron Chef' without me, that would have broken my heart," Brown told Entertainment Weekly. He also spoke to Variety about the topic, saying, "There was never a second thought for me. It meant removing myself from one network, but that was not a hard decision."

The chef spoke about the new version of "Iron Chef" as well, telling Variety: "It's my favorite iteration for a few reasons." These reasons include no commercial break, an amazing set worthy of the show, and two hosts, which he believes makes a huge difference. Brown is not necessarily done with Food Network, however. As he told Entertainment Weekly, "You know what? I don't think goodbye. Goodbye is really final. Perhaps au revoir or adieu for now."

Ming Tsai

Ming Tsai at event
Ming Tsai at event - Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

While perhaps not as well known as some other Food Network celebrities, Ming Tsai still contributed quite a lot to the channel. He got his start on Sara Moulton's show, "Cooking Live Primetime," and went on to host "East Meets West with Ming Tsai," from 1998 until 2003. He also competed in "Next Iron Chef." Eventually, however, Tsai vanished from the network, leaving people wondering why his show was canceled.

He told Good Food On Every Table that teaching about food is his greatest passion. "At a certain point, Food Network became all about competition," he said, citing that as his reason for severing ties with the network. After Food Network, Tsai went on to host "Simply Ming" on PBS. Of the change, the celebrity chef said, "I ended up leaving Food Network 14 years ago because I still wanted to teach ... That's all we're ever doing is teaching ... And 'Simply Ming,' I still get to teach." Tsai still has a little bit of a competitive edge, however, because in 2022, he starred in several episodes of Netflix's "Iron Chef" reboot, "Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend."

Aarón Sánchez

Aarón Sánchez at event
Aarón Sánchez at event - Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

While he never officially had his own show, Aarón Sánchez was a staple of the Food Network for a long time. Best known for his role as a judge on "Chopped," Sánchez brought his expertise in Latin-American cuisine to the network. Over the last several years, however, the chef has distanced himself from the Food Network and channeled his energy into projects that he is passionate about.

The chef has been all over television, starring on Fox's "MasterChef" as a judge. His most recent project, however, is the result of a partnership between Warner Bros. Discovery U.S. Hispanic, GroupM, and Cocina Media. In his show, "El Toque de Aarón," the chef travels to different Latino restaurants around Los Angeles to help them succeed. From advising on the menu to changing interiors and working on branding, Sánchez does everything he can to raise the profile of the restaurants he visits. The show isn't about telling people they are doing something wrong. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Sánchez said, "It's all about inspiration and support. That's what makes us very different and unique."

Pat And Gina Neely

Pat and Gina Neely
Pat and Gina Neely - Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Pat and Gina Neely were the stars of "Down Home with the Neelys," a hit show on Food Network that ran for six years from 2008 until 2014. The Neelys, who are barbecue specialists, shared recipes from their kitchen on the show. In 2014, however, it came to an abrupt halt, resulting in both Pat and Gina's departure from the Food Network.

In September 2014, the couple announced they were getting divorced. In a statement, the couple wrote, "Today we announce that we are ending our marriage of 20 years for irreconcilable differences" (WMC News 5 via HuffPost). In subsequent interviews with Pat and Gina, it is clear the two chefs had vastly different experiences during their time on Food Network. In an interview with People, Pat said of the show, "I was able to share that with my high school sweetheart, a woman I truly loved, and to be me. I never had to act."

Gina, on the other hand, had a more negative experience during her time on "Down Home With the Neelys." The former bank manager opened up to People, saying, "I never wanted to be a TV chef ... I was going to divorce Pat prior to the show. And then all of a sudden the train jumped on the track and I had to hold on for my life." Gina explained that because the show was happening with her husband and in their house, "There was no balance, no boundaries."

Sandra Lee

Sandra Lee at event
Sandra Lee at event - Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Sandra Lee is another Food Network figure who sparked controversy with her show. The chef hosted "Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee," which ran on the Food Network from 2003 until 2012. In the show, the star combined fresh and packaged foods to create simple meals that everyone could eat (the split was about 70% packaged foods, and 30% fresh). While the show occasionally drew criticism for not being "real cooking," it was still popular among audiences, resulting in dozens of cookbooks and a variety of other collaborations and projects for the chef.

After her show ended in 2012, Lee left the Food Network. At the time, she was married to the then-governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. The main reason she stepped away from the spotlight, it seems, was to focus on her role as the first lady of New York. Wanting to shift her attention to philanthropy, Lee told the NY Post, "I'm going to use the relationships I have and focus more on what I'm generating into the state of New York." Since 2012, the chef has also undergone several big life changes. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and had a double mastectomy performed. She also divorced Cuomo in 2019 and has since developed a relationship with her now boyfriend, Ben Youcef.

Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray with pasta bowl
Rachael Ray with pasta bowl - Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Rachael Ray is one of those chefs who is basically synonymous with the Food Network. From her show "30 Minute Meals," which started on the network in 2001, Ray then moved on to her syndicated talk show, "Rachael Ray," which ran from 2006 until its end in 2013. When the "Rachael Ray" show ended, rumors circulated that Ray was going to negotiate another huge deal with Food Network. However, that wasn't the case.

Instead of continuing to work with the network, Ray opted to launch her own production company, Free Food Studios, which was formed in 2023 by the star and several collaborators. It seems that Ray wanted more freedom than Food Network could offer her. As she told Salon, "Food Network has a terrific formula — but they have a formula ... I want a little more freedom to be in charge of the actual content, rather than just hosting something. I don't want to host anything. I just want to make shows."

Since Free Food Studios launched, A+E Networks has acquired a 50% equity stake in the company. This has secured Ray at least 278 episodes of programming over two years, which means her dream of creating her own content is coming true.

Michael Chiarello

Michael Chiarello at event
Michael Chiarello at event - Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

Michael Chiarello was a chef from the early days of the Food Network. His show, "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello," ran for 10 seasons from 2005 until 2008. On the show, Chiarello aimed to teach his viewers how to entertain guests and cook like a pro with minimal stress. His show ended amidst the Food Network transformation that made way for more competitive entertainment. Chiarello continued to make appearances on the network, appearing on shows such as "Next Iron Chef" and "Chopped."

In 2016, however, Chiarello was sued by two former employees for allegedly creating a "sexually charged, hostile, and abusive environment," according to Eater. The chef, thereafter plagued with allegations related to the #MeToo movement, didn't reappear on the Food Network. Chiarello passed away in October 2023 from an acute allergic reaction resulting in anaphylactic shock in Napa, California, where he lived. He was 61 years old.

Valerie Bertinelli

Valerie Bertinelli
Valerie Bertinelli - Manny Hernandez/Getty Images

While not technically a chef, Valerie Bertinelli has had quite the run at Food Network. The actor and "One Day at a Time" star recently left the network, however, after it opted not to renew her multi-series contract. The deal began in 2018 and resulted in Bertinelli hosting several popular programs for the network, including the "Kids Baking Championship."

At the end of this four-year relationship between the actor and the network, Bertinelli's manager told Variety, "Her deal expired, they opted not to renew it. They could have come to me with an offer just for 'Kids [Baking Championship].' They never did. Simple as that." Bertinelli herself thinks that Food Network ending its contract with her was due to "budget cuts," as she told her Instagram followers. In a video on the social media platform, Bertinelli, who went through a difficult divorce during her time at Food Network said, "Without sounding like a drama queen, [Kids Baking Championship] saved my life."

While she is hurt that she is unable to return to the network, Bertinelli insists there are no hard feelings. The star wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, "I have zero ill will toward anyone at FN, I enjoyed every single moment I worked for them, and they are all lovely, kind, hard-working people."

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