Who would’ve thought chefs could make such epic comebacks? They’re not just cooking up dishes — they’re also serving up some serious redemption! There are several chefs who have, at some point in their careers, managed to leave the industry (or the spotlight) only to later make an impressive comeback. Some of these chefs went AWOL because of something that went completely wrong in their personal or work lives. Others just needed a quick (or long) breather from the industry; after all, it’s one of the most cutthroat industries to be in.

Some of them had failed restaurants or concepts in F&B, and more often than not, it’s usually due to some juicy scandal that they were involved in. Either way, it can be really tough to wiggle one’s way back to the top if you’ve left for all the wrong reasons.

Take Mario Batali — he pretty much lost his reputation and the massive following he had garnered over the years to a sexual harassment case in 2017. He has attempted to re-enter the scene recently, but so far, he hasn’t had much success. Other chefs have been more fortunate and managed to get back in the game — even if they had to beg with their tails in between their legs. Here are some of the chefs who have been tied to the Food Network in some way that have left the industry (or spotlight) and managed to make a comeback.

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

Kwame Onwuachi

Kwame Onwuachi in public

Kwame Onwuachi in public – Natasha Campos/Getty Images

Kwame Onwuachi is a “Top Chef” vet, but is still relatively new to the cooking game. He made a splash when he was a judge on Food Network’s “Chopped Next Generation” and “Worst Cooks in America” in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

He was just a spring chicken (23 years old) when he opened the restaurant of his dreams. Sadly, things all came crashing down on him when his investors pulled out and told him that his restaurant, Shaw Bijou, was closing just six weeks into operating. As expected, Onwuachi was pretty much plastered on all food publications for this flop of a restaurant. Depressed and at rock bottom, he did a lot of soul searching, and he “vowed never to make the same mistakes again.”

Onwuachi saw this face-plant moment as a time for him to grow and come back stronger- and that he did. Just six weeks later, Kwame and his team of staff picked up the pieces and opened the Afro-Caribbean cuisine resto Kith/Kin in the D.C. InterContinental Hotel, which is still running today. Onwuachi is slaying as he set to open yet another Afro-Caribbean restaurant, Dōgon, in D.C. in 2024, and we doubt that he’ll be slagging off anytime soon.

Paula Deen

Paula DeenPaula Deen

Paula Deen – Tara Ziemba/Getty Images

In the early aughts, Paula Deen was one of the most familiar faces in the cooking scene. She hosted her own show on Food Network, “Paulas Home Cooking,” for a mighty 10 years from 2002 to 2012. And then, one day, she didn’t.

In 2013, she found herself in a bombshell lawsuit after her former manager from her Uncle Bubba’s Seafood & Oyster House restaurant accused her of racial discrimination. From there, she admitted to using the N-word and pretty much lost everything, including her Food Network cooking show.

In 2017, the celebrity chef got a second breath with her own cooking show called “Positively Paula.” The show aired for a short two seasons and managed to get an IMDb rating of 8.2. However, compared to her first show, this wasn’t such a great victory as her first show had run over a lengthy 12-season period.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the all-things deep-fried chef started uploading videos onto her YouTube channel. Seeing as everyone was in lockdown, perhaps this was the perfect way to wiggle herself back into the scene after a falling out with the media. She uploaded plenty of recipes under her “quarantine cooking” episodes and somehow managed to get thousands of views and likes. As of today, the butter-loving chef has over half a million subscribers on YouTube. Not bad for someone who almost lost everything a decade earlier!

Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpiritoRocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito – Jesse Grant/Getty Images

In 2003, Rocco DiSpirito rocked the boat of the cooking world when he announced he was taking a break from it. Before that, he was on magazine covers, running several restaurants, featured on Food Network’s “My Country, My Kitchen” and even dubbed Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chef.” The illustrious ‘it’ chef boy pretty much had it all, and then, just like that, he vanished. No one had any idea that he would go missing for a whopping 15 years or when he would return, if at all.

It later came out that DiSpirito needed a break to deal with his own personal anxieties, as well as an ill parent at one stage. He also had a few bouts of his own health issues that needed to be taken care of. During this lengthy break, he managed to author several books and discover a whole new world outside of cooking.

Fast forward 15 years later, and all out of nowhere, DiSpirito was back with a longing to reignite his desire to be back in the kitchen. This time, he was teaming up with The Standard restaurant. Sadly, this stint only lasted about ten months until the two parties parted ways.

Nowadays, Rocco runs Made by Rocco, a custom food delivery service, and his latest Food Network show, “Italian Night Out,” premiered in March 2024.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart looking stressedMartha Stewart looking stressed

Martha Stewart looking stressed – Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

If there was one person on this list who’s done it all, then it’s probably got to be Martha Stewart. Her intriguing career started out with modeling back in the 50s, and somehow, the little ‘not-just-a-pretty-face’ hustled her way to becoming one of the world’s most famous A-listers. In between that time, she’s been a stockbroker, an author, and a business lady. Stewart even transitioned her friendship with rapper Snoop Dogg into a cooking show.

In 2014, she appeared on Food Network’s “The Kitchen” for the season one finale. She also featured on “Beat Bobby Flay” in 2020 and several episodes of “Chopped” in 2021. She’s even appeared in non-foodie productions like “Men in Black” and “Bad Moms.” Yup, there’s not much that Stewart hasn’t done!

There did come a time in the early aughts, though, when Martha wasn’t Martha-ing anymore. In 2004, her life, along with her multi-million dollar career, got shaken up by highly publicized allegations of insider trading.

It turned out that the media attention she got from this scandal and her five-month prison sentence took her fame to a whole new level. Being Martha Stewart, she also spent her time in prison, planning her next move. When she was released in 2005, she did everything but kept a low profile. In her first few months of freedom, she managed to sign deals with PetSmart and Home Depot, and before anyone could blink, she was back on “The Martha Stewart Show.”

Geoffrey Zakarian

Geoffrey Zakarian happy and in a good moodGeoffrey Zakarian happy and in a good mood

Geoffrey Zakarian happy and in a good mood – Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Geoffrey Zakarian is a well-seasoned chef, and he’s been whipping up culinary delights in the cooking industry for over 40 years now. At one point, he was a fixture on four Food Network shows, including “Chopped,” “The Kitchen,” “Iron Chef America” and “The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs.”

He also opened several high-end restaurants, such as Lambs Club in New York and Counter Point in Hollywood, to name a few. He’d done all the right things to become one of the most renowned chefs in America until … he didn’t.

In 2011, things started getting a little stormy for Zakaraian when it was reported that a group of 152 of his former restaurant staff were suing him for short-changing their wages and deducting wages for lunches that they never ate. Initially, he was sued for a hefty $1 million plus $250,000 in penalties. This move pushed Zakarian to file for bankruptcy even though some speculated that he was probably not really bankrupt as he had several high-end eateries open across the country. This was undoubtedly the lowest point in Geoffrey’s career, but it didn’t take too long for him to get his head above the water again.

In 2013, just two years after the legal chaos, Zakarian partnered with Norwegian Cruise Line to oversee their Ocean Blue restaurant, as well as its adjacent bar, The Raw Bar. Most recently, Geoffrey teamed with Food Network again to host “Big Restaurant Bet.”

Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson out and aboutNigella Lawson out and about

Nigella Lawson out and about – Dave Benett/Getty Images

Nigella Lawson’s fame popped off in the late ’90s when she released her first cookbook, “How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food.” Back then, she was in the journalism industry. Skip ahead to several years later, and she’s authored over 10 swoon-worthy books and hosted several TV shows, including “Nigella Express” for Food Network.

Lawson had always been admired for her bubbly Britishness and her congenial ways of cooking mouth-watering comfort food. But, like most chefs on this list, there have been a few downturns in her life.

In the summer of 2013, Lawson and her then-husband Charles Saatchi were spotted in London having a casual lunch date. The meeting must have taken a horrible turn as images later emerged of Saatchi groping Lawson’s neck. A few months later, during the divorce court proceeding, it came out that Lawson had actually been a regular cocaine user. This was a blow to the reputation of the so-called “domestic goddess,” and as one can imagine, she laid low for a few years after this.

In 2015, she started giving signs that she was back in the kitchen when she released the “Simply Nigella” cookbook. In 2017, Nigella retreated from the limelight with her show “Nigella: At My Table.” Lawson’s most recent appearance on our screens was with BBC’s “Nigella’s Amsterdam Christmas,” which aired in 2023. Other than that, we mostly hear from her through her Instagram account and her website, where she regularly blesses us with recipes.

Robert Irvine

Robert Irvine holding a massive chunk of meatRobert Irvine holding a massive chunk of meat

Robert Irvine holding a massive chunk of meat – Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

Some will do things according to the books, and some won’t. If you’ve ever heard of Robert Irvine, then you’ll probably know that he belongs to the latter group of people. Things were going pretty well for Irvine in his cooking career until he was exposed in 2008 for faking a few things on his resume. No, he didn’t actually bake Princess Diana’s wedding cake, and he wasn’t honored as a Knight Commander. Irvine catering for the White House was also a fib, but if you had seen his CV before 2008, then you may have believed these lies.

The truth came out when he was on Food Network’s “Dinner Impossible,” and of course, he was sacked after they found out about these over-the-top embellishments. Lucky for him, all was forgiven, and the Food Network welcomed him back with arms wide open just one year later. Nowadays, Irvine is running Robert Irvine’s Public House in Las Vegas and Fresh Kitchen by Robert Irvine, which is located in the Pentagon.

“Restaurant Impossible” was canceled out of the blue in July 2023, which left fans a little shell-shocked. Not even he knew why the show stopped so abruptly, but Irvine already has a new show in the works.

Carla Hall

Kooky Carla Hall in an apron with her quirky white glassesKooky Carla Hall in an apron with her quirky white glasses

Kooky Carla Hall in an apron with her quirky white glasses – Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

Carla Hall is a quadruple treat. Not only is she an activist, author, and TV host, but she’s also a critically acclaimed chef. “Kooky Carla” started her cooking career in 2008 after gracing our screens for the fifth season of Bravo’s “Top Chef.” Then in 2011 she hosted Food Network’s “The Chew” for its seven-season run until 2018, when it was abruptly cancelled.

In the summer of 2016, she was already a household name when she opened her fast-casual restaurant, Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen in New York. Soon after her inaugural eatery’s debut, there was a fire that shut things down for a month, and according to Hall, that was when things “started going downhill,” according to Eater. The restaurant closed for good just one year later, in August 2017, and since then, Carla hasn’t gone into any other restaurant ventures just yet. Less than a year later, her role on “The Chew” ended when the show got canceled. From losing a restaurant to losing her day job, it was a tough year for Hall, to say the least. Most people would just give up at this point, but not Carla.

Despite these major hurdles in her career, she managed to bounce back in 2018 with the release of her cookbook “Carla Hall’s Soul Food,” and since then, she has pretty much been soaring. Today, she seems to be keeping busy with her own show, “Chasing Flavor With Carla Hall,” which premiered on HBO’s Max in February 2024.

Michel Roux Jr.

Michel Roux Jr. on a cooking show Michel Roux Jr. on a cooking show

Michel Roux Jr. on a cooking show – Melmedia/Getty Images

Most of us will recognize the British-born culinary sensation Michel Roux Jr from his days on various “MasterChef” series. What sets this chef apart from most on this list has got to be the fact that he whisked himself out of school at the ripe age of 16 to do an apprenticeship with Patisser Henri Hellegouarch in Paris. Besides the cookbooks he has authored and his lengthy “MasterChef” track record, he also ran the 2-Michelin-starred Le Gavroche in London, which was established by his late father, Albert Roux.

There was a little bit of controversy with this chef when he walked away from hosting the enormously popular “MasterChef” series, all for the sake of a sack of potatoes. This was not just a simple case of potato-potahto. After a conflict of interest, Roux chose to stick with his potato ad with the Albert Bartlett potato company rather than with “Masterchef.” As reported by The Guardian, Roux claimed that he considered the Bartlett family as “close friends to the Roux family.”

After this potato row he went AWOL and we didn’t really see him gracing our screens for a while. That was until two years later when he was back on our screens with BBC’s Saturday Kitchen as a presenter. In 2022, he partnered with Food Network to create a delightful docuseries on cuisines of Southern France, dubbed “Michel Roux’s French Country Cooking.”

Ina Garten

Ina Garten at homeIna Garten at home

Ina Garten at home – Daytime Emmy Awards 2021/Getty Images

Ina Garten has got to be one of the most beloved celebrity chefs out there. She rose to prominence in the early aughts through her own Food Network show, “Barefoot Contessa,” which also gave her the pseudonym “Barefoot Contessa.” The show had been running since 2002, and to most of her followers’ dismay, it took a break starting in 2021. Fans were a little disgruntled that she was no longer sprinkling her cooking magic on their screens.

The truth is, no one really knows why Ina Garten took a break from the show (and spotlight), but perhaps it was to focus on her cookbook “Go-To Dinners,” which was released in 2022. It was definitely not due to a scandal like most of the chefs on this list. Ultimately, the show was running for 19 years, so we totally get the need to take a break from that. The good news is that she has been working on her new cooking show, “Be My Guest with Ina Garten,” since 2022, and as of today, it’s still up and running.

She also recently stunned her fans with her updated Instagram account bio saying that she will be releasing her memoir in the fall of 2024.

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