Whatever Happened To Gale Gand?

Close up of a smiling Gale Gand
Close up of a smiling Gale Gand - Jesse Grant/Getty Images

You might remember Chef Gale Gand from her TV work in the '90s and mid-2000s. She was a regular on talk show kitchen segments, where she prepared food alongside the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, Dr. Oz, and many more. In 2000, Gand was the first chef to host a Food Network show all about desserts. It was called "Sweet Dreams" and it ran for eight years. After that, Gand became less-involved in the television side of things, leaving many to wonder: whatever happened to her?

Gale Gand most certainly did not disappear, and although she is in her 60s now, she is far from retired. Gand still makes regular media appearances and is still active in the kitchen, she simply embraces the quiet side of life more eagerly than many of her celeb chef contemporaries. Gand's illustrious and lengthy career is studded with multiple James Beard Awards and Michelin Stars. She calls many fellow celebrity chefs friends, and collaborates with them for cooking events to this day.

To understand why it seems like Gand faded into obscurity, we must understand more about her rise to prominence in the celebrity chef world. Here, we'll explore Gand's early days in the kitchen, her many professional triumphs, and the personal challenges she experienced along the way. We'll also give you the latest on what Gand is up to these days, and what she's planning for the future.

Read more: What The Cameras Don't Show You On MasterChef

Her Professional Journey Has Roots In The Arts

Gale Gand as a child performing music
Gale Gand as a child performing music - Facebook / Gale Gand

Growing up, Gale Gand's passions had nothing to do with the kitchen. Born in 1956, in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago, Gand's upbringing was an artsy one. Her mother was a sculptor and her father was a folk singer and jazz trumpeter. The creative spirit rubbed off on Gand and her brother, who both embraced music and the arts from an early age.

As a child, Gand performed alongside her father and brother in an act called the Gand Family Singers. The group put on shows everywhere from Disneyland, Expo '67 in Montreal, and the 1973 World's Fair in Spokane, Washington. Despite a pretty impressive run with the Gand Family Singers, she sidelined music to study metalsmithing at the Cleveland Institute of Technology, although she wouldn't be a student there for long.

Citing inspiration from the work of metal sculptor Albert Paley, Gand was compelled to transfer her studies to the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York where Paley resided at the time. Before she could enroll at RIT, Gand was put on a waitlist for an entire year. While in between universities, her path took an unexpected yet life-defining turn.

She Started Cooking By Chance

Gale Gand and a co-worker in chef whites
Gale Gand and a co-worker in chef whites - Facebook / Gale Gand

To support herself while waitlisted for enrollment at RIT, 19-year-old Gand took a job at a local vegetarian restaurant. In a 2018 interview with Chef Works, Gand described herself during this period as a "starving art student" who only ate at the vegetarian spot because it was cheap. Struggling to come up with the $1.25 the restaurant charged for a salad, Gand decided to apply for a job there so she could earn a shift meal.

She was waitressing for all of three weeks when someone from the kitchen staff asked her to stand in for a line cook who hadn't shown up. Gand told Chef Works, "I had loved being a waitress and describing the food, but I had never cooked professionally. For six seconds, I'm terrified. On the seventh, this calm comes over me and I feel like I've found my home. It was like speaking a language I was fluent in, but I don't ever remember learning it."

Gand went ahead with studying gold and silversmithing at RIT, but the epiphany she'd had in the restaurant kitchen was one she couldn't shake. Gand spent much of her time in Rochester styling food for photography projects, working, and reading cookbooks. In the early 1980s, she joined her mentor Greg Broman to cook at the Strathallan Hotel. After reluctantly agreeing to be responsible for pastries, Gand found that the manual dexterity she'd gained from metalworking was perfectly suited to the art of pastry.

She Was In Business With Her Husband ... Even After They Divorced

Gale Gand and ex-husband Rick Tramonto
Gale Gand and ex-husband Rick Tramonto - Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images

At age 23, Gand ventured to France to perfect her newfound craft. She cooked in kitchens near Lyon and attended La Varenne in Paris, yet it was her job at the Strathallan Hotel that introduced her to fellow up-and-coming chef Rick Tramonto. Gand and Tramonto bonded over a shared passion for the culinary arts and a shared struggle with dyslexia. They married in 1988.

The couple spent the late '80s and early '90s working under master chefs in New York City, Chicago, and even Leicestershire, England -- where they became the first Americans to hold a Michelin Red M for their work at the Stapleford Park country house hotel. Back on Gand's home turf of Chicago, they teamed up with fine dining alum Henry Adaniya to open Trio in 1993. To this day, Trio is cited as a forebear for progressive flavor pairings and high-art plating concepts.

In 1999, Gand, Tramonto, and restaurateur Rich Melman opened Tru, a fine dining endeavor that remains the stuff of Chicago legend, racking up Michelin Stars, James Beard Awards, and other accolades for the culinary couple. Unfortunately the tremendous success wasn't enough to make their marriage a lasting one. Tramonto's workaholic ways and Gand's desire to shift her focus toward motherhood saw the couple divorce in 2000. But, this wouldn't crumble their culinary empire. They continued to run their businesses together for years, opening no less than four restaurants together after the breakup.

Television Called, Gand Answered

Gale Gand poses in kitchen with Julia Child
Gale Gand poses in kitchen with Julia Child - Facebook / Gale Gand

Amidst Gand's rise in the restaurateur world, the burgeoning medium of cooking television beckoned. Gand broke into national TV in 1995, when she shared the kitchen (and screen) with celeb chef GOAT Julia Child on "Baking With Julia". Reflecting on the experience with Chef Works, she called it a standout moment in her more than 40 years of professional cooking, saying, "That's like going to the North Pole to meet Santa."

Gand's self-assurance on camera was just the kind of magnetic yet approachable quality food TV was looking for. Ever the go-getter, Gand made herself available. Speaking to Bakepedia in 2015, Gand recalled, "I was in NY a lot ... this was the early days of the Food Network ... and I always would let them know when I was in town and they would invite me to come do Sara's show (Sara Moulton). I went on a lot and loved it. I loved it so much I would lie and tell them I was coming into NY for whatever but really I was making excuses to be there so they'd put me on her show!"

After several appearances alongside Moulton, Food Network called Gand to host a show of her own. "Sweet Dreams" was the first culinary program centered around desserts, and Gand was right for the job. "Sweet Dreams" ran from 2000 to 2008. Gand has also made frequent appearances on talk show cooking segments and as a guest judge on cooking competitions.

Gand Is No Stranger To Fast-Paced Restaurant Life, It's Just Not Her Speed Anymore

Gale Gand poses beside a chicken coop
Gale Gand poses beside a chicken coop - Facebook / Gale Gand

Considering Gand's prowess in the pastry arena, it's easy to pigeon-hole her into one genre, but lest you forget, Gand is an experienced restaurant owner with a resume most chefs could only dream of. In 1995, two years after Gand and then-husband Rick Tramonto opened the acclaimed Trio, they launched Brasserie T, a more casual eatery in the Chicago suburb of Northfield. The Brasserie T endeavor led to Gand and Tramonto selling their stake in Trio, but with the 1999 debut of the award-winning Tru, they hardly needed it.

Brasserie T closed in 2001, Tru in 2017, and in between were the launches of four Gand and Tramonto-led Chicago restaurants. Osteria di Tramonto, Tramonto's Steak & Seafood, RT Lounge, and Gale's Coffee Bar opened in 2007 in Wheeling, Illinois' Westin Chicago North Hotel -- and have all since closed. For Gand, no longer having to juggle multiple restaurants allows her to slow down, get back to basics, and spend time with family.

Gand remarried in 2003 and gave birth to twins Ella and Ruby a year later. She also has an adult son, Gio, whom she shares with Tramonto. Commenting on married life to The New York Times in 2021, Gand said, "Now I love being married to someone who knows how to relax, because I never knew how to do that.''

She's Written Several Cookbooks, But Hasn't Published One In A While

Gale Gand holds Lunch! cookbook
Gale Gand holds Lunch! cookbook - Instagram / ggand

As Gand's culinary spotlight grew, she wanted to share her recipes with the public. Her earliest cookbook was 1997's "American Brasserie: 180 Simple, Robust Recipes Inspired by the Rustic Foods of France, Italy and America", which was a collaborative work between Gand, Tramonto, and esteemed food writer Julia Moskin. Gand, Tramonto, and Moskin teamed up again in 1999 for "Butter Sugar Flour Eggs: Whimsical Irresistible Desserts". Riding high on the success of Tru, Gand and Tramonto worked with veteran cookbook writer and editor Mary Goodbody to create "Tru: A Cookbook from the Legendary Chicago Restaurant" in 2004.

Gand and Moskin worked together again in 2001 to write "Gale Gand's Just a Bite: 125 Luscious Little Desserts" and "Gale Gand's Short and Sweet: Quick Desserts with Eight Ingredients or Less" in 2004. Gand kept the dessert recipes coming. She enlisted the help of food writer Lisa Weiss to release "Chocolate and Vanilla" in 2006 and contributed to 2010's "Chef Collection Holiday Joy Made Easy".

In 2007, Gand worked with fellow parents and the Wheat Foods Council to publish "Food for Thought From Parents to Children: An Educational Cookbook From Wheat Foods Council". One of her most popular cookbooks is "Gale Gand's Brunch!: 100 Fantastic Recipes for the Weekend's Best Meal: A Cookbook ". It debuted in 2009 and is in its fifth reprint. "Gale Gand's Lunch!" followed in 2014 and remains her most recent.

Gand Would Rather Forage Than Be Famous

Gale Gand posing with wild ramps
Gale Gand posing with wild ramps - Instagram / chefgalegand

Away from the demands of the celebrity chef lifestyle, Gand created her own foraging company, Ramp It Up, in 2005. Ramp It Up sells ethically foraged ramps to restaurants in the Chicago area. Gand's business partner is her son Gio Tramonto, who was 8 when Ramp It Up began. Foraging with her son (for both ramps and mushrooms) was a way for them to spend time together.

Ramps grow abundantly in the wooded regions of Cook County (where Chicago is located), and the spring harvesting season is only about a month long. Ramp It Up's first customer was Tru -- the restaurant owned by Gio's parents. Over the years, the mother and son foraging business amassed hundreds of customers. During harvesting seasons when demand was at its highest, Gand and Gio would forage and deliver 200 to over 300 pounds of ramps.

Young Gio Tramonto wasn't in business with his mom simply for show. Gand gave him real responsibilities, like cold-calling fellow Cook County residents to ask for permission to forage on their property. Although COVID slowed down demand and Gio relocated to Cleveland, Ohio, Ramp It Up is still in business.

She Volunteered To Cook Overseas When War Broke Out In Ukraine

Gale Gand cooking for World Central Kitchen
Gale Gand cooking for World Central Kitchen - Facebook / Gale Gand

Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Gand's priorities shifted. As Chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, set up shop near the frontlines to feed thousands of Ukrainians fleeing their homes, Gand and fellow chefs Dan Smith, Peter Schonman also put together a meal with a cause. They organized Schnitzel Fest dinners to go, with all proceeds going directly to World Central Kitchen. Their efforts raised over $15,000. Not long after, Gand would find herself in Eastern Europe cooking beside other World Central Kitchen volunteers.

In May 2022, Gand journeyed to Przemysl, Poland, a town on the Ukrainian border. Gand put her baking expertise to extraordinary use, baking upwards of 120 cakes a day. In honor of Ukrainian Mother's Day, Gand prepared 1,500 chocolate-filled butter cookies, cinnamon bread pudding, orange olive oil cake, and apple streusel coffee cake. She also had a hand in preparing 20,000 daily meals for those in need and traveled to Ukraine to visit a Women's Shelter. Upon returning to the United States, Gand hosted a luncheon at the Women's Club of Wisconsin to continue raising money for refugees of Ukraine.

Gand Still Hosts Cooking Tutorials, They're Just Not Always On Television

Gale Gand onstage food demonstration
Gale Gand onstage food demonstration - Facebook / Gale Gand

Gand found her calling as a pastry chef decades ago, and has segued that path into teaching others her craft. From 2011 to 2012, Gand was the Chef in Residence at Elawa Farm, a restored, historical property located in Lake Forest, Illinois. There, Gand used the farm's kitchen and organic ingredients to host Master Classes and Kids in the Kitchen classes. And that's only one place she's given cooking tutorials.

Although she didn't study culinary arts during her years at RIT, Gand has revisited her alma mater for speaking engagements and cooking classes in years past. When COVID hit in 2020, Gand began hosting Facebook Live cooking classes, which led to the creation of the all-virtual, Kitchen Sisters Cooking School. Gand is passionate about educating youth on food preparation and nutrition, that means Kitchen Sisters Cooking School classes are available for both kids and adults.

Gand credits her love of teaching from watching her father give music lessons in the local community. One person who took notice of Gand's educating ability was First Lady Michelle Obama, who selected Gand as a mentor in her Chefs Move to Schools initiative. The opportunity allowed Gand to go into schools and not only host cooking classes for parents and students, but to also revamp cafeteria menus and provide tips on how to pack healthy lunches.

She Has Her Own Line Of Root Beer And Flavors Of Jerky

Gale Gand poses with Think jerky sticks
Gale Gand poses with Think jerky sticks - Instagram / chefgalegand

At heart, Gand is a craftswoman. Artistry is evident in the beautiful desserts she creates, (have you seen her pavlova?), yet her deft hand stretches beyond the scope of pastry. Gand is the proud owner of a root beer line and a selection of jerky product flavors, which leads us to ask if there is anything Gale Gand can't do.

Of course, Gand's root beer isn't just some A&W knockoff -- although her love of A&W did inspire her to get into the soda biz. "I've been making root beer since 1993 when I returned from the root beer deprived country of England. I was living there for three years and could barely find it so when I returned home I taught myself how to make it. My grandfather made it too so maybe it's genetic, but I just need it! The one I make the most right now is cinnamon, ginger and vanilla flavored," Gand explained in a 2007 interview with David Lebovitz.

When Think Jerky founder Ricky Hirsch set out to make a healthier, more sustainable jerky product, and have celebrity chefs chime in with some original recipes, Gand was game. Gand's offerings for Think include free-range turkey jerky in Sriracha Honey and grass-fed beef jerky is Sesame Teriyaki. Think Jerky is sold in a wide variety of marketplaces, from Walmart, Target, and CVS, to Amazon and REI.

Looking For Gand? She's Probably At A Prestigious Food & Wine Festival

Gale Gand poses with a plate of food
Gale Gand poses with a plate of food - Instagram / pdfoodandwine

If Gand ever misses rubbing shoulders with Food Network alums and other elites of the cooking world, she can pop into one of several Food & Wine Festivals held throughout the United States and be welcomed with open arms. In fact, Gand does make a point to frequent Food & Wine Festivals, everywhere from Hawaii, California's Palm Desert and San Diego Bay, and Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida.

Food festivals definitely involve their fair share of schmoozing. During past Food & Wine Festivals, Gand has hung out with the likes of Ming Tsai and Graham Elliot, but there's more to these events than the social angle. Gand's appearances at Food & Wine Festivals involve a bit of live demonstration, which is her forte after all. One year in Epcot, Gand showed a crowd of spectators how to create simple yet satisfying offerings such as pea and garlic dip and salted caramel brownies -- and even gave out samples.

In March 2024, Gand made an appearance at the Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival as part of a heavy-hitting celebrity chef roster that included Tyler Florence and Dominique Crenn. Gand's segment was called "The Gale Gand Guide to Cooking with Cinnamon." During the presentation, she informed spectators on how cinnamon is grown and demonstrated a cinnamon-centric recipe.

Even Away From The Spotlight, Gand Remains Relevant

Gale Gand holding a tray of uncooked bagels
Gale Gand holding a tray of uncooked bagels - Facebook / Gale gand

Gand's current life no longer involves regular television appearances or glitzy restaurant openings, or cookbook releases. Yet Gand is the type of chef whose experience and likability allows her to pick and choose the projects she's involved in. Lately, those projects have centered around food education, sustainability, and charity work.

What stands out most about the state of Gand's career these days is her entrepreneurial spirit and the ease with which she shares her culinary expertise. Gand continues to give public talks and makes herself available for consulting work. She is also active on social media. Gand's Facebook profile includes a calendar filled with events that she either hosts or is a part of.

The Gordon Ramsays or Jacques Pépins of the celeb chef world enjoy an icon status that doesn't allow them to fully retire. Gand, an icon in her own right, has not hung up her apron completely, but she has found the work-life balance that feels completely appropriate for someone with her laundry list of accomplishments. You'll most likely find Gand hanging out with her family, but a cool food project or intimate interview is also still very much on the table.

Read the original article on Mashed.