HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


What is your favorite chef worth a year?

Last week Forbes released a list of the 10 top-earning celebrity chefs. Topping the list was "chef" Rachael Ray who makes $18 million a year. Here is the run down.

Rachael Ray, $18 million
Wolfgang Puck, $16 million
Gordon Ramsay, $7.5 million
Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, $5 million
Alain Ducasse, $5 million
Paula Deen, $4.5 million
Mario Batali, $3 million
Tom Colicchio, $2 million
Bobby Flay, $1.5 million
Anthony Bourdain, $1.5 million

Click here to read more

Something just doesn't seem right here.....

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Why is rachael ray even on this list..she should be on the same list as Paris Hilton. Isn't that the list for people who have no god given talent but still are hugely popular & make millions of dollars!?

    I would think that Puck makes more than her..what with his own line of food & pizzas.
    Flay only 1.5? What about all of his endorsements & his own line of cookware?

    Something is way off on that list.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sugarbuzz

      The "own line of cookware" thing is really just an endorsement fee. Also, many of the chefs that "own" restaurants have partners/investors in the businesses.

      1. re: sugarbuzz

        Rachel number one, I love it. I can just see Rachel Ray haters' heads exploding all across the landscape. There is a huge difference between Rach and Paris Hilton. There may be some debate as to her level of talent, (whatever she has works for her to the tune of 18 mil), but she has always and still does work her rear off. Paris Hilton was born into money and so called good looks. I'm no huge fan of RR, in fact she drives me nuts, (It's not a stew or a soup, its a stoop, get it hee hee), but my wife likes it and I love my wife so I tolerate her. Whatever she has, she has a certain IT that people in the business love, and it translates into millions of fans, and dollars.

      2. I'm surprised Emeril's name is not on the list.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Jocelyn P

          I was also surprised as well by that.

          I think Rachel Ray makes all of her money from Dunkin Donuts and her talk show. I find her extremely irritating and don't watch her. And she is not a chef. GHG is right -- she'll be the first person to say it. But more power to her.

          1. re: Jocelyn P

            Didn't Emeril make a deal with Martha Stewart for like $50 million bucks? that would put him at the top of the list.

            1. re: Jocelyn P

              Yeah that's surprising. Plus Emeril does have that All Clad line of pots and pans.

            2. Rachael Ray is a TV personality who cooks. and yes, she's also a cookbook author. but a chef? hardly. and ironically, she'll be the first to tell you that.

              1. rachel ray is a tv personality. she's fielding three concurrent shows according to my not-so-reliable/interested count.
                she's not a chef. she says so to anyone who will listen. she is, however, a hard worker. indefatigable.
                i admire her work ethic. $18 million? she worked her way up.

                1. No wonder Rachel Ray's so chipper!

                  All this makes me wonder: how much does a major restaurant like Babbo / Bar Americain / Les Halles gross in a year? Apparently not that much....

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: cimui

                    Chipper indeed. I'm sure we"ll hear from others that are more versed in this field. Just looking at menu prices, and the number of meals served, I'm guessing the gross is substantial. Having said that, the costs of operating are sure to be staggering, food prices, rent, salaries, insurance, etc. I don't think these celebrity chefs have made that much in restaurants, I'd bet most come from outside interests. As for Emeril, maybe his food network gig getting canceled hurt him, although he was picked up by another network, probably for less money. Tom Collichio is my favorite on that list.

                    1. re: James Cristinian

                      I don't know much about the love/hate RR divide given that I've never really even watched a full episode of her show. (No telly; I rely on the kindness of my buddies and airplane trips for my Food Network fix.) Is she really witchy behind the scenes or something?

                      Tom serves decent food (Craft), but I don't really find him very lovable on Top Chef. Why's he your favorite?

                    2. re: cimui

                      If they were sole proprietorships they'd likely be a good haul. Bourdain was a wage slave at Les Halles, not owner. And Batali & Flay are just partners in these ventures, so they get a cut, but it's a far cry from the whole pie. Batali partners with Joe Bastianich, Lidia's son and Flay partners with Laurence Kretchmer. As general partners they likely bring in investors on each project. While the restaurants eventual create a nice revenue stream costs for opening are immense and it can take well over a couple of years to break even. I have friends who have invested in "name" restaurants in the past and ended up losing everything because the general partners reinvested their money into improvements. So even though the house was packed for years, nobody got a dime out and the place folded after about five years.

                      However, for all the "celebrity" chefs, this is what gives them their street cred and lets them expand into the real money fields.

                      1. re: ferret

                        really, really interesting, ferret -- thanks!

                        so most restaurants run as general partnerships (and not as, say, LLCs)? is anything run as a public company with shareholders?

                        it seems like investors could insist on being paid a nice dividend before money went back into improvements...

                        1. re: cimui

                          I don't know that all these are run as limited partnerships, but I know that here in Chicago it's been classically done that way. Kind of like investing in a Broadway show.

                      2. re: cimui

                        This list has nothing to do with restaurant sales.

                        The big money is in endorsements, products, TV shows, etc.

                        It has nothing to do with cooking skills either.

                        Ron Popeil of Ronco Fame (Chop-O-Matic, Ginsu knives, Rotisserie oven) made tens of millions before selling his stake for $50 million in 2005.

                        That pales in comparison to George Forman, who has made $150 million for having his name on those little grills (100 million+ sold).

                        And rapper 50 Cent made $400 million for his 10% share of the water company sold to Coca Cola.

                        Cooking talent not required!

                      3. the more i think about it, the less i'm convinced this list is accurate. it's very odd that Emeril isn't there. and to be honest, between her talk show, FN shows, cookware, cookbooks, & magazine, i think RR might be worth MORE than $18 mil.

                        9 Replies
                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Agreed, There have to be some variables; kinda like statistics, you can make them say anything you like.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              Maybe it's adjusted gross income they're talking about. And I'm thinking that the reason Emeril isn't there is this may be reflecting 2007 -- I think the Stewart-Lagasse thing was in 2008.

                              I do agree with you -- these figures are very strange.

                                1. re: steve h.

                                  From Forbes: Emeril Lagasse Estimated Earnings: $9.0 million

                                  1. re: Sean

                                    which doesn't surprise me, but i'm at a loss as to why he wasn't included on the list.

                                    re: miss needle's comment about the martha deal...i'm inclined to think he was still raking in millions before that, given his multiple shows & restaurants, and the cookware line.

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                But isn't that list talking about annual earnings, rather than net worth?

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  yes, it is about annual earnings. why? you don't think it's possible that RR makes more than $18 mil a year, or that Emeril makes at least $1.5? i definitely do.

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    Oh - sorry - misunderstood your post above - thought when you said that RR could be worth more than etc. you were referring to net worth, not annual earnings. I do think it's odd that Emeril is not on the list, but really have no idea how to even start figuring out how much money these folks make.

                              2. Wonderful! Spot on! There is clearly an inverse relationship between skill and income. I have to be a great chef given my income as a chef. Thank you!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  That can't be -- that would mean that Paula has at least a smidgen of talent.

                                2. Emeril got $50 million in February from Martha Stewart and doesn't get a listing? Let alone the top??? Hello, Forbes! Do your homework! (Ah, someone said that already. hehe Oh well, worth repeating.)

                                  This is not the first time I've seen skewed results. Here's a link to an April article that showed both British and American chefs and their worth. http://www.tvchefsblog.com/celebrity_... Even that was totally messed up

                                  Other gripes, between television, products and restaurants in places like Dubai Ramsay is down for only 7.5M? In the link I gave above he's on their six months ago he's listed as 126M (adjusted from pounds). So gimme a break!

                                  1. This list is appalling in many ways (I won't go there). Only one of my favourite chefs is on it (Alain Ducasse). I've been to his restaurant in Paris and it was probably the most memorable meal of my life. Not to say he actually cooked my dinner but still. The rest of my favourite chefs do not appear on the list - I'm not a celebrity chef fan in many respects. Most of my favourites have their fantastic restaurants in Switzerland, Italy, France, Austria, etc. and I have eaten at many. Most are not in the spotlight although some have Michelin-starred restaurants. Some have tiny country restaurants in tiny European villages - I prefer the behind-the-scenes chefs who actually do a lot of the cooking themselves.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: chefathome

                                      Some have tiny country restaurants in tiny European villages - I prefer the behind-the-scenes chefs who actually do a lot of the cooking themselves.
                                      I would think that most people (or at least 'hounds) prefer the same thing. But this list was purported to be the highest grossing income "chefs". Those tiny country European restaurant chefs don't make that kind of money.

                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                        Oh, I agree. Sorry I strayed off the point...

                                      2. re: chefathome

                                        hey, if the most talented and most deserving of all of us earned the most, the world would look like a different place

                                      3. Makes me sad to see someone leading the list who can't be called a chef .... and Thomas Keller not even on the list.
                                        But I guess he isn't "celebrity" enough, bless him.

                                        1. Don't know that I'd call any of these people current- day chefs, any more than I'd call Martha Stewart a home economics teacher..

                                          1. Can I be stupid and ask a question?

                                            Where do they get these numbers from? These seem low.

                                            1. I only count seven chefs on that list....

                                              so rachael ray's earned $9 mil per breast. at least she's not in public office.