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Top Earning Chefs...Really?

I guess they are using the "Chef" title a bit more loosely that I do.


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  1. One common thread among the ten chefs on our list is that it is no longer enough for a chef to just own restaurants. Restaurant margins, especially at the fanciest locations, are notoriously thin. In order to make real money, chefs need TV shows, merchandise and even magazines.
    LiveRock, this boxed message within the article should clarify the context very easily. No different in any other entertainment biz.

    1 Reply
    1. re: HillJ

      I may be unaware, but I didn't think that Ducasse has merchandise, a magazine or an
      on-going TV presence.

    2. It's easier for the to say, "Chef", than "Food Personality and/or Restauranteur and/or Cooking Product Hawker".

        1. I doubt that list is accurate. I'm sure there are a number of well off "culinary personalities" who prefer to keep their financial status private.

          Guy Fieri worth more than Emeril Lagasse? I doubt it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ChefJune

            "Guy Fieri worth more than Emeril Lagasse? I doubt it"

            Current income, I think it's possible. He's still making a ton of money, but I dont think he's making as much as he was 10 years ago when he was everywhere on tv and his books were bestsellers. He has a lot of restaurants, but the margins on restaurants are often very thin!

            1. re: twyst

              And Emeril sold his 'brandname' to Martha some years ago.

          2. Please. It's like saying a trust fund baby who gets a $20 million allowance and cooks at a restaurant as a hobby is a top earning chef. If Gordon Ramsay is a top earning chef, why can't his restaurants pay its bills?

            1. Well, considering that the "Rach" is from my hood, I'm inclined to think that she's not worried about the "chef" thing. She's laughing all the way to the bank. Such is the celebrity boosted by Oprah's machine. Can't fault the girl for that.

              1 Reply
              1. re: breadchick

                Yeah, I'll hand her that. Adirondack girl doesn't care to compete and makes no pretense of producing haute cuisine... she just does her thing, takes the hits and keeps on raking it in.

              2. I bet a bulk of the income is from merchandising vs. income from their restaurants, especially for Chef (sarcasm) Rachael Ray.

                3 Replies
                1. re: dave_c

                  I am not a Rachael Ray fan, but it should be noted that she herself has pointed out, at every possible opportunity, that she is Not A Chef.

                  1. re: dave_c

                    I don't see the point trying to distinguish 'real chefs' from 'not chefs' in this context. It's not as though being a 'real chef' gives you a larger income.

                    Even in the classic French system, being the chef means you have moved out of the nitty gritty of cooking, and into some sort of management position. All of these big buck winners are in some sort of management, ownership, or celebrity roll. That's true whether they got their start as a line cook or now.

                    1. re: paulj

                      a chef is a logistician first and foremost. NOT a manager.
                      I like logistics -- why else buy so much from Costco?

                  2. It's all about owning a group of restaurants and/or having a popular TV show, or two or three. Actually cooking food or running a kitchen in someone else's restaurant is small stuff financially.

                    "Chef" is just mediaspeak for all kinds of cooks as long as they're on TV.

                    Does it bother anyone else that Americans say "restaurantoor" instead of "restaurateur"? To me it sounds gauche, like likoor for liqueur.

                    1. The only way Paula Deen is making $17 million per year is if she owns part of her own shows. I suppose she drove a hard bargain when negotiations came up with FN.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: John E.

                        Also, her endorsement deal for diabetes meds probably is part of the mix. Too bad she just didn't endorse a generic diabetes med.

                        1. re: John E.

                          Paula's shows are produced by Follow Productions, Gordon Elliot's company. Many of the FN (cable in general) are produced by outside production companies. I suspect the financial arrangements vary from show to show, depending on how much leverage the producer and star have.


                          We've been told that Good Eats is a money looser for Alton's production company, with book sales and speaking fees making up for its losses.