There was once a time when fame and wealth were the exclusive domain of actors, singers and sports stars, but in recent years, the money has been spreading into the kitchen, too. With the rise in popularity of highly successful culinary-themed TV shows, such as MasterChef, Kitchen Nightmares and, of course, The Great British Bake Off, the crème de la crème of the cooking world are seeing their bank balances skyrocket.
But who has managed to grab top spot? Using Forbes, TheRichest and CelebrityNetWorth’s estimates, we took a look at the figures in order to find out. The result is the 10 richest chefs in the world…
10. Anthony Bourdain
Estimated Net Worth: $6 million (£4.3 million)
After dropping out of college in 1975, Bourdain’s experiences working in a series of Massachusetts seafood restaurants – coupled with his childhood visits to France – inspired the 61-year-old to pursue a career in the kitchen. After graduating from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in 1978, he ran various kitchens in New York City before taking the head chef position at Brasserie les Halles in Manhattan in 1998.
Much of Bourdain’s fame – and subsequent wealth – is through his television, writing and publishing work, though, with regular appearances on the Food Network and in other high-profile TV productions. He has written for the likes of the New Yorker, the Times and the Financial Times, while the keen martial arts enthusiast has even found time to publish a series of best-selling fiction and graphic novels!
9. Ana Quincoces
Estimated Net Worth: $8 million (£5.8 million)
Clearly a woman of many talents, the former reality TV star left behind a 20-year legal career to pursue her passion for cooking, taking centre stage as a finalist in the prestigious US culinary competition Food Network Star in 2016. The 49-year-old has since launched a wide range of food products and endorsements, as well as penned the best-selling Cuban Chicks Can Cook which features dishes from her native Cuba.
In addition, the former Real Housewives of Miami regular has also appeared in numerous TV spots and as a keynote speaker at various conferences and exhibitions. She can currently be found co-presenting the US features show Daily Flash, as well as promoting her Skinny Latina range of healthy eating products.
8. Paula Deen
Estimated Net Worth: $14 million (£10.1 million)
Divorced with two teenage sons and struggling to make ends meet, Georgia native Deen tried her hand at a number of roles before starting a catering delivery service in 1989. She subsequently opened her first restaurant in 1991 and established the famous The Lady and Sons brand in 1996 in downtown Savannah, where it has attracted foodies and tourists alike ever since.
The 71-year-old now possesses her own channel on streaming platform Roku, as well as runns an additional five restaurants under her own name. She has also published numerous cookbooks featuring traditional Southern recipes, as well as a 2007 memoir. Despite criticism of her ‘unhealthy’ recipes and an alleged racism lawsuit in 2013, Deen’s popularity – and bank balance – continues to thrive.
7. Mario Batali
Estimated Net Worth: $25million (£18.1 million)
Seattle native Batali is another prominent chef who has courted controversy in recent years. Following a ‘tip-skimming’ lawsuit filed by former employees in 2012, the 57-year-old was then fired from his presenting role on the Food Network in late 2017 after allegations of sexual misconduct – claims that Batali has since admitted and apologised for. He has also taken a leave of absence from his management company B&B Hospitality Group, which is responsible for running over 20 restaurants.
Although Batali’s shrewd business exploits and former television deals have consolidated his high net worth, the financial effects of the scandal are already starting to show; US retailer Target has vowed to discontinue his cookbooks following a public petition, while his flagship show Molto Mario has been cancelled outright by Food Network.
6. Ina Garten
Estimated Net Worth: $50 million (£36.2 million)
Like Quincoces, Garten also came to the cooking game late. As a budget analyst in the White House, she was responsible for writing policy papers on nuclear energy in the 1970s while also moonlighting as a part-time property developer. On something of a whim, she used the profits from this venture to purchase the now-famous Barefoot Contessa food store in upscale New York City in 1978.
Although the store itself closed in 2004 following the expiry of the lease, the 70-year-old has long since capitalised on the success of the brand, releasing cookbooks and retail lines worth millions. Dividing her time between NYC and Paris, she has used her wealth and her political background to contribute to the presidential campaigns of several Democratic nominees, while she continues to write and produce best-selling cookbooks.
5. Emeril Lagasse
Estimated Net Worth: $70 million (£50.7 million)
Educated at the world-famous Johnson & Wales culinary school, Lagasse succeeded the legendary Paul Prudhomme as executive chef of the ‘Commander's Palace’ in New Orleans in 1985, thus launching his own career and allowing him to open his first restaurant in 1990. Since then, he has become the proprietor and executive chef of 13 such establishments across the US.
In addition, the 58-year-old Massachusetts native has appeared on and fronted a whole host of cookery and talent shows, as well as in several film and TV productions. The majority of his net worth stems from his numerous merchandising and endorsement deals, many of which he sold to the Martha Stewart Group for over $50 million (£36.2 million) in 2008. He has released several cookbooks focusing on Cajun/Creole recipes, with several of his trademark spicy dishes even being selected by NASA to be a part of the menu on the International Space Station in 2006.
3. Rachael Ray (tie)
Estimated Net Worth: $75 million (£54.3 million)
Tied for third position, the 49-year-old business magnate got her break teaching a small cookery course in her hometown of Albany in the late 90s with an emphasis on demonstrating how to cook high-quality meals in just 30 minutes. The show was picked up by a local TV network and, following the publication of her first book, she signed her first Food Network contract in 2001.
She has fronted several successful shows since then, including a continuation of the 30 Minute Meals format for nearly 11 years, while also signing various endorsement deals with the likes of Dunkin’ Donuts, AT&T and WestPoint Homes. She has won three Daytime Emmy Awards for her television work, as well as published nearly 30 cookbooks.
3. Wolfgang Puck (tie)
Estimated Net Worth: $75 million (£54.3 million)
Much like his compatriot Arnold Schwarzenegger, Puck is an Austrian export who has also made it big in Tinseltown. Following an apprenticeship at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, the 68-year-old opened the critically acclaimed and wildly successful Spago restaurant in Los Angeles in 1982, moving it from its original Sunset Strip location to Beverley Hills in 1997.
As well as countless TV appearances, cookbooks and even a handful of film cameos, Puck owns and manages Wolfgang Puck Companies, which is responsible for over a hundred restaurants and culinary operations, including merchandise, retail products and catering services. In addition, he is also responsible for running the dinner service at the Oscars ceremony, as well as actively supporting the many charities of which he is a patron.
Puck’s restaurants have been awarded four Michelin Stars overall, while Spago has also been a recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award for Restaurant of the Year. Puck himself has won a Daytime Emmy for his flagship show and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017. He owns a variety of fine dining and express restaurants all over the globe.
2. Gordon Ramsay
Estimated Net Worth: $118 million (£85.5 million)
Despite his fearful reputation, few can argue against the high standards the 51-year-old Scot applies to his culinary pursuits and business dealings. To date, Ramsay’s restaurants have been awarded an extraordinary 16 Michelin Stars in total, while Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GHR) – which manages his business enterprises – regularly achieves yearly 8-figure revenues.
Despite his incredible success in the kitchen, much of Ramsay’s exposure comes through his TV work, where his fiery personality regularly attracts millions of viewers on shows such as Kitchen Nightmares, Hell’s Kitchen and The F Word. He also takes on executive consulting roles and has appeared as himself in several high-profile TV productions such as The Simpsons, New Girl and Extras.
Under GHR, Ramsay boasts a huge global portfolio of restaurants (including a 2013 London co-venture with David Beckham) and is regularly active in a wide array of charity endeavours. In 2009, the former Rangers youth footballer even ran his tenth consecutive annual London Marathon on behalf of the Scottish Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus organisation.
1. Jamie Oliver
Estimated Net Worth: $235 million / £170.3 million
Sat proudly atop the pile, though, is a cheeky chappie from Essex with just two GCSEs to his exclusively branded name: Jamie Oliver has seen it all on his rise to becoming the highest paid chef in the world – and one of Britain’s most successful exports in the process.
After starting out as a pastry chef under Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo (of Greedy Italians fame), the 42-year-old was approached by the BBC about filming his own TV series while working as a sous chef in London. The result, The Naked Chef, was a huge hit with viewers, propelling Oliver into mainstream stardom. He has since worked on a multitude of television shows and best-selling cookbooks focused on improving the diet of children on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as secured several lucrative advertising deals, including the estimated £1.2 million-a-year he was paid by Sainsbury’s up until 2011.
It’s not all been plain sailing, though: it was revealed in January 2018 that Oliver’s high-street restaurant chain, Jamie’s Italian, owed debts of nearly £72 million, with 18 branches closing and the future of the business uncertain. But, as one of the world’s foremost culinary personalities, Essex’s favourite son remains undeterred; he is currently poised to release his 24th book, Jamie Cooks Italian, in July 2018.
As you can see, there’s plenty of money to be made in the culinary world, with some of the best cooks on the planet combining their skills in the kitchen with a head for business; the collective earnings between these 10 celebrity chefs total $676 million (£489.8 million) alone!
What would you do with that kind of money? Let us know in the comments below!
Earnings are based on figures provided by Forbes, TheRichest and CelebrityNetWorth. Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 5 March 2018.