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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. As the world’s culinary experts consolidate their traditional TV slots and expand their brands onto Instagram and beyond, it’s fair to say that the top cooks are seeing their bank balances skyrocket.
But who has managed to grab the top spot? Using estimates from Celebrity Net Worth, TheRichest and Wealthy Gorilla, we looked at the figures to determine the 10 richest chefs in the world.
Watch the run-down below:
10. David Chang
Estimated net worth: $60 million
A relative newcomer to the celebrity chef scene, David Chang has slowly been making waves with his Momofuku restaurant empire, gaining two Michelin stars in 2009 and expanding his brand around the globe ever since.
Trained at the prestigious French Culinary Institute (now known as the International Culinary Center) in New York City, Chang entertained gigs at several fine dining restaurants before opening his first noodle bar in 2004.
Popular among the trendy East Village food scene, the best-selling Momofuku [paid link] cookbook quickly followed. The American restaurateur has also built up his media profile on TV shows such as Treme and MasterChef Australia, while his 2018 Netflix original series Ugly Delicious was a major hit.
9. Bobby Flay
Estimated net worth: $60 million
A restauranteur, reality TV personality and executive chef to multiple restaurants, Bobby Flay is among some of the most well-known American celebrity chefs.
Flay was part of the French Culinary Institute’s first graduating class in 1984 and went on to work at several establishments as an executive chef. Eventually, he begun to build his own culinary empire with restaurants across the US including Bolo Bar and Restaurant, Bar Americain, Bobby Flay Steak, and a chain of Mesa Grill eateries.
He has also appeared in reality TV shows Great Chefs and Iron Chef and has hosted multiple cooking shows on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. In 2021, he also landed a three-year contract with the Food Network, which placed new cooking shows in the chef’s horizon.
8. Emeril Lagasse
Estimated net worth: $70 million
Educated at the world-famous Johnson & Wales University culinary school, Emeril Lagasse succeeded the legendary Paul Prudhomme as executive chef of the Commander's Palace restaurant 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 over a dozen establishments across the US.
In addition, the Massachusetts native has appeared on and fronted a whole host of cookery and talent shows, as well as in several film and TV productions. Although the majority of his net worth stems from his numerous merchandising and endorsement deals, he has also 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.
7. Rachel Ray
Estimated net worth: $80 million
Rachael Ray has actually seen her net worth increase over the past few years. It wasn’t always thus, though; after teaching 30-minute cookery courses in her hometown of Albany, she was spotted by a local TV network and, following the publication of her first book 30-Minute Meals [paid link], signed to the Food Network in 2001.
Ray 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, making her one of the most successful female entrepreneurs of all time.
6. Wolfgang Puck
Estimated net worth: $90 million
Responsible for hundreds of restaurants, express stores and culinary operations across the world, Wolfgang Puck also oversees a vast empire of merchandise, retail products and catering services; all a far cry from the Austrian chef’s early days as an apprentice at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo in Monaco.
Indeed, ever since opening his critically acclaimed Spago restaurant in Los Angeles in 1982, Puck has become accustomed to the Hollywood lifestyle. As well as appearances in CSI, The Simpsons and Frasier, the four-time Michelin star recipient is also responsible for running the dinner service at the post-Oscars Governors Ball for nearly three decades, and actively supports the many charities of which he is a patron.
5. Thomas Keller
Estimated net worth: $130 million
Raised in the kitchen of his mother's restaurant, Thomas Keller was always destined to be a chef, but it was under the tutelage of French-born Master Chef Roland Henin that this dream suddenly became a reality.
Schooled in the complex arts of French cooking, Keller subsequently apprenticed at various Michelin-starred restaurants in New York and Paris, finding success with his first restaurant, Rakel — a regular haunt for Wall Street bankers. After the stock market collapse of the late 1980s, though, Keller upped sticks to California, opening The French Laundry restaurant and receiving numerous culinary awards, including three Michelin stars and a James Beard award.
He has since opened several other well-received restaurants across the US, while he also receives additional revenue from his array of cookbooks and kitchenware products. He has also consulted on several Hollywood productions, too, including the Adam Sandler comedy Spanglish and the Pixar classic Ratatouille.
4. Nobu Matsuhisa
Estimated net worth: $200 million
If you’ve ever eaten at Nobu (given there are branches all over the world, you probably have), then you’ll likely be familiar with Nobu Matsuhisa. The Japanese chef co-owns the popular restaurant chain with none other than acting legend Robert De Niro, a frequent former patron of Matsuhisa’s first restaurant in Beverly Hills.
There’s more to the Japanese maestro than Hollywood connections, though. After being persuaded to leave his native Tokyo in 1973 for Peru, Matsuhisa began injecting Peruvian ingredients into his traditional Japanese dishes, creating his signature fusion style. Many of these tips have been shared in his collection of cookbooks, including World of Nobu [paid link], while his investments with De Niro — including hotels in Las Vegas, Manila and Chicago — continue to grow.
Occasionally, Matsuhisa also appears on screen with his A-list customers, too, having landed small acting roles in Casino, Memoirs of a Geisha and Austin Powers in Goldmember.
3. Gordon Ramsay
Estimated net worth: $220 million
With a host of restaurants across the world, the multi-Michelin-starred chef has no plans of slowing down.
Indeed, despite his fearful reputation, few can argue against the relentless work ethic the Scottish chef applies to his culinary pursuits and business dealings. To date, Ramsay’s restaurants have been awarded an extraordinary 16 Michelin Stars in total (7 of which have been retained), while Gordon Ramsay Holdings — which manages his business enterprises — regularly achieves yearly 8-figure revenues.
While, by his own admission, Ramsay prefers to be judged on his cooking, most of his exposure comes through his work on various TV shows, where his fiery personality regularly attracts millions of viewers on shows such as Kitchen Nightmares, Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef. 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.
2. Jamie Oliver
Estimated net worth: $400 million
The runner-up of this list is a cheeky chap from Essex with just two GCSEs to his exclusively branded name. Jamie Oliver has seen it all on his rise to becoming one of the highest-paid chefs in the world — and one of Britain’s most impressive success stories in the process.
Since starting out as a pastry chef under Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo (of Greedy Italians fame), the English chef has worked on a multitude of television shows and best-selling cookbooks focused on improving the diet of children on both sides of the Atlantic. He has also secured several lucrative advertising deals, including with Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
It’s not all been plain sailing, though. In 2019, the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, saw 22 out of its 25 UK restaurants amid piling debts and increasing competition. Oliver has also been criticised for his business dealings with the oil giant Shell. Despite these setbacks, Essex’s favorite son remains undeterred, continuing to work on new television series and recipe books, most of which have been a major success.
1. Alan Wong
Estimated net worth: $1.1 billion
Known as 1 of the 12 co-founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Tokyo-born chef Alan Wong has owned numerous restaurants across Hawaii as well as one located in Japan. However, as of November 2020, the chef made the decision to close his restaurants in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His career has encompassed many successes, from receiving the James Beard Award in 1996 for Best Chef Pacific Northwest category to being awarded Chef of the Year by Sante Magazine in 2007 to cooking at the White House for President Obama in 2009.
He is also hailed as one of the ambassadors of modern Hawaiian cuisine, promoting locally grown ingredients and featuring ethnic dishes across his restaurants, bringing attention to Hawaii’s unique cuisine.
As you can see, there’s plenty of money to be made in the culinary world, with most of these cooks combining their skills in the kitchen with a head for business; the collective earnings between these 10 celebrity chefs total over $2.4 billion alone!
Which of these chefs do you find the most inspiring? Let us know in the comments section below!
Originally published on 9 March 2018. Updated by Melina Theodorou.