The Forbes Top 10 Richest Celebrity Chef List (Be Prepared to Cry)

RRplusBongI’m depressed and want to throw up. According to Forbes Magazine, Rachael Ray** is the top-earning celebrity chef (have I mentioned before how much I HATE that term – NOTE TO FORBES: SHE-IS-NOT-A-CHEF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). The world must really be coming to an end. When will it end!?!!??!?! Ray-ray supposedly makes a nice $18 million per year. I make about $18 a day and I have a masters degree and work for the public school system counseling underprivlidged kids. I may have to move out of my beloved Brooklyn because middle-class earners like me are getting priced out. I’m all for girl power but Rachael Ray makes $18 mill a year and doesn’t own a single restaurant nor spent years and years getting trained and working on the line.  I just want everyone to stop calling her a C-H-E-F.  Bitter… me? Nah.

What’s interesting is the rest of the list. Look at the jump in salary from Puck to Ramsay. And I’m absolutely sick and dumbfounded that Paula “I Heart Butter” Deen makes more money than Mario Batali. WTF!? And Bobby Flay better check his contract with The Food Network considering he hosts about 5 shows for them, owns a few restaurants all over the US and still only makes the same as Anthony Bourdain.

2. Wolfgang Puck – $16 million
3. Gordon Ramsay- $7.5 million
4. Nobuyuki Matsuhisa – $5 million
5. Alain Ducasse – $5 million
6. Paula Deen – $4.5 million
7. Mario Batali – $3 million
8. Tom Colicchio – $2 million
9. Bobby Flay – $1.5 million
10. Anthony Bourdain – $1.5 million

What do you guys think of this list? Anything shocking to you?

**For those WANF international readers (love you, btw… thanks for visiting!) if you have no idea who Rachael Ray is, you can read up on her here.

45 thoughts on “The Forbes Top 10 Richest Celebrity Chef List (Be Prepared to Cry)

  1. No not shocking. Remember after the 15 minutes of fame , what will Ray Ray do? The reaturants, books( real books) etc are going to sustain you. So let them enjoy it while it lasts. It all balances out. Its kind of like the fashion industry. Overnight millionaires, then bankrupties, and buy outs with no creative control. Its hard to make a mint and keep it. I hear you on just getting by , working hard, and some people get paid enormous amounts for the inconcievable.Not fair, but thats what this country supports.

  2. I don’t really watch the TV cooking shows, so don’t have a strong opinion about Rachael Ray, but I have noticed that she’s licensed her name and face just about everywhere — foods, cookware, etc etc. It seems to be a strike-while-the-iron-is-hot approach, but I wonder if it won’t hasten audience burnout.

  3. Being a chef is a wedding of art and business. This list doesn’t mean they’re the best chefs, merely that they have the best agents, are best at marketing themselves, etc.

    I’d rather see chefs who work with sustainable agriculture, etc., end up with a MacArthur award. Do you happen to know if any chefs have ever won a MacArthur?

  4. OMG Rachel Ray? Seriously? That is just retarded. I don’t get food network over here, so some of those names aren’t even familiar to me (should I be ashamed? lmao)…but I’m surprised that Batali makes so little (in comparison).

  5. i haven’t watched RR before…so i’ve no idea what is it to hate/love about her. i’ll chk her out and see wat’s the big fuss 😉 and why bourdain hates her so much (he doesn’t hate nigella, does he? maybe becos nige isn’t even on the list? lol)

  6. Amusing and informative post. I really enjoyed it. But I’m going to take the other side. How about an applause for what she managed to accomplish with just a love of food, a big personality and a lot of spunk…not to mention, a large measure of good luck. Now that’s a recipe!

  7. Restaurants aren’t big money makers, so that could explain why Batali earns so little (relatively speaking) and Ray so much. She’s not sinking her money into a business; she’s just building a brand based on her (annoying) personality. While I can’t watch her, I give her credit. She’s not lazy.

    Yes, it’s frustrating to see an uneven distribution of wealth (I too have a Masters and earn far less than $18 million), but fame comes at a price. Ms Ray’s hitting the supermarket tabloid front pages. Every move she makes is scrutinized. Apparently, once you hit a certain level of celebrity, you can buy anything but privacy.

    I’ll take peer respect and the ability to shop in trackpants without drawing national attention over obscene amounts of money any day.

  8. Is it really any surprise that she makes so much money? She sells tons of her crappy cookbooks, her poor quality ugly kitchenware, stars in multiple shows (including the most annoying and dull talk show on earth – I don’t know how something can be so annoying and be boring at the same time, but it is), and shills for Dunkin Donuts. She’s not making money as a “chef” (which we know she is not) but as a cheezy pop culture icon.

    It drives me crazy that she has sold this “girl next door” image when she is a multi millionaire. No one next door to me has her lifestyle. I’m not as well traveled. I don’t wear her designer labels (although my wardrobe is not nearly as ugly as hers). I don’t live in Manhattan. I keep hearing about how IRL she’s verbally abusive to her staff, demanding, drinks heavily and is a chain smoker and yet everyone just wants a piece of Miss Happy Perky. It burns me up.

    But I’ve written quite a few anti-Ray blogs and I could go on forever, so I’ll shut up now.

  9. Being a Londoner, I have absolutely no idea who this Ray woman is but everything I hear about her is negative (from anyone whose opnion I actually listen to), so I just don’t understand how she is so successful? I get the impression she is overly chirpy though, so I guess that is why we don’t have her over here!

  10. Ahhhh, nothing like a Rachael Ray post to really get everyone all hot and bothered in the morning! One thing that is for sure, love her or leave her, there’s always plenty to say about this chick!

    But, as always, the readers of this blog are awesome – full of curiosity (who is this chick?) and always willing to offer an alternative postition (devil’s advocates always get me thinking, which I love). THANK YOU.

    Now, coco: I totally agree w/ you. I feel like Ray Ray is not going to be this “hot” forever. I feel like it has already gone on too long. Surely her 15 minutes must almost be up? I do think she’ll always have a market here in the States (b/c let’s be honest Americans ALWAYS are searching for shortcuts and easy ways to do things while thinking they are getting “big” results – it’s true!). But, as Giff said, Strike while the iron’s hot! Totally true.

    Which leads perfectly into Jen’s comment. You are right about how (for some… not all) being a chef is also a business and also involves marketing. It doesn’t equal talent. And, believe me, I wish more of these chefs won MacArthur awards. I also really hope all these guys give back in a BIG way (as Vikki said). I’m sure Ray Ray does… but I hope they all do.

    Erin, Helena and Mike: YES… ha ha ha. And if Sandra Lee was on that list I would pack up and move abroad. Tomorrow.

    Canary Girl and Rita and Helen: It’s amazing that readers from far away have even heard of Rachael. It makes me laugh. She’s obviously doing something right if she has no market outside of the US but somehow is known by name abroad. But it does make me smile that most think of her in a negative way. Rita, Bourdain doesn’t really love the “Rachael Ray Marketing Machine” and, as you know, doesn’t hold back from speaking his mind. I’ve seen them in pics next to each other, so maybe she gives him liberty to talk shit about her? She was a spokesperson for Dunkin’ Donuts a year ago and he really thought that was ridiculous and irresponsible as a food spokesperson. She’s an idiot, what can I say.

    Joan Nova: Thank you for being ballsy enough to provide the devil’s advocate side. We really appreciate it! I agree w/ you… I just wish it was all toned down. I think she could’ve kind of stopped a bit… it’s all just a big mess now. I feel like she’s just gone overboard and is greedy now. Too much! TOO MUCH!! But, she keeps getting richer and richer and maybe that is what is most important to her at this point.

    Helen: You are a lucky, lucky woman to not know Ray. She’s successful because of everything you’ve read here – marketing herself, being overly perky and teaching to a market that she made up – this supposed family that never has time to cook (which I’ve said before and I’ll say again is BULL SHIT. If you don’t find a bit of time in your week to cook something, you’ve got to look at your life!). She made Americans believe you could make intricate meals in 30 minutes (that is if you spend the extra money to buy pre-cut vegetables and meat). You are so right, she would NEVER make it in England. I love the Brits take on ‘perky and overly-happy Americans’ – it’s just all too much. I think that is why me and my British husband get along so well – I kind of share that sentiment. But I’m cynical.

  11. If we’re going to get incensed at people making a lot of money without — apparently — deserving it, what about Madonna? I think she stinks as an artist and I also think she is slut and a tramp, but she is one heck of a businesswoman.

    Both she and Rachel have figured out how to market themselves. More power to them. They might not have the talent that purists think they should have, but they know how to make money and that is its own talent.

  12. I love the “i hate rachel ray” posts!! they are my fave…needless to say, i obviously hate her too and her freakin “YUM-O’s” and “EVOO’s”…LONG LIVE JULIA CHILD!!!

  13. A small piece of me died reading that. Ok… maybe a little melo-dramatic, but I don’t care for Ray. I will give her props for knowing how to work a general, time deprived American audience, but that amount of money is absurd. I agree that Bobby Flay needs to take it up a notch… in my opinion he is the man in Food Tv.

    Sure she has her money, but she has to be sick of doing the same shtick every week. Hopefully she’ll go away soon.

  14. I was surprised Bourdain makes that much with so few episodes per season, and really surprised Paula Deen makes that much, and completely sick about RR but not surprised. Most Americans love Walmart too. Some day quality will start winning.

  15. Out in the boonies, I have no Food Network… so I have no idea who Ray Ray is (but I guess she’s not hurting because of my ignorance). Good musing. I guess your post just goes to show… cooking (and food) is a hot commodity. After all, we all eat something everyday. But I won’t quit my day job quite just yet ;-P. Thank you for judging DMBLGIT and for the vote. It’s been a long time coming. 🙂

  16. Well, this is just heresy, isn’t it?
    I can appreciate a bit of Gordon Ramsay… and good old Anthony Bourdain with the best of them. But it does make me sick sometimes to see the RR’s of the world up there like little glowing orbs of … who knows what?
    On the other hand, I’ve got to admit that Celebrity doesn’t mean much in my world. I think that those of us out here, doing our thing and sharing it in our own communities, are doing a world more good than any Celebrity Chef can hope to do. But, maybe that’s just me.

  17. Very cool list.

    I figure Ray is the next Martha Stewart in training. Give her another 20 years, a couple more husbands, and she’ll do some time for insider trading, too. But, it’s a free country, and overall, I think it’d be boring without either one.

    On one hand, the list shows how much influence FoodTV and Bravo have in the culinary world. Colicchio (though I love him)? The arthritic (but I love him, too) Bourdain? Where is Eric Ripert? Thomas Keller? TV made Tom’s and Tony’s salaries, not the quality of their food. It’s pretty obvious their salaries are based more on entertainment than Beef Bourguignon.

    But, Matsuhisa and Ducasse show that there are a couple serious chefs who can break that list without a prime-time cable show.

    Really fun post!

  18. Sure Ray-Ray is not a great chef, owns no restaurants, and annoys most people who really care about cooking but in the fast-paced, celebrity driven, ‘oh look this knife has an orange handle!’ US of A she is golden. Toss in a magazine, a few TV shows, a cute face, and a gig on Oprah and watch the cash flow in. She will fade in a year or so once ‘mainstream’ America gets bored with her. I am sure Emeril would have been on this list 3 years ago, but he and his annoying ‘bamm!’ are gone now and Ray-Ray will follow.

    I must say I am not at all hurt that Bobby Flay is near the bottom of the list. He seems very arrogant and I love watching him lose the occasional times I catch him on that cook off show he has.

    Paula ‘Queen of Butter’ Deen is annoying also but people like her. My wife thinks the sun shines out of her behind. She has that crazy, drunk, southern aunt charm going for her. Deep fried and coated in butter – how can that not be good?

    I would like to see Batali further up the list as his food is amazing and different from Olive Garden Italian which seems to be the norm around my neck of the woods. And Ramsey, hell, I like him. Perhaps he can beat Ray-Ray to death or something.

  19. Hey, Jon…

    If you didn’t mention your wife (and my husband didn’t write on this blog) I’d ask you to marry me. You’re hilarious!!! I could feel the rant-vibe as I read! You mention some really smart, insightful things. And what I love most is that, in a country filled w/ too many place where “Olive Garden” is the ‘authentic’ norm, you are here to remind us that not everyone has bought into that hyped up, marketed bullshit. Keep keeping it real, Jon!!! Please, please, please, PLEASE stop by again!! We need more of your comments!

    -amy 🙂

    PS: Paula Deen IS drunk I think!! You hit the nail on the head. She must be fun to hang out with and prob. can put back a few wild turkey shots.

  20. I fail to develop any respect for ‘celebrity’ chefs and also fail to see any of the appeal of these mega-egomaniacs. I have far more respect for the chefs who quietly toil their perfection to people with a true appreciation of their art and the substance behind it. These folks are all about image….there’s no substance at all. My true reaction??


  21. I don’t know most of them including Miss #1…. I have never eaten anything from Bourdain but I love reading his books and I have a sense he should be quite good in cooking!

  22. I don’t hate RR. I know many people do though. I don’t really have any feelings about her, good or bad. Paula Deen and Sandra Lee as well. Of the three, the food that appeals the least to me is SL. Then RR. Paula makes the best looking stuff, but obviously she’s a walking heart attack.

    The appeal of these women is that they relate to people who are not chefs, and people who can’t really cook well. The trained Chefs would seem too “out of league” for the average soccer Mom who just wants to be able to cook something besides frozen pizza for her kids. The majority rules folks — the proof is in the viewers. If they sucked that bad, no one would watch, and they’d be fired. I get a good laugh at that Rachel Ray Sucks website because the people totally watch all of her shows and although they supposedly hate her, they seem almost like stalkers. I think it’s kind of pathetic actually, because if you had a life, you wouldn’t be so consumed with someone you don’t even “like.”

    It does seem a bit odd to me that there is SO much hatred toward RR. I mean, she is just making the same kind of stuff our mothers made – homemade food. What is so wrong with it? Would it make a difference if she took some of her money and went to culinary school? If she had a piece of paper, would it make a difference? I seriously doubt it. It’s her laugh, it’s her evoo’s, her bubbly personality that people REALLY hate. But that is also why so many people like her. You can’t get rich off of making fool-ya-baise alone, it’s got to be the whole package, and whether “serious cooks” like it or not, she has the whole package.

    Look at food blogs these days. People are making the exact same crap she is, and at the same time talking about how untalented she is. I actually think the whole thing is funny.

    Whatever. It’s the same story in almost any industry. There will always be some successful person that others feel don’t deserve it.

    And lastly, as much as I like Bourdain, and trust me, I’m a huge fan –it seems the only things he can cook are items from the menu of the Brasserie Les Halles. His gift is definitely in the entertaining way he presents on his travel shows. But he’d never win Iron Chef.

  23. Oh my God!!! She is so annoying and NOT a chef. Trailor trash in an apron. I have watched Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey and these guys are amazing and know how to cook.

    Rachel reheats a can of Chef Boyardee and people call her a chef.

    It is no wonder she is number one in America….Americans do not know good food (Subway, Blimpies, Quiznos, Jimmy Johns, KFC, etc). Jesus

    The only reason she is the wealthiest is because there are 300 million fat Americans who eat twice as much as any normal human…hence she makes more oney.

    Get a clue !!

  24. My thoughts on this list are as following ,
    They`ve worked for it , let them enjoy whatever they have .
    Anthony and Gordon you should be paid more for what you do , you guys are not just CHEFS but entertainers as well.
    Never mind R.R , her earning potential is not like the good CHEFS on the list , they have restaurants and other revenue bearing interests to keep them going .

  25. Do what you like, but please spare us the trashing of “bad Americans” and putting yourself in the “good Americans” category. I kowtow to the high artists like everybody else, but if you ran your kitchen at home like the Iron Chefs, with all the waste, the off-screen prep, the kitchen slaveys, and the oh-I-just-happen-to-have-a-whole-foie-gras and-a-pound-of-truffles-and-a-little-gold-leaf-on-hand-right-among-the-other-staples-just-in-case-this-consomme-fails-to-wow-them-by-itself, well, a) you’d be bankrupt, b) you’d need a new house’s worth of room for the kitchen, another for the larder, and a third for the staff, and c) you’d probably just have it done for you. And d) probably it’d be Heart Attack City anyway.

    There’s lots of room between Chef Sakai and Rachel Ray. What do they have in common (besides the fact that his mole is about the size of one of her breasts)? AFAIK, nobody gave them anything, and they both got to where they are due to a mixture of hard work, talent and luck.

    I find RR’s affect abrasive too. But if she is too happy, what does that say about me? I am not so misanthropic as to recommend my condition to the human race at large. And yes, she takes shortcuts I do not like. But I am not seeing, on any of these shows, too much attention to things like saving the scraps for stock. Not glorious or camera-ready enough perhaps. But that is TV for you.

    If you don’t like her, don’t watch her. Even among kitchen sluts there’s always Giada, or I suppose Lidia for the MILF crowd. And for the record, those crazy orange-handled Australian-made knives – they work!

    Personally what I would like is more Martin Yan, Ming Tsai type stuff – how to manageably cook reasonably authentic Asian cuisine in one’s home. Guess I should whine and cry that they haven’t found a Chinese chef with boobs yet.

    1. “Lidia for the MILF crowd”

      CLASSIC! Thanks for the laugh. How did I put myself in the “good American” category and anyone in the “bad American” category? I never once said that anyone was a bad American… in fact the word American doesn’t exist in that post. So please don’t try and put words in my mouth (or words on my post?) I didn’t say that Rachel Ray doesn’t/didn’t work hard for where she is today – I do have problems with what she delivers to America. It’s my opinion. It was my opinion, actually. I wrote that post almost 2 years ago. At that time I felt very confused about why she was on a list of “top 5 riches chefs” when she isn’t a chef. And I felt a bit frustrated that the chefs that there was such a huge disparity between what she made and what everyone else on the list made. I personally feel that it should be a bit more even on the playing field. RR doesn’t call herself a chef – can the media please stop!? She’s a TV personality who tries to cook. To some it may seem like stupid semantics but to me (and many who are trained chefs who worked endless hours getting their ass whooped on the line, sweating their way up to become head chef) it’s more than that.

      And I don’t watch her. At all. But in 2008 (when this post was written), it was difficult to get away. In fact, I’d think Rachel herself would say that ’08 was the year of RR oversaturation. Maybe that’s why she made $18 mill?

      anyways, i really appreciated your comment and we prob. have more in common than not. but please don’t bring in “good/bad American” crap into this! so irritating! (my point was that people in the school system should make WAY more for what they do-that was my point).

      i agree w/ yan/tsai – that’s why PBS rocks.

  26. admin,

    You didn’t “say” good american/bad american, but you alluded to it in your reply to Helen and to Craig. Just own it and move on, don’t be so defensive. Saying, “this american knows good food so please don’t lump me into her crappy category!!!” is separating yourself from the neaderthal-Americans who obviously aren’t as evolved as Your Highness. What.Ever. I laugh reading that you couldn’t stop yourself from watching her in 2008 because she was everywhere. Oh so she’s a Martian invading your tv set, now? You remind me of the wannabee Mean Girls…can’t stand the girl but can’t stay away from the gross gossip talk. I for one do not even talk about ppl I don’t like; it’s toxic. And before you think I’m president of the Rachael Ray fan club, I ASSURE you that I am not even a member. I find her annoying at times (many), but engaging at times as well. And unless your family owns a home at Versaille, I highly doubt your own mother made better food than RR does so stop with the snobbery. Maybe your British husband is rubbing off on you. Most Americans like RR because she does cook food like Mom made; anything wrong w/ that??! With women working an average of 50 hr weeks (60 hrs for those whose husbands were layed off during 2008-2010), maybe they’re too tired to cook Coq Au Vin after helping Timmy & Jimmy w/ homework, running to parent-teacher conferences, laundry, housework, food shopping, etc.
    Like someone said earlier, every industry has a gripe. Dr. Phil makes more than most doctors. Who cares? Don’t be a hater your whole life.

  27. Basically what this list says is that these people are marketable as hell. Rachael Ray’s money comes from cheap merchandise that has her name stamped on it. Don’t put any value into this list. Chefs know who the best culinary talents are. 6 of them are respectable and industry tested . (Basically subtract the Food Network faction). The two things I most enjoyed about Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” were his obvious hate for Emeril and a quote.
    “Once you last here 6 months and show up on time every day then we can talk about chile paste and lemongrass. Until then I have 4 words for you: shut the f*ck up.”

  28. I agree with everyone as far as RR. She should not be making that much money. I have been a big fan of Foodnetwork for a long time……until the only chefs I saw were Rachel, Giada and Paula. They are on every other hour. I think Foodnetwork has lost focus…….you have chefs that are the best on the planet….including Mario, Emeril, Tyler, and Ming Tsai. I don’t know what happened with Mario and Emeril but Tyler is an awesome chef. Now they have him hosting a Food Truck Race. That is ridiculous. If I was Tyler I wouldnt feel too good. And as far as Ming…….The Next Iron Chef, is nothing but a shaft! Ming should have won that hands down. Instead he lost to NOBODY’S. Who ever is in charge of Foodnetwork should be fired!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s all BS.

  29. It’s amazing just how stupid America can be these days! Kill someone or act like you just left the wackie farm and shazammmm………’re an instant millionaire!
    Not to rain on the parade but there are a lot more people claiming to be chefs than Rachel Ray on TV these days!
    I have significant credentials and have trained with some of the best……………I’m a pastry chef……….maintained a 4.0GPA, have extensive after training in specialty fields such as sugar pulling, chocolate and other areas. These people are getting paid more in a year than I’ll ever see in a lifetime and I know I can out perform any one of these people on my worst day!
    It would be nice if America could return to sound business principles and reward people on effort and not what color you dye your hair or who you know!!!

    1. WELL SAID, Dennis! Your time to shine will come, I can feel it. Maybe you could grow a large pair of perky boobs, give some cleavage and that would help?

  30. First of all, this list can’t possibly be correct, because it makes no mention of Lidia Bastianich….. who has a cooking empire in partnership with Mario Batali!
    As for Flay being worth as much as Bourdain, it is actually Bourdain who should be insulted because Anthony Bourdain is more established and respected in the cooking world than Flay will ever be.

Like this post? Hate this post? Let us know!