How much does your favorite celebrity chef earn in a year? Forbes.com has the skinny, though in its typically annoying way, it makes the reader click more than ten times to get the entire list (don't worry, we've got you covered). Though the raw numbers are certainly impressive compared to what anonymous toqued toilers made pre-Food Network, celebrity chefs don't appear to fare well compared to, say, celebrity sports figures or actors or even the highest-paid lawyers and doctors. The bottom line is that celebrity chefs, like Donna Summer sang, work hard for their money.
Why is is that celebrity chefs don't even make as much as Paris Hilton? A few reasons.
- Cable salaries are markedly lower than broadcast network salaries, and there are no chefs starring in their own broadcast network series. Stars of successful nationally syndicated series can make seven figure annual salaries, and that fact explains why Rachael Ray tops the list. She is the only celebrity chef with a daily nationally syndicated television show (I guess Forbes doesn't consider Martha Stewart a celebrity chef). Even chefs with their own daytime series on Food Network make surprisingly little money.
- Very few celebrity chefs get seven figure book advances, and cookbooks rarely if ever become millions-of-copies-sold best-sellers like James Patterson's or J.K Rowling's books. I would guess that Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and the latest edition of The Joy of Cooking are probably the two best-selling cookbooks of the last ten years, and neither of those tomes would allow their authors to retire right now.
- Unlike musical stars, celebrity chefs can't make millions of dollars going on tour like, say, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, or the Rolling Stones. Some chefs may demand and even receive $100,000 plus expenses for an appearance, but they don't get more than a handful of those offers in a given year.
- Lastly, only Rachael Ray has the kind of lucrative celebrity endorsements that can net millions of dollars by themselves (see Dunkin' Donuts).
After the jump, the Forbes list.
The only surprises for me were that Giada De Laurentiis, who does have a network television contract (with NBC), didn't make the list, nor did Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who seems to have a restaurant in every industrialized country. What about you, serious eaters? Anybody else you think should have made the list?
1. Rachael Ray: $18 million
2. Wolfgang Puck: $16 million
3. Gordon Ramsay: $7.5 million
4. Nobu Matsuhisa: $5 million
5. Alain Ducasse: $5 million
6. Mario Batali: $3 million
7. Paula Deen: $4.5 million
8. Tom Colicchio: $2 million
9. Bobby Flay: $1.5 million
10. Anthony Bourdain: $1.5 million