Food

Chefs Who Cooked Their Way to Worldwide Fame and Made Millions With Their Food

Being a celebrity chef means a lot more today than it used to. Making it in the food industry is no longer limited to receiving good reviews from the hottest critic or opening a successful restaurant in one of the biggest cities in the world. These days the options for fame, fortune, and culinary prestige are limitless.

Image: BBC

Whether or not you are an avid Food Network fan or you’re always updating your cookbook collection, chances are you’ve heard about some of the big names in the world of food. For these culinary gods and goddesses, their efforts did not just stop at making good quality meals. In that regard, we take a look at some of the biggest names in the business to see how they harnessed their own personal quirks, life stories and ambitions to take a big bite out of life and find worldwide stardom.

Padma Lakshmi – $30 Million

Time has proven that there really isn’t anything that chef Padma Lakshmi can’t do. The Indian born, American chef has not only published three cookbooks and one memoir, but she also released a successful line of kitchenware and has appeared on various shows in the U.S, India, and Spain.

Image: Instagram / padmalakshmi

Most know Padma for her 14 season run hosting the Emmy award-winning, competitive cooking show, Top Chef. But Padma’s skills don’t stop at the kitchen. She has also released her own jewelry line and has found success as a model, actress, and executive producer.

Nusret Gökçe – $50 Million

Nusret Gökçe first gained internet fame through a viral video that showcased his visually unique techniques for seasoning meat. After the video, titled “Ottoman Steak,” was seen by millions online, the Turkish native received his official nickname, Salt Bae.

Image: Eater NY

This viral exposure allowed Salt Bae’s chain of steak houses, Nusr-Et to expand immensely. Soon the chef began serving celebrities and politicians from all over the world.

Rachael Ray – $80 Million

Never afraid to take off the oven mitts and confront her haters head-on, television personality and celebrity cook, Rachel Ray has certainly made a name for herself through the years. The bubbly star has created a food media empire made up of talk shows, magazines, and several cookbooks.

Image: Cosmopolitan

Ray is mainly known for her simple “quick and easy” recipes that seldom involve real measurements and are jam-packed with non-traditional cooking shortcuts that anyone can follow from home. So much so that she does not even identify herself as a chef saying, “I have no formal anything. I’m completely unqualified for any job I’ve ever had.” null

Guy Fieri – $8.5 Million

In May 2019, Guy Fieri became one of only three celebrity chefs to land a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He rose to fame back in 2006 after winning Food Network Star. Since then, he has been featured in a variety of Food Network shows including Guy’s Big Bite and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Image: Caesars Entertainment

Guys is known for his over the top enthusiasm and his down to earth personality. He loves visiting small, locally owned mom-and-pop establishments. This makes sense considering he started his food career back when he was just a young kid running a soft pretzel cart. In addition to his reality show fame, Fieri also owns several restaurants all across the country.

Ani Phyo – $14 Million

Canadian born chef, Ani Phyo has made a living from promoting sustainable agriculture and organic cooking. She’s a wellness expert who grew up surrounded by green living practices and eating vegan and raw foods. Phyo was raised on her family’s organic farm and she took the lessons she learned there to develop her multimillion health food empire.

Image: YouTube / Ani Phyo

In 1999 she co-founded her catering and hosting company SmartMonkey Foods. After launching a line of packaged foods, Phy eventually sold her company. This then led to the opening of SmartMonkey Media, where she continues to produce numerous websites and live multimedia events. To top it all off, she has also shared her expertise both in food and in media with a number of published books.

Bobby Flay – $30 Million

With a total of nine cookbooks, five restaurants and chains scattered across the U.S and his own line of signature spices, sauces, dishes and cookware, chef Bobby Flay has come a long way since his high school dropout days. Flay opened his first restaurant in 1991 and made his first appearance on the Food Network in 1994, soon becoming a network staple figure.

Image: Men’s Journal

He has hosted several shows including Grill it! With Bobby Flay and Throwdown with Bobby Flay. His frequent appearances on dozens of other food-related specials soon made him one of America’s best-known chefs, with the awards to back it up. null

Devin Alexander – $4 Million

As another leader in the world of healthy eating, New York Times bestselling author, Devin Alexander has made her mark in the wonderful world of food entertainment. She has written five books for The Biggest Loser Cookbook series and has made several appearances on the show as well.

Image: Instagram / devinalexander

She has also written several other books, all focused on healthy diets and making eating well quick and easy. She has also hosted her own program on Discovery Health and Fit TV, titled Healthy Decadence with Devid Alexander. Today she works as a culinary advisor to Men’s Fitness magazine and makes efforts to promote healthier diets for American children.

Andrew Rea – $1.4 Million

Andrew Rea first debuted his YouTube cooking channel, Binging with Babish back in February 2016 and has since gained a following of over five million subscribers. Through the channel, Rea recreates “iconic and obscure” foods as seen in popular movies and TV shows.

Image: Youtube / Binging with Babish

Some of his recreations include “Calzones from Seinfeld,” “Tiramisu from Superbad,” and even a “Krabby Supreme from Spongebob Squarepants.” The New York native has also published a cookbook titled Eat What You Watch: A Cookbook for Movie Lovers. The book contains 40 recipes which are all featured in films.

Chloe Coscarelli – $1 million

Chloe Coscarelli broke barriers with her vegan recipes when she won first prize in the famed Canadian baking competition, Cupcake Wars. This made her the first vegan to win a televised culinary competition. Her fame has only grown from there, appearing in a variety of television shows and movies including the Cooking Channel documentary The Veg Edge.

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Coscarelli is also an author to four of her own vegan cookbooks, Chloe’s Kitchen, Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen and most recently, Chloe Flavor: Saucy, Crispy, Spicy, Vegan. In 2017, she was included in Forbes’ list of “30 Under 30” and today she continues to have a long list of dedicated online followers.

Julia Child – $38 Million

Some might consider Julia Child as the mother of cooking television. She is credited with bringing French cuisine to the American kitchen through her collection of cookbooks and television programs, which made their debut back in the early 60s.

Image: Tasting Table

Child’s authenticity, lovable personality, and passion for food won the hearts of the American public and inspired many. Her ability to bring the sophistication of french cooking to fun and approachable levels for professionals and “home chefs” alike, made her an iconic sensation up until her passing in 2004.

Gordon Ramsay – $190 Million

Not many can say that their claim to worldwide fame is largely in part to their fiery temper. Fortunately for Chef Gordon Ramsay, he is one of few that can thank his impatience and “in your face” demeanor for his growing food empire. That in addition to his skills in the kitchen of course. We would be last to question this man’s abilities to whip up a delicious gourmet meal.

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And if you don’t believe us then his three Michelin stars or his strand of restaurants found all over the world might do the trick. All that being said, it’s no doubt that Ramsay has made a name for himself through his competitive television programs where he never fails to scream and shame a contestant or two. But what’s good quality television without a few tears right?

Giada De Laurentiis – $30 Million

Born in Rome, Italy, Giada De Laurentiis grew up around food, both at home and at her grandfather’s restaurant. She moved to California at a young age but she never let go of her love for cooking and her dream of one day becoming a pastry chef. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and becoming a professional chef back in Los Angeles, It was all uphill for Laurentiis.

Image: Instagram / giadalarentiis

The chef soon began to take the Food Network by storm, hosting cooking show after cooking show, including popular shows such as Giada at Home, Everyday Italian and Giada in Italy. In addition to her television career which has earned her a Daytime Emmy Award for Oustanding Lifestyle Host, Giada is also the author of several books an has gained a huge online following.null

Tyler Florence – $15 Million

While you would think that a show with such a premise as competitors driving across the U.S in food trucks might be hosted by someone less acquainted with gourmet cuisine; it seems The Great Food Truck Race has another idea. It’s host, Tyler Florence has long been praised for his success in the kitchen.

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Not only did Florence graduate from the prestigious culinary program at Johnson &Wales University, but he has also opened multiple acclaimed restaurants of his own as well as a small chain of luxury kitchen supply stores. Despite all that, Tyler has never forgotten his roots, starting out in the kitchen washing dishes. It’s no wonder he chooses to focus his television career on giving “the little guy” a chance at becoming the next big thing.

Martha Stewart – $640 Million

Here’s a woman who needs no introduction. Martha Stewart, who started her career by running a small catering business, has no bounds when it comes to her evergrowing empire. Since publishing her first cookbook in 1982, Stewart has come out with many more books, authored countless newspaper columns and magazine articles and has made a great number of memorable television appearances.

Image: The Guardian

She has since opened her own publishing venture as well as her own weekly television program. Stewart is also well known for her run-in with the law and her remarkable comeback after doing time in the early 2000s. Her most recent business venture includes partnering in on a Canadian marijuana company as well as starring alongside hip hop legend, Snoop Dogg in their show Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.

Nigella Lawson – $20 Million

British food writer, cooking show host and multi-million dollar business owner, Nigella Lawson has more than made her mark on the food entertainment industry. She can be seen whipping up a meal both on the BBC and Food Network and she has also authored a number of successful cookbooks.

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Not to mention her cookware line, Living Kitchen which has an approximate current value of nine million dollars. Lawson is known by many for her alluring presentation style and sultry demeanor. She has insisted that this persona is only due to her feeling camera shy. Although that might be true, we have to admit that it does not explain the numerous double entendres and cheeky one-liners sprinkled throughout her shows.

Anthony Bourdain – $16 Million

Celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain probably had the most enviable career in the business as he spent his days traveling across the globe, trying different foods and seeing the world. Bourdain had often said that he wanted to try everything, and judging on his many shows that gave him the chance to explore international cuisine and culture, we think he came pretty close.

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Unfortunately, living life on the go took a toll on Bourdain and in 2018 he tragically took his own life at the young age of 61. But not without leaving behind a lasting legacy for his many viewers and committed fans. In addition to his culinary adventures as seen on shows like A Cook’s Tour, No Reservations, and Parts Unkown, Bourdain also appeared as a celebrity judge on The Taste and has authored several best selling books.

Vivian Howard – $4 Million

As a proud mom, cook and author, chef Vivian Howard says she works to “blend family, food, and storytelling in a way that touches people and reminds them of where they came from.” Howard and her husband currently co-own a restaurant called Chef & the Farmer. She used the restaurant for the backdrop of her five-season PBS series, A Chef’s Life.

Image: Bax Miller

The show, which focuses on ingredients and traditions of eastern North Carolina, won several awards through the years including a Daytime Emmy. Howard has also authored a cookbook which remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for three weeks. Chef & Farmer, which serves traditional southern foods with a modern twist is still alive and well. It has even made Kinston, NC a tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the U.S.

Marco Pierre – $40 Million

As the youngest chef to earn three Michelin stars, Englishman, Marco Pierre White has long been considered the original celebrity chef. As a legend in the culinary world, White holds an impressive list of record-setting achievements and today owns dozens of successful restaurants. He has published several books.

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Like most on this list, White is not without his eccentricities. He is well known for his “hell-raiser” image, which definitely pans out considering he once acted as a mentor to the fellow hotheaded chef, Gordon Ramsey. Marco has more than cashed out on this reputation, appearing on a great number of televised cooking competitions including Hell’s Kitchen and Masterchef.

Samit Nosrat – $1 Million

Up until a few years ago, this smiling face would probably go unnoticed but Samin Nosrat is quickly making her way to the homes and hearts of worldwide audiences. And like a true chef, Nosrat knows that the best way to all our hearts is through our stomach. Starting off as a busser at Chez Panisse, Nosrat eventually made her way to the kitchen and then later still to perfect her skills in Italy.

Image: Foodandwine.com

Just 17 years later, in 2017 and the young cook had already published her New York Times best-selling cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat. The book was later reprised as a Netflix docu-series where Nosrat is seen traveling the world to discuss the found essential elements of cooking. Since 2017 she has also become a regular “Eat” columnist for The New York Times and we are almost certain she has many more projects up her sleeves.

Action Bronson – $4 Million

There aren’t many who can call themselves a rapper, writer as well as a chef. For Ariyan Arslani, known to the world as Action Bronson, his current resume can proudly list all of the above. As a gourmet chef from New York, Bronson’s love for food lead him to star in two Viceland television shows; F*** That’s Delicious and The Untitled Action Bronson Show.

Image: Daily Mail

In addition to his passion for cooking, Action Bronson has also found success as a relative newcomer in the music world. In 2018, after an injury in the kitchen, Bronson announced that he was leaving VICE to further pursue his music career. That doesn’t mean he has abandoned food completely, seeing as he often raps about his love for food in his songs. Once a foodie, always a foodie.

Paula Deen – $14 Million

Prior to her recent controversy, Paula Deen was living the dream as a cooking show host, restaurant owner and author to 15 cookbooks. Her career in food began back in 1965 when she began a catering service, making sandwiches and meals with her sons. This eventually led to the opening of her restaurant named The Lady & Sons.

Image: Popsugar

Since then, Paula has become a popular fixture on the Food Network and is known largely for her Southern “comfort foods” and for her excessive use of butter and sugar in her recipes. After being dropped by her network and publisher for a racially charged controversy, Deen continues to try and rebuild her stardom.

Emeril Lagasse – $70 Million

Lagasse discovered his passion for cooking when he was just a teenager working in a Portuguese bakery. After graduating from Johnson & Wales University he went on to open Emeril’s Restaurant in New Orleans and later, NOLA Restaurant. Through the years, more restaurants opened under Emeril’s name and his reputation as a master of cajun cuisine grew more and more.

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Sure enough, his popularity as well as his best selling cookbook, which introduced the world to his innovative approach to Creole, caught the eye of the Food Network. His guest appearances and self-titled shows allowed the chef to show off his dramatic flair and soon he was known for theatrical catchphrases such as “Bam!” and “Kick it up a notch!” This charisma only helped his evergrowing empire continue to flourish.

Massimo Bottura – $5 Million

Owner of the three-Michelin-star restaurant, Osteria Francescana, Massimo Bottura grew up in Italy, surrounded around home-cooked Italian cuisine. With his passion for food instilled at such a young age, it’s no wonder that his restaurant would end up at the No. 1 spot at the S.Pellegrino Worl’ds 50 Best Restaurants Awards in 2018.

Image: Brambilla Serrani

For Bottura, this success was not enough so, in 2016, he and his wife founded Food for Soul, a non-profit organization aimed to empower communities in need. Through this cultural project, Massimo hopes to “strengthen community resilience, open opportunities for social and economic mobility and build healthier and more equitable food systems.”

Jamie Oliver – $315 Million

Known for his approachable, rough around the edges appeal and his refreshingly brash personality, British chef, Jamie Oliver took audiences by storm back in the late 90s. With his show, The Naked Chef, the world quickly came to love Oliver for his relaxed, unintimidating cooking style and his cookbook that followed subsequently became a bestseller in the UK.

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If his TV personality and his ongoing restaurant franchise wasn’t enough reason to love this down to earth chef, his charity work might just do the trick. In 2005, Oliver kickstarted his Feed Me Better campaign which aims to promote healthy habits for schoolchildren. The campaign has already succeeded in changing the types of food served in schools and continues its efforts in promoting healthy eating habits.

Dylan Lauren – $50 Million

While Dylan Lauren might have grown up around the rich and famous, being the daughter of clothing designer Ralph Lauren, she did, in fact, manage to make a name for herself. Today she is the owner of New York City’s Dylan’s Candy Bar which claims to hold the title of “largest candy store in the world.”

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Her vision for this store, which holds over 7,000 candies from around the world, was to “merge fashion, art, and pop candy culture.” While she might not be a chef per se, we thought it more than appropriate to include this sweet-toothed millionaire on our list.

Wolfgang Puck – $75 Million

As the owner of over 50 restaurants across the world, the winner of numerous Michelin stars and becoming a Daytime Emmy Award winner, Wolfgang Puck has become somewhat of a legend among celebrity chefs. Who else can open their first restaurant with pizza as their signature dish and with that skyrocket to Hollywood walk of fame level stardom?

Image: Daily News

Like most chefs, his career started with a cookbook, which he published in homage to his mother’s recipes that he grew up with. Today he has not only appeared in countless shows, including his award-winning self-titled show, Wolfgang Puck, the star has also made cameos in several none food-related movies and shows including CSI, Frasier, The Smurfs and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Matty Matheson – $2 Million

Canadian chef and internet personality, Matty Matheson is making his way to the top by honing in on his wild and outgoing personality. In addition to his popular web series Keep it Canada with Matty Matheson and It’s Suppertime!, Matheson also regularly appeared on Vice’s show Munchies. Most recently you can catch Matty on his travel television series, Dead Set on Life. He also just released his first cookbook this past year.

Image: Vice

One of Matheson’s biggest claims to fame, other than his regular hilarities and ultimately being the chef version of Jack Black, is his highly acclaimed “ultimate burger” recipe. And the recipe is no secret either! Matty is happy to share what makes him the king of all burgers (not to be confused with the burger king…)