Top-Earning Chefs: Gordon Ramsay, Rachael Ray, Wolfgang Puck, Paula Deen Lead Pack

The 10 Top Earning Chefs

Forbes' new list of top-earning chefs for the last 12 months features plenty of names you'd expect. Loudmouthed UK toque Gordon Ramsay stands head and shoulders above the rest with a whopping $38 million a year. Rachael Ray and Wolfgang Puck round out the top three with $25 million and $20 million respectively.

We have to say, though -- Guy Fieri cracked the top ten? The Food Network star pulled in a $8 million last year, ahead of list no-shows Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern and Giada Delaurentis. That figure might have something to do with the fact he's Food Network's biggest star at the moment, according to Forbes. His show "Diners Drive-Ins and Dives" is shown up to eight times a day on the network, plus he stars in "Guy’s Big Bite," "Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off" and "Food Network Star." Not bad for a guy who won the second season of "Food Network Star" in 2006.

Forbes notes one thing all these chefs have in common:

One common thread among the ten chefs on our list is that it is no longer enough for a chef to just own restaurants. Restaurant margins, especially at the fanciest locations, are notoriously thin. In order to make real money, chefs need TV shows, merchandise and even magazines.

The numbers were figured after speaking with food consultants, restaurant owners and industry analysts who helped estimate how much each chef earned between June 2011 and June 2012. Forbes also looked at restaurant revenues, TV pay, merchandise royalties and cookbook payments. Taxes or the cost of being a celebrity chef weren't considered, however.

Here's the full top ten:

1: Gordon Ramsay, $38 million
2: Rachael Ray, $25 million
3: Wolfgang Puck, $20 million
4: Paula Deen, $17 million
5: Mario Batali, $13 million
6: Alain Ducasse, $12 million
7: Todd English, $11 million
8: Nobu Matsuhisa, $10 million
9: Bobby Flay, $9 million
10: Guy Fieri, $8 million

UPDATE: Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern took to his blog today to express displeasure in the rankings, which he calls "way off base." Zimmern wrote that he believed some chefs on the list make much more than the numbers reported by Forbes:

I can think of several chefs off the top of my head who aren’t on the list at all who have better months than the number 10 chef (Guy Fieri at 8 million) has years. Mario at number 5? Ever seen the checkout line at Eataly? Correct answer to that question is which location? Their math is way off base. Keller, Boulud, Colicchio . . . I could go on and on . . . lots of chefs who keep these matters private are doing very well, and I imagine some of the bozos on the list love to see their name up there. It’s nauseating.

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