Do you ever think about what it would be like to be a famous chef? For some people, this is their dream. Others would probably not enjoy it as much. Whatever your preferences might be, there are plenty of people that have chosen to make their career in the kitchen. A few of the more fortunate individuals have become quite famous and financially well-off doing exactly that. However, becoming a celebrity chef is not without its own special set of risks. Operating a successful restaurant is difficult in and of itself. Doing that on a global scale is next to impossible for all but a select few individuals, who are listed on this list of the top 20 celebrity chefs of all time
20. Jamie Oliver
By all accounts, this particular individual has done quite well for himself in the world of all things culinary. While he doesn’t have the celebrity status of some of the other chefs that also appear on this list, he is certainly on his way to achieving that type of status. More importantly, he strives for excellence in everything he does when it comes to creating new dishes, as well as making those signature dishes that he is already well known for. This alone will help propel him into a household name, largely thanks to the outstanding quality of everything he turns out. There is no doubt that if he keeps at it long enough, he too will be a household name just like many of the chefs that appear closer to the bottom of this list. After all, he already has quality going for him. He’s also driven to constantly improve and get his name out there as much as possible. As long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, he really can’t miss.
19. Rachael Ray
Almost every person is familiar with Rachael Ray. Even if you don’t follow her per se, you’ve definitely heard of her. She has a television segment during weekday mornings that sort of combines a talk show with a show done in the style of something you might find on the Food Network. She invites various celebrities on to the show and typically, she will cook something. Sometimes, she even gets certain celebrities involved in the action. She’s also written numerous books and has created an entire line of dog food under the name Rachael Ray Nutrish. She definitely makes it a point to stay busy and she’s always looking for ways to do something different. Thanks in part to her rather outgoing personality, she’s one of the more approachable individuals on this list, at least as far as most people are concerned. This has made it somewhat easier for her to remain well known among people, whether they follow her show regularly or not.
18. Bobby Flay
Bobby Flay has been a professional chef for several years. In fact, he is usually one of the first people that someone might think of if you ask them to name a list of professionals in this particular field. Like many chefs, his personality can be fiery at times but he has also shown a softer side of himself many times in the public eye. One thing is certain, he wants anything that has his name associated with it to be as close to perfect as possible. This is a trait that he has in common with almost every other person on this list. In addition, he also has interests outside of the culinary field, namely horse racing. For years, he has been involved in thoroughbred racing. He can typically be seen at high-profile events such as the Kentucky Derby and more often than not, he’s got at least one or two thoroughbreds that are running in the upper echelons of the sport.
17. Marco Pierre White
The first thing that a lot of people think of when they see a photograph of Marco Pierre White is that he sort of looks like the culinary industry’s bad boy, so to speak. In fact, he looks more like a rockstar or a movie actor in most photos than he does a chef. However, if you remember that old saying that you should never judge a book by it’s cover, you can definitely apply this to Marco Pierre White. The truth is, he is one of the most sought-after chefs in the world. Spending a great deal of time in London, he not only perfected a number of dishes and served other dishes in high-profile settings, he also trained other culinary professionals that would go on to become some of the world’s most well known chefs in their own right. This is certainly nothing to sneeze at, as he is passing his own perfection on to other people that are capable of carrying the torch. One thing is certain, anyone that trains under him and makes it big, so to speak, is definitely doing something right.
16. Giada De Laurentiis
If you have a tendency to watch the Food Network a lot, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Giada De Laurentiis. Even if you don’t ever tune into this channel, you’ve probably seen her picture on a few magazine covers and you’ve definitely heard the name, at least once or twice. She’s managed to do quite well for herself in the culinary industry and in fact, she is considered by many to be among the best that have ever existed. As a direct result, she has a number of television segments and magazine articles to her credit. She also has a tendency to make a wide range of different dishes, making it more interesting for anyone that is following her endeavors. One of her hallmark traits is making dishes that taste like they’re very complicated and time-consuming, yet showing people how to do it so that it is easy enough for virtually anyone to succeed. This has helped propel her to success, largely because people are able to emulate her efforts and create something for their own families that they might not have otherwise attempted.
15. Anne Burrell
It seems like cooking shows are all the rage these days. For years, the only place that you would find any type of cooking shows was on place like the Food Network. In today’s world, cooking competitions make it to primetime television on local networks. As such, Anne Burrell has shown up on some of these television shows, acting as a judge for those who are brave enough to compete. Competitors are often surprised by her demeanor, as this approachable looking woman with a warm smile can be very exacting when it comes to creating a dish and doing it the right way. However, almost everyone would probably admit that if they follow her advice, they are capable of becoming a better cook because of it. She knows how things should be done and she’s not afraid to tell people that they need to do something differently. In fact, that is exactly what has made her so popular.
14. Rocco Dispirito
This individual has been in the restaurant business for a good chunk of his adult life. With that being said, he rose to fame when he decided to chronicle opening a restaurant in the extremely competitive area of New York City with a reality television show. The idea was to show the audience everything from beginning to end so they would better understand exactly what is involved in opening a successful restaurant. However, the restaurant didn’t turn out to be a success. In fact, it turned out to be a dismal failure and all of it was documented on television for the whole world to see. Things got even worse when the business partner that he had entered into this endeavor with ended up suing him. He ended up in the tabloids for what seemed like months and many people thought that his career as a chef would be over as a result of everything that happened. Despite all of this, he proved the naysayers wrong and came back better than ever.
13. Todd English
Todd English is another chef that ended up in the tabloids for one reason or another, and to be honest, it still isn’t uncommon to see his name strapped across one tabloid or another. Typically, it has something to do with his personal life as opposed to anything associated with his restaurants or other professional endeavors. Many people might conclude that his personal life is something of a mess, especially if any of those tabloids hold any truth to them. Despite all of those preconceived ideas, he now owns 15 different eateries, not to mention hosting the show Food Trip that airs on PBS. Over the years, he’s also put out a number of cookbooks and an entire product line involving different types of cookware and utensils, all of which have been enormously successful. Despite the fact that he ends up in the tabloids every once in awhile, it doesn’t seem like it matters one bit to the people that eat in his restaurants or buy the products that he’s selling. In fact, it often seems like the tabloids fuel his success. The more his name stays in them, the better he seems to do with everything else he’s involved in.
12. Thomas Keller
Sometimes, you have to have more than talent when it comes to running a restaurant. This was never driven home more than when Thomas Keller’s first restaurant failed. Most people that are in the know regard him as one of the best, if not the best, chef that is currently practicing. Despite his ability to create dishes that are nothing short of heavenly, he still couldn’t make the first restaurant he ever opened a success. This proves that you have to have a great deal of business savvy along with more than your fair share of marketing skills in order to make a restaurant work. In addition, it proves that the restaurant industry as a whole is remarkably competitive and even the best chefs often experience failures, especially when they are just starting out. Perhaps the best message that anyone can take away from Keller’s story is to never quit. If he had given up after that first restaurant failed, there’s no telling what he would be doing for a living today. Instead, he chose to persevere and he is now known all over the world as an outstanding chef. He has experienced a remarkable amount of success, but that’s only because he refused to let circumstances get the best of him.
11. Masaharu Morimoto
These days, people throw the term Iron Chef around quite a bit. However, it is supposed to denote a professional chef that is among the best of the best. In reality, there are a very small number of professionals that can honestly call themselves an Iron Chef. This individual has the honor of holding that title, both in the United States and in the Far East. That is something that very few people can honestly claim. In addition to his outstanding skill and his obvious success in the kitchen, he has also entered into numerous restaurant ventures in cities across the United States. He has several restaurants on both coasts and everywhere in between. By all accounts, his restaurants provide quality that is second to none and turn out dishes that are personally approved by him. He keeps a close eye on everything that’s going on, despite the fact that he has so many restaurants to operate. If they’re going to be associated with his name, he wants to be sure that the quality never suffers and the patrons get more than they expect.
10. Ina Garten
There’s a good chance that you know who Ina Garten is. However, you might not be entirely familiar with her name. She has a television show on the Food Network known as Barefoot Contessa, something that most people are far more familiar with. If you’ve only seen it once or twice, you might not have realized that these two names are one in the same person. Most people, even those that stumble onto the show casually, end up becoming fans. She’s always trying something new and more often than not, it’s something that fans can turn around and make for their own families. After all, it’s a lot more fun to watch professional chefs do what they do best when you can go and recreate something similar yourself. It’s hard to stay engaged when the dish is so complicated that you know right off the bat you’re never even going to try to make it. She keeps her dishes fairly simple and because of that, fans can identify with her much more easily than some other professional chefs. She also has a product line and has written numerous cookbooks, all of which have been successful.
9. Michael Mina
The first word that usually comes to mind when people think of Michael Mina is professionalism. The thing that’s most important to remember about him is that things didn’t always come easily for him. In reality, he struggled somewhat as a young individual and he had to make his own path. It’s important to remember that the culinary industry is very competitive one and only the best of the best make it to the top. Being relatively good is never good enough. The thing that sets him apart from virtually everyone else is that he had to make a way for himself at each and every turn and he did exactly that. Things never really came easy for him, yet he refused to give up on his dreams. Fortunately, he chose to stick with it and today, he is experiencing the type of success that very few people ever get to do more than dream about.
8. Rick Bayless
Rick Bayless grew up in Oklahoma, yet his culinary specialty is authentic Mexican food. This confuses a lot of people at first, considering the fact that he didn’t grow up in Mexico, nor is his family of Mexican descent. However, he did grow up with an interest in becoming a chef, although he studied something completely different in college. Ultimately, he took a trip to Mexico with his wife and the two of them decided to stay there for some time. This led to his choosing to open a restaurant, which had been his long-held dream. He specialized in Mexican food and the restaurant was a huge success. Today, he is well known for his south of the border creations. In fact, many people might consider him to be the best chef that is currently practicing when it comes to creating culinary dishes that are inspired by Mexico.
7. Curtis Stone
As a professional chef, Curtis Stone has shown up on nearly every television show there is. He’s guest starred on other shows about cooking, he’s hosted his own shows or specials about cooking, and he’s even appeared on morning new shows for their cooking segments. The truth is, if it involves anything about making some type of food and it’s televised, he’s probably been on it. It’s interesting to know that he was actually trained by another well-known Chef, Marco Pierre White. The two of them worked together in London. While many people look at Stone’s picture and think of a television heartthrob, the truth of the matter is that he far prefers to spend most of his time in the kitchen. However, it’s interesting that he and Pierre White worked together for a time, especially when you consider the fact that both of them are sometimes mistaken for movie stars instead of professional chefs.
6. Anthony Bourdain
Most people have heard of Anthony Bourdain, even if they couldn’t care less about anything that involves cooking. For years, he’s been well regarded as a professional chef and has also had a number of restaurants that he’s responsible for running. In addition, he’s grown to fame as the host of a television show that travels around the world, sampling different foods. Most of these foods are things that people in the United States have never even heard of. He’s also appeared on a lot of the shows that judge amateur chefs. One of the things that he is infamously known for is his personality. Like a lot of chefs, he can be quite outspoken, and a lot of times people think that he’s outspoken to the point of being rude. As far as he’s concerned, he simply attributes it to growing up in New Jersey. According to him, people that grow up in the area are honest and have no problem saying what they think. That seems to go against the grain for most people, but it’s actually sort of refreshing when you stop and think about it. Whether you like what he has to say or you don’t like it, at least you know exactly where you stand.
5. Mario Batali
For years and years, Mario Batali has been not only one of the most famous professional chefs, but by all accounts, he was also one of the most likeable individuals in the industry. All of that changed several months ago when things started to leak out into the press about his behavior when he wasn’t in front of the camera. First, people began claiming that he was guilty of sexual misconduct, largely by making inappropriate statements. As things continued on, people also started to accuse him of mistreating employees in a more general sense. At the time, he not only ran several restaurants, but he was also one of the hosts on a successful talk show about cooking. As a direct result of the accusations that were brought against him, he was subsequently fired from the talk show and since that time, he has not been in the public eye. While it’s impossible to tell what will happen with his career at this point, there is no doubt that a great deal of damage has been done his reputation, and by his own admission, he has done that damage himself.
4. Julia Child
Who isn’t familiar with Julia Child? One could even make the argument that she is almost single-handedly responsible for the fame that most chefs have today, and that argument would be a valid one. Most people would be hard-pressed to argue with the idea that she is the one that paved the way for everyone else that would come in her footsteps. This is even more important when you realize the time period in which she chose to make a name for herself. At that particular point in time, most women were expected to stay home, cook, clean and tend to the children. It was rare that a woman would even choose to have a successful career, much less travel the world and become famous in something that was then considered a male-dominated industry. Julia Child was never one to let anyone put her in a box, nor did she let the expectations of others define her. Instead, she chose to pave for her own way, making decisions for herself as she went.
3. Wolfgang Puck
Even people that don’t know anything about cooking and couldn’t care less about following celebrity chefs or anyone else famous have at least heard of the name Wolfgang Puck. He’s easily one of the more famous celebrity chefs in this group. This stands to reason, especially when you consider the fact that he has been doing this type of work for decades. The truth is, he was a celebrity chef long before it was considered popular. In addition, he’s been around the block a time or two because of his years of experience, meaning that he has the ability to understand things that people who are newer to the industry simply haven’t yet grasped. Granted, a lot can be taught, but there are some things that one only learns through experience. There is no doubt that Wolfgang Puck has the experience to do practically anything he chooses, which is largely the reason that he is so successful. It’s also the reason that he is in such high demand.
2. Paula Deen
Some people might argue with a list that has Paula Deen at number two. There is no arguing that she is a celebrity that spends a lot of time in the kitchen, but she wasn’t really all that famous until several years ago when she made headlines for some comments that she had made that would have been better left unsaid. At the time, she had a show on the Food Network and was rising in popularity, but she had not achieved anything like the status of some of the other individuals on this list. When word got out concerning some of the comments that she had made, everyone thought that her career was completely over. For a time, that seemed to be true. However, she eventually bounced back and became more popular than ever. Today, she has her own television show and she shows up on the cover of several different magazines from time to time. By all accounts, she is now doing better than ever. Hopefully, she learned something from the experience. From the outside looking in, it seems as though the publicity she received at the time actually propelled her career, as is so often the case.
1. Emeril Lagasse
If you’re talking about famous chefs, it would be hard not to put Emeril Lagasse at number one. This is a spot that he has definitely earned. He has years upon years of experience and there is virtually nothing that he can’t handle. He’s just as much at home making relatively simple dishes or those that are extremely complicated and he has the capability to talk other people through it, thereby giving them the opportunity to make dishes that they otherwise probably wouldn’t even think of. It doesn’t matter if it’s running a restaurant, guest starring on a television show or authoring a cookbook, he manages to do it all with ease. When you take all of that and couple it with his years of experience, any person would be hard-pressed to go up against him and do better.