Chefs that are worth a lot more than you think

Once upon a time, being a chef wasn't exactly a lucrative career — and oftentimes, it's still not. These days, though, being a successful chef is a lot more than just making mouthwatering food. It's also no longer about being a faceless creator that stays in the kitchen. Being a chef is a lifestyle and many extremely lucky chefs take on projects that go further than what's going on in the kitchen — probably further than they ever thought they'd go in the culinary world. In fact, some of them don't have much time to spend in the kitchen at all. Between product endorsements, television shows, book deals, and their own kitchenware lines — not to mention social media to keep up with — some chefs are making millions and have become serious celebrity personalities. We've got the net worth of a few chefs who are bringing in a lot more than you probably think.

Curtis Stone

Curtis Stone is an Australian celebrity chef who is most likely on your radar because he's NBC Universal's resident chef. Think: The Biggest Loser and The Celebrity Apprentice (where he was nicknamed The Quiet Terminator). The road wasn't always easy for him as he found himself jobless at 21 in London and at the door of Marco Pierre White, a chef he had admired since childhood, begging for a job.

Fast forward a few years later and he's got a starring role in the show Surfing the Menu with Ben O'Donoghue, where he was lucky enough to travel the coast of his home country cooking with local ingredients along the way.

These days he's paling around with celebrity chef Cat Cora, hosting the shows Around the World in 80 Plates and My Kitchen Rules. That is when he's not co-hosting Top Chef Masters (he's been appearing since season three) earning an impressive $20k per episode. Add that to his line of cooking products called Kitchen Solutions that according to him can help "bring confidence to the kitchen and happiness to the table," and you've got $16 million dollars of happiness coming his way.

Nobu Matsuhisa

Nobu, Nobu, Nobu! You know you've made it when your name makes it into a Top 40 rap song. Sushi chef, Nobu Matsuhisa, is known usually by just his first name (Eater once called him the Madonna of the culinary world) and for his restaurants all over the world. Before he was cool enough to go by one name, he was a normal guy with a restaurant in Los Angeles — that was until actor Robert De Niro started coming in regularly when he was in town. De Niro had his heart set on Nobu opening a restaurant in New York, and spent four years begging for it to happen. Like the crazy ex-girlfriend, calling his house kind of begging. Clearly, it was the right move, because the decision changed his life and made him a global star. The celebrity chef now has four cookbooks, his own line of sake and beer, nine Nobu branded hotels, and a line of dinnerware making him worth $15 million, according to The Daily Meal. All that, and a best friend in Robert De Niro.

Rachael Ray

If you've ever paid even a little attention to the celebrity chef world, then you've heard of Rachael Ray. You've probably even heard complaints that she has no professional culinary training, and she doesn't even own her own restaurant. She once told The New York Times, "I have no formal anything… I'm completely unqualified for any job I've ever had."

Ray created her well-known "30-Minute Meals" concept while working at a gourmet food shop in upstate New York. She knew that if people were willing to wait 30 minutes for pizza to be delivered, they could easily whip up something better in the same amount of time — they just didn't know how. She began giving in-store demonstrations, and that concept eventually got her a weekly local segment on television, followed by the attention of Food Network. Then came Oprah, and everyone knows once you're on Oprah's list — you've made it. And made it she has with $55 million in her pocket, according to MSN.

Giada De Laurentiis

When it comes to Giada De Laurentiis, you either love her very obvious Italian words or they make your eyes roll. The California raised chef and creator of the award- winning show, Everyday Italian, didn't know she wanted to cook for a living until after graduating with an anthropology degree from UCLA. De Laurentiis decided on a culinary career and attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris where she specialized in both cuisine and pastry. After being featured in a 2002 Food & Wine magazine article, De Laurentiis was instantly on Food Network's radar. She has since become one of the most recognizable faces on the network.

In 2015, the celebrity chef ended her 11-year marriage to Todd Thompson, sans a prenuptial agreement. He walked away with plenty, including $9,000 a month in child support, according to E! News. Even with that hefty child support order, she's still got $20 million in her pocket. That's a hell of a lot more than she'd be making with her anthropology degree.

David Chang

It's tough to talk about must-try foods in New York City without mentioning the Momofuku Restaurant Group or its founder, David Chang. The Korean-American chef is currently worth $50 million with restaurants all over the country, Toronto, and one in Sydney, Australia. Chang is a two Michelin star chef that once told The New Yorker, "Getting these awards freaks me out—the last thing I want is a Michelin star—because I know I'm not the best," he said. Pretty modest for a guy who worked his way to the top at such a young age — he earned his stars at just 30 years old. 

He worked under culinary mastermind, Andrew Carmellini, at Cafe Boulud where the food is plated perfectly, but Chang really made his mark in the world with food that's #UglyDelicious, meaning it might not look attractive but it's comforting like curries. He used to be known for his refusing to take reservations and no vegetarian options — but has since changed his tune and is one of the first to add the Impossible Foods veggie burger that bleeds like meat to his menu at Nishi in New York. Breaking the rules seems to work for him, because he's won and been nominated for several James Beard Foundation Awards and has been Chef of the Year for both Bon Appetit and GQ. He's almost got as many awards as he does millions, not bad Mr. Chang, not bad.

Ree Drummond

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, wasn't always a farm girl worth $50 million. Drummond definitely didn't think farming was for her as she left her Oklahoma roots for college at the University of Southern California. After graduation, she was considering a move to Chicago to attend law school, but a brief visit back home let her to meeting her husband Ladd Drummond, she described in her memoir, Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels — A Love Story (via Thrillist). She embraced life on a ranch as a blogger sharing stories and recipes while she home-schooled her children.

Drummond wasn't looking for fame when she made her television debut on Throwdown! With Bobby Flay where she beat Flay at a Thanksgiving face-off in 2010, leading to her very own show in 2011 on Food Network, called The Pioneer Woman. She has since written several bestsellers including her aforementioned memoir, which reached #2 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Lately, she spends most of her time at The Mercantile, her family's newest project — a destination restaurant with an accompanying bakery/coffee shop and massive general store.

In a surprising twist, much of Drummond's fortune comes from her husband and his family's land ownership. The Drummond's are the 23rd largest landowner in the US. As a family, they own a ridiculous 433,000 acres of land. According to a government report, the Drummond family has been paid more than $24 million in rent from the United States government alone, via Celebrity Net Worth. Kinda makes you want to go buy yourself a farm now, doesn't it?

Ina Garten

Ina Garten, aka "The Barefoot Contessa," is nicknamed after the specialty food store she bought in 1978. On a whim after seeing an ad for the store in the The New York Times, Garten decided it was time for a career change and left her life as a nuclear policy analyst in Washington. Buying the food store changed everything, as she took on a new persona becoming THE Barefoot Contessa. After years at the store, Garten decided it was too much and sold it. She started writing a cookbook, appropriately named The Barefoot Contessa. After finding fame with her first cookbook, she continued creating recipes for two more books and was offered a show.

The drastic change in career seriously paid off, but it wasn't any thanks to Martha Stewart. Word on the street is, Martha was producing her pilot and was not a fan of her on camera, thought the Fiestaware plates she was using were too similar to hers, and overall "seemed unhappy that another woman was going to be the star of a show produced by her own company," according to From Scratch (via The Daily Meal). Luckily, Food Network had her back and she's worth a whopping $50 million today. 

She has a line of cookware, products, and ingredients to help you "cook like a pro," which is also the name of her newest show. Fun fact: her husband Jeffrey Garten, whom she met at 15, is worth double. Wonder if they are looking to adopt an adult child?

Robert Irvine

Robert Irvine is militant in and out of the kitchen. The strict chef who learned many of his skills while cooking in the British Royal Navy is known for helping restaurants shape up or ship out on his early shows Dinner: Impossible and Restaurant: Impossible. After leaving the Royal Navy, he came to the U.S. to cook at the Naval Mess in the White House.

Unfortunately, we just can't forget 2008, when Irvine was called out on some more than casual lies on his resume. The chef claimed he cooked for four presidents, owned a castle, was friends with the royals, and even had a hand at making Princess Diana's wedding cake. Guess the military didn't teach him about background checks.

Fortunately, that hasn't hurt him when it comes to making money. Irvine is worth $15 million according to Celebrity Net Worth. He always has the troops on his mind, especially when launching the Robert Irvine Foundation. The foundation helps support military personal. He told Task & Purpose it's "the most rewarding aspect of my life's work." These days he's taking a break from the kitchen and can be found on CW with an hour long talk show, The Robert Irvine Show, where he helps families "with his signature 'tough love' approach to therapeutic work," according to Deadline.

Jamie Oliver

You're probably not surprised that British chef Jamie Oliver has a healthy bank account, but you might be surprised to find out he's actually the wealthiest chef in the world. He's worth nearly $400 million. The success might have been a surprise, but young Oliver always knew he wanted to cook. Most of his childhood was spent in his parents restaurant and at 16 he enrolled in Westminster Catering College, now Westminster-Kingsway College to study hospitality.

He struck gold while working at River Café in London, when he made it on camera during a documentary being filmed about the café. His fun attitude got him his own show, The Naked Chef, that debuted on BBC in 1999. The name came from his style of simple cooking (and had nothing to do with actually being naked) and it became his nickname world wide.

He worked his way into American hearts with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, a show that focused on our country's child obesity rates. Being fresh followed him throughout his career, and in 2015 Oliver partnered with Hello Fresh, a food subscription company that delivers fresh ingredients to your doorstep with easy to follow recipes. According to Bloomberg, Hello Fresh delivers a crazy 7.5 million meals a month and those meals aren't cheap. It's safe to say Oliver has built himself an empire to be proud of, naked or not.