Let me start this off by saying there are a whole lot of extraordinarily talented, very well known chefs that did not make this list. I tried to only choose celebrity chefs who have become known outside of the world of cooking. Because I am such a big fan of all things related to food, I had a hard time choosing what celebrity chefs to include on this list and what celebrity chefs not to include so I ran all the names on my very lengthy list past my husband whose interest in food does not go past eating it. In order to survive the cut, the chef had to be someone my husband knew by name. That meant a lot of people I felt deserved a spot got cut but it seemed like the only fair way to do things. This one was tough for me – probably the toughest list I’ve ever done but I think the ‘cut or keep’ process I used resulted in a list that included the most famous celebrity chefs in the world and that’s what I was going for so I suppose I can’t complain too much. One more note before we dive in: the list is in alphabetical order by first name. In other words, this list is not in order by talent or level of fame. Felt that was important to point out. Okay, enough talk – let’s take a look at the ten most famous celebrity chefs in the world.
10: Wolfgang Puck
Born: Wolfgang Johannes Topfschnig on July 8, 1949 in Sankt Veit an der Glan, Austria
Style: California, French, Fusion
Notable Restaurants: Spago, Wolfgang Puck, Wolfgang Puck Grille, Wolfgang Puck Express
Cookbooks: Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen (1980), The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook (1986), Adventures in the Kitchen with Wolfgang Puck (1991), Pizza, Pasta and More (2000), Live, Love, Eat (2002), Wolfgang Puck Makes it Easy (2004)
By far one of the most successful celebrity chefs of all time, Wolfgang Puck is still one of the most recognizable names in the food industry. He’s taken that fame out of the kitchen though, like many of the other celebrity chefs on this list, by appearing on many different television shows including: Hell’s Kitchen, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Next Food Network Star, Top Chef: New York, Top Chef: Las Vegas, Celebrity Cooking Showdown, Las Vegas, The Simpsons, Iron Chef: America: Battle of the Masters and Frasier.
09: Rachael Ray
Born: Rachael Domenica Ray on August 25, 1968 in Glens Falls, New York
Style: simple dishes that can be prepared quickly
Notable Restaurants: not applicable
Cookbooks: 21 titles including; 30 Minute Meals (1999), Rachael Ray’s Open House Cookbook (2000), Comfort Foods (2001), Veggie Meals (2001), 30 Minute Meals 2 (2003), Get Togethers: Rachael Ray 3o Minute Meals (2003), Cooking Rocks: Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meals for Kids (2004)
Rachael Ray gets a lot of criticism but she also deserves a lot of credit. She made cooking accessible to a lot of people who may not have bothered to try their hand at it otherwise. She’s also incredibly honest about what she can and can’t do; admitting she can’t make coffee or bake and has been known to burn bread under the broiler. She has also done a lot of good, founding Yum-O, a non-profit organization that hopes to help families learn how to cook and help educate people about food.
08: Paula Deen
Born: Paula Hiers on January 19, 1947 in Albany, Georgia
Notable Restaurants: Lady & Sons, Paula Deen Buffet
Cookbooks: 4 titles including; Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking (1997), The Lady & Sons Country Cooking 2 (1997)
Paula Deen has certainly made a name for herself in the world of cooking. Despite facing harsh criticism about the rather unhealthy nature of many of her recipes, she has become one of the most recognizable, most successful women in cooking today. Her show, Paula’s Home Cooking has proven so popular, she’s done two additional shows for the Food Network, Paula’s Party and Paula’s Best Dishes. She’s also appeared on numerous other shows including; Chefography, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Top Chef, Oprah’s Next Chapter, Who Do You Think You Are and MasterChef. Paula has also appeared on her son Bobby’s show on the Cooking Channel. His show, Not My Mama’s Meals, features recipes similar to his mother’s but with variations to make them healthier and more appealing to health conscious eaters.
07: Mario Batali
Born: September 19, 1960 in Seattle, Washington
Notable Restaurants: various restaurants around the world
Cookbooks: 11 titles including; Mario Batali Simple Italian Food: Recipes from My Two Villages (1998), Mario Batali Holiday Food: Family Recipes for the Most Festive Time of the Year (2000), The Babbo Cookbook (2002)
Although I’m not quite as familiar with Mario Batali as I am with some of the other chefs on our list, I certainly know he’s accomplished a lot and done a lot of good through his position in the spot light. I have to give the man serious credit for that. Throughout his career, Mario has won a number of awards, appeared on tons of television shows and has really become one of the premiere names in Italian food. That isn’t even mentioning his successful restaurants, his work with various charities and his string of successful cookbooks that help make proper Italian cooking more accessible to the every day home cook.
Born: Julia Carolyn McWilliams on August 15, 1912 in Pasadena, California
Style: French cuisine
Notable Restaurants: not applicable
Cookbooks: 18 titles including the legendary Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961)
Julia Child will always be the first woman I think of when I think of cooking. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. Rachel Ray is great. So is Paula Deen. In fact, there are lots of great female celebrity chefs out there that just didn’t make it to this list. None of them will every compare to the iconic Julia Child. I can’t even begin to get into her accomplishments here. I just don’t even have the space to offer up the highlights. When Julia passed away on August 13, 2004, a mere two days short of her 92nd birthday, it was truly a sad, sad day. Julia’s importance wasn’t just limited to teaching people how to cook. She taught people how to really love food. To Julia, food was one of life’s great pleasures and she shared her passion for food with the world. That alone makes her worthy of inclusion here. If this list were in order by important, Julia would be in the number one spot for sure.
05: Jamie Oliver
Born: James Trevor Oliver on May 27, 1975 in Clavering, Essex
Notable Restaurants: Jamie’s Italian
Cookbooks: 17 titles including Something for the Weekend, The Naked Chef, The Return of the Naked Chef, Happy Days with the Naked Chef, Jamie’s Kitchen, Jamie’s Dinners, Jamie’s Italy, Jamie’s Ministry of Food: Anyone Can Learn to Cook in 24 Hours, Jamie’s America, Jamie’s Great Britain, Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals
I am a big Jamie Oliver fan. While I was already starting to discover my interest in cooking when I learned about Jamie, he definitely helped that passion for food blossom. Many of his recipes are simple enough that even novice chefs can prepare them and the focus on fresh, organic food definitely appeals to me personally. I also love the good work Jamie does via his various charitable ventures. This is a man who is not only helping people discover their love of food but is also doing good things with his position in the spotlight. I admire that. Plus, he’s not too hard on the eyes which is always nice.
04: Gordon Ramsay
Born: Gordon James Ramsay on November 8, 1966 in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Style: French, Italian, British
Notable Restaurants: many notable restaurants around the world
Cookbooks: 21 titles including Gordon Ramsay’s Passion for Flavor (1996), Gordon Ramsay’s Passion for Seafood (1999), Gordon Ramsay A Chef for all Seasons (2000), Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course (2012)
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t familiar with Gordon Ramsay. He has parlayed his passion for food into a lucrative career in not only the food service industry but also in the entertainment industry. Gordon has even made a cameo on The Simpsons, playing up his legendary temper and his penchant for nicknames, calling Marge ‘Big Blue’. Gordon’s television shows, Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, MasterChef, Hotel Hell and numerous others in the UK have propelled him to a level of stardom rarely enjoyed by chefs. It hasn’t been without its price though as Gordon has been the star of many, many scandals over the years. It doesn’t seem to deter him though, with the fiery chef coming back for more time and time again. While his persona tends to get more attention than his cooking skills, he’s definitely no slouch in the kitchen. His cooking show, Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course, most definitely made me into a better chef. His instructions were clear, his recipes delicious and his ‘tips and tricks’ absolutely vital. The man can be a jerk of the highest order but his heart is usually (often? sometimes?) in the right place and if you pay attention, you might actually learn a thing or two to make you a better cook.
03: Emeril Lagasse
Born: Emeril John Lagasse on October 15, 1959 in Fall River, Massachusettes
Style: Cajun, Portuguese, Creole, French
Notable Restaurants: Emeril’s in New Orleans, Louisiana and several more throughout the United States
Cookbooks: 12 titles including Emeril’s New Orleans Cooking (1993), Louisiana Real and Rustic (1996), Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh (2010)
Bam! I know, overplayed now but you can’t write about Emeril without getting a ‘Bam!’ in there at least once. When I was but a young thing, Emeril Lagasse absolutely fascinated me. I had never considered cooking a career that could make someone famous but them Emeril came along and all that changed. Of course, there were many celebrity chefs before him (Julia Childs, Wolfgang Puck to name just two) but for me, Emeril was really the first celebrity chef I was actually familiar with. He made cooking look exciting and fun and while it would be a few years before I really got interested in the craft myself, it was certainly Emeril that planted the seed in my mind.
02: Bobby Flay
Born: Robert William Flay on December 10, 1964 in New York City, New York
Style: Mexican, Southwest
Notable Restaurants: Mesa Grill, Bar American, Bobby Flay Steak, Bobby’s Burger Palace
Cookbooks: Several titles including Bobby Flay’s Bold American Food (1994), Bobby Flay’s Boy Meets Grill (2004), Bobby Flay’s Grill It! (2008)
I’m not going to lie. I’m not Bobby Flay’s biggest fan but I do love his recipes. Most of them are simple enough that even novice cooks can make them but delicious enough to please even the pickiest eaters. I’m not sure what it is that I don’t like about him but I suppose it’s just a personal preference thing. He certainly knows what he’s doing and knows how to get his audience excited about cooking and I can’t hate on him for that.
01: Anthony Bourdain
Born: Anthony Michael Bourdain on June 25, 1956 in New York City, New York
Cookbooks: several titles including Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2000), A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal (2001), No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach (2007)
I’m a big Anthony Bourdain fan but I recognize his inclusion on this list may be somewhat controversial among some readers. Some feel Anthony isn’t really a chef. Anthony himself is rather unimpressed that he’s considered a celebrity chef as he’s often spoken about the fact that he isn’t thrilled with the idea of ‘celebrity chefs’ in the first place. To the first point I’d say that Bourdain is most definitely a chef. To the second point, I’d say that’s a big part of the reason he’s become such an intriguing figure in the industry. He is outspoken and honest. He isn’t interested in everything that comes along with being a celebrity chef, even though he did offer up his voice for an episode of The Simpsons. The truth of the matter is that Anthony isn’t like most of the other chefs on this list and that is endlessly appealing. I had to include him for that reason along. Aside from that, this is a man that is truly passionate about food and that deserves celebration, even if he doesn’t feel it deserves celebrity.