Gone are the days when chefs worked behind the scenes, while restauranteurs took the glory. Celebrity chefs with business acumen and a passion for food, cooking and people are showing us how to create profitable business from all things food. If you’re a foodie or career chef who is looking for business ideas that work, glean a little inspiration from these chef entrepreneurs…
Chef Entrepreneur #1: Gordon Ramsay
Scotland’s Gordon Ramsay is a tough-talking chef entrepreneur, intolerant of the mediocre. Love him or hate him, his frank approach and controversial character has helped him climb, first, to the top of the chef profession, and then to build a profitable business empire, Gordon Ramsay Holdings Ltd. He’s now the highest earning chef in the world, and has 12 Michelin stars to his name.
Gordon Ramsay as a chef: After completing a course in Hotel Management and several years training under top chefs in London and France, he became the head chef at the exclusive London restaurant, Aubergine. Eventually, he opened his own restaurant, Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea.
Gordon Ramsay restaurants span the globe, from North America, Europe and the Middle East, to the Far East and Australia, and include the prestigious Maze restaurant and Gordon Ramsay in… brands.
Gordon Ramsay TV Shows include The F Word; Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares; Hell’s Kitchen USA; Masterchef America and Ramsay’s Best Restaurants.
Gordon Ramsay Books include the Gordon Ramsay autobiography, Humble Pie; Ramsay’s Best Menus and Christmas with Gordon.
Gordon Ramsay Products include Gordon Ramsay Kin Knives; a Royal Doulton Gordon Ramsay range; Sensio Gordon Ramsay Kitchen Appliances and the Château Bauduc Ramsay Selection of fine wines.
Other Gordon Ramsay businesses raking in the cash are the Hotel Gordon Ramsay in London; private events and catering through Private Dining with Gordon Ramsay, and corporate catering via Gordon Ramsay by Absolute Taste.
How much is Gordon Ramsay worth? $76 million.
Chef Entrepreneur #2: Jamie Oliver
While he was working as a chef at The River Café, Jamie Oliver featured in a documentary about this famous London restaurant. The show’s producers loved his laid-back, made-for-TV attitude, and offered him his own TV show, The Naked Chef. He jumped at the opportunity, and has become not only one of the world’s leading entrepreneur chefs, running a hugely profitable business, but an outstanding philanthropist, too.
Jamie Oliver as a chef: He trained as a chef at the Catering College of Westminster, followed by several years training in restaurants in London and France.
Jamie Oliver restaurants comprise a chain of Italian-themed restaurants in the UK and Australia, Jamie’s Italian; exclusive London restaurant and butchery, Barbecoa, and Fifteen London, a restaurant which gives unemployed youth the opportunity to break into the food business through its Apprentice Programme (with proceeds from Fifteen London going to The Jamie Oliver Foundation).
Jamie Oliver TV shows number in excess of twenty, including Jamie’s Kitchen; Oliver’s Twist; Jamie’s American Roadtrip and 30 Minute Meals.
Jamie Oliver books complement the TV shows and include The Naked Chef; Jamie’s Italy and Cook with Jamie.
Jamie Oliver Charities: The Ministry of Food is a campaign to encourage people to learn about food, cooking and health. School Dinners aims to encourage healthy eating and fight childhood obesity at schools in America and UK.
How much is Jamie Oliver worth? £65 million
Chef Entrepreneur #3: Rick Stein
Back in the day, there were just two celebrity chefs – one was the indomitable Keith Floyd. The other was Rick Stein. A chef from the English seaside town of Cornwall, Rick Stein has helped define what is to be a celebrity-chef-entrepreneur.
Rick Stein as a chef: After attending catering school, Stein travelled the world, working on cargo ships and the Australian Railway, before returning to England to open a nightclub. But when the authorities closed the club, Stein lost his public entertainment licence, which forced a change of direction. In the club’s place, he opened The Seafood Restaurant, which is still going strong decades later.
Rick Stein TV shows: Stein’s long-time friend and TV star, Keith Floyd, suggested Stein should so a TV show and along came Rick Stein’s Taste of the Sea. Since then, Stein’s hosted a number of shows, including Rick Stein’s Fruits of the Sea; Rick Stein’s Seafood Odyssey and The Seafood Lover’s Guide.
Rick Stein restaurants: In addition to the world-famous The Seafood Restaurant – which takes bookings a year in advance – Rick Stein operates a number of pubs, bistros, fish and chip bars and fine dining establishments.
Other Rick Stein businesses adding to his net worth are Stein’s Patisserie, Stein’s Deli; Stein’s Gift Shop; the Tower Estate Winery in Australia and several hotels and guesthouses. He also operates a cooking school, the Padstow Seafood School, which also hosts private and corporate events.
How much is Rick Stein worth? £20 million
Chef Entrepreneur #4: Ainsley Harriott
While Head Chef at The Long Room at Lord’s Cricket Ground, a regular patron and TV producer who had noticed Harriott’s flamboyant character and infectious personality, approached him to present a radio show. From here, Harriott made his move into TV, as the resident chef on a British breakfast TV show. That was twenty years ago, and the larger-than-life Harriott is the celebrity chef with the longest-running cookery show on British TV – Ready, Steady Cook.
Ainsley Harriott as a chef: Harriott trained at Westminster College of Catering, and worked as a chef in hotels and restaurants across London, including the exclusive The Dorchester Hotel.
Ainsley Harriott TV shows like Ainsley’s Meals in Minutes and Ainsley’s Big Cookouts are enormously popular in the UK and now celebrity chef Harriott is taking on America. In addition to starring in The Ainsley Harriot Show, Ready, Steady, Cook has been syndicated in the USA as Ready, Set…Cook.
Ainsley Harriott Books total sixteen (so far), including Top 100 Recipes from Ready, Steady, Cook; Ainsley Harriet’s Gourmet Express and his latest release, Just Five Ingredients.
Ainsley Harriott Charity: He is the patron of The Kasiisi Porridge Project, a charity which gives rural Ugandan schoolchildren a meal a day.
Ainsley Harriott Products include a bestselling range of Ainsley Harriot food products, stocked by UK supermarket chains Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda.
Other Ainsley Harriott businesses include work as a Voice-over Artist and appearances in TV commercials.
How much is Ainsley Harriott worth? £2 million
Chef Entrepreneur #5: Justine Drake
Not strictly a chef by profession, but a food stylist, Justine Drake is nevertheless the only South African to have made the BBC’s Top Twenty Most Popular Chefs Worldwide. Drake is carving out a profitable business as a chef entrepreneur – she’s hosted a popular BBC TV show, Just in Africa and has been a food columnist at Fairlady and Men’s Health magazines. As a celebrity chef, she makes guest appearances at food festivals across the country, cooking alongside international TV chef entrepreneurs like Ainsley Harriott.
Justine Drake books include South African bestsellers, The Busy Cook’s Cookbook; Eat: No Nonsense Cooking and her latest, Simply Good Food.
Justine Drake Foodie: Justine Drake is currently the Food Editor at consumer magazine Shape and customer magazine, Discovery; and the Editor of Pick ‘n Pay’s customer magazine, Fresh Living. She’s also the editor of two glossy South African foodie directories: Eat Out and Eat In. And she still finds time to be the festival director of the SA Taste Festivals, which include Taste of Jo’Burg and Taste of Cape Town, and to act as a culinary consultant to South African restaurants, cafés and bistros.