The Twenty Biggest Chef Empires

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The business of being a chef has expanded enormously in the last 25 years. Once upon a time, it was considered a working-class trade. Now Gordon Ramsay has 27 restaurants and five TV shows. Alain Ducasse has authored eighteen cookbooks; Nobu Matsuhisa has five. Batali acts, Colicchio sells Diet Coke and fly-fishes for AmEx, Charlie Palmer hawks home dcor in Sonoma. But which chef has his hand in the most pots around the globe?

To decide, we narrowed the field to men and women who operate restaurants in the U.S. and then compiled a list of all their traditional food projects (restaurants, cookbooks), self-promotional activities (TV shows), and offbeat activities (recipes for online-dating sites, flavor sprays). Since we consider operating restaurants to be more important to a chef's empire than his ancillary product deals, we assigned each of these activities a point value and weighed them according to significance. Restaurants got four points; leading TV roles, three; cookbooks, two; and everything else counted as a single point. The top twenty high-scorers are listed below with highlights from their careers. Actual totals appear in the first four columns, while the overall score according to point value is tallied at the end.

Who's the king of all chefs, and who's a merchandiser? Decide for yourself in the comments.


























#1 Gordon Ramsay thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
27 5 17 10 167
(x4) (x3) (x2) (x1)


With both the most restaurants and starring roles on TV, its not surprising that Gordon Ramsay has gobbled the most points. Overextension has its limits: To stave off bankruptcy this summer, he cut costs by slashing staff by 15 percent and rescinding ownership of hotel restaurants in L.A. and Paris.



















#2 Alain Ducasse thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
26 0 18 12 152


Ducasses global empire includes a professional culinary school, a cooking school for amateurs, a chain of hotels and chteaus, four country hotel-estates (with restaurants), and a publishing house to churn out the most cookbooks of the group.



















#3 Wolfgang Puck thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
22 0 7 18 120


Certainly not the only chef with a Shop section on his website, he shills salad spinners, coffee, cooking spray, soup stock, and a food-sealing system.



















#4 Jol Robuchon thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
19 2 16 1 115


All that fawning on Top Chef Vegas, and no tchotchkes to sell for it; Robuchon concentrates on nineteen fine and casual restaurants from Paris to Macao and has authored sixteen cookbooks.



















#5 Nobu Matsuhisa thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
22 0 5 12 110


Matsuhisa is credited with three acting roles on IMDb, for Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Casino (1995), and Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), in which he played Mr. Roboto. If he opens another Nobu in the U.S., New York City will consider the restaurant a chain and will require posted calorie counts.



















#6 Jean-Georges Vongerichten thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
25 0 4 2 110


On the cusp of a major jump in the rankings, JGV plans to open as many as 50 restaurants over the next five years in partnership with Starwood Hotels.



















#7 Emeril Lagasse thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
12 3 14 25 110


Bam! Thats a lot of junk for one chef to sell: Emeril JAZZ BAM drumsticks, ties, golf towels, hats, chef coats, cooking spray, clogs, oven mitts, golf shirts, coffee blends, and mugs. But is it his fault? In 2008, Martha Stewart paid $45 million cash plus $5 mil in stocks for the rights to Emerils cookbooks, TV shows, and kitchen products. All thats left for him are the restaurants.



















#8 Mario Batali thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
15 3 8 17 102

Fanta Pants partners with a company called Magic, Martinis, and Mario to put on events for Fortune 500 companies. And then there are the watches, Crocs, lunch sacks, brick ovens, wind-up toys, and shredded deli cheeses for sale. But Batali is also one of several chefs with an eponymous foundation; his aims to feed and educate kids.



















#9 Laurent Tourondel thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
17 0 2 1 73


Tourondels BLT empire extends across the globe, dominated by nine BLT Steak locations, with three more forthcoming.



















#10 Todd English thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
12 1 3 12 69


This brooding Boston-based chef partnered with online-dating site Lavalife this year to provide recipes for those who are single and lovin it.



















#11 Charlie Palmer thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
13 0 4 7 67


Palmer consults for Seaborne Cruises, owns Next Vintage Wine Shops and Hotel Healdsburg in Sonoma, and has an eponymous hotel under development in Las Vegas. If you like the chairs in the dining room at his Aureole restaurant in New York, you can buy them at the Lime Stone home-dcor shop he runs with his wife in Sonoma.



















#12 Michael Mina thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
16 0 1 1 67


Mina boasts seventeen restaurants, including two in Detroit, and Charlie Palmerendorsed RN74 in San Francisco. Mina diversifies with a single cookbook, and he tweets regularly.



















#13 Bobby Flay thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
6 4 9 11 65


Beyond his Food Network gigs, Flay has his own line of Mesa Grill seasonings and a cookware and appliance partnership with Kohl's for all your grilling needs.



















#14 Daniel Boulud thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
10 1 6 9 64


In addition to regular appearances on Top Chef, Boulud has his own show, After Hours With Daniel Boulud, on Mojo TV. You can also buy caviar, Champagne, and smoked Scottish salmon at his online store.



















#15 Marcus Samuelsson thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
9 1 6 9 60


Samuelsson owns Townhouse Restaurant Group, a management and consulting company, with Aquavit partner Hkan Swahn, and sells branded aquavit in liquor stores. The chef calls on his Ethopian background for his spice line, Afrikya Foods, and the album Afrikya, Vol. 1: A Musical Journey Through Africa. His BET show Urban Cuisine explores Harlem food, hes an ambassador for UNICEF, and hes made some side money backing coffee blends and cakes for Starbucks.



















#16Lidia Bastianich thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
6 3 7 12 59


PBSs mother of Italian cooking shills tableware, rice, gift baskets, napkins, olive oils, and condiments, but she also has a foundation, hosts cruises to benefit the James Beard Association, and is a founder of the advocacy group Women Chefs & Restaurateurs.



















#17Charlie Trotter thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
4 1 15 9 58


One of Trotters fifteen cookbooks is Gourmet Cooking for Dummies.



















#18Tom Colicchio thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
9 2 4 2 52


Colicchios not as omnipresent as TV commercials suggest; hes a star of Top Chef, producer for Top Chef Masters, and has a bunch of restaurants, including Craft and his highbrow sandwich chain, wichcraft.



















#19Thomas Keller thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
8 0 5 8 50


The Team USA mentor for the Bocuse dOr didnt get a win this year, but hes Hollywoods favorite chef, consulting for Pixars Ratatouille and Spanglish, which featured his sandwich-making skills on the DVD. His new Bouchon outpost is slated to open in Beverly Hills in November.



















#20David Burke thumbnail Restaurants TV Shows Cookbooks Misc. Score
8 0 2 6 42


Burkes name is attached to products like the Flavor Spray Diet (After eliminating toppings, gravies, dressings, and sauces, Flavor Spray replaces the flavor that diets forbid), gourmet lollipops, and pastrami salmon. He also consulted for the Hooters-like Hawaiian Tropic Zone and was subsequently mentioned in a sexual-harassment lawsuit.



Graphics by Marisa Woocher