NEW YORK - With 24 restaurants around the world, 11 Michelin stars, numerous cookbooks, and TV shows, Gordon Ramsay is the top earning chef in the United States, with an estimated global income of $38 million, according to a new list by Forbes.com.
Scottish-born Ramsey, known to U.S. television audiences for his acerbic comments on "Master Chef" and "Hell's Kitchen", surpassed Rachael Ray, who earned an estimated $25 million for the year ending June 2012 from her TV show, magazine and cookbooks.
Austrian-born Wolfgang Puck, whose 20 restaurants contributed to his $20 million in earnings, came in third on the list of top earning chefs who have a strong presence in the United States. Puck is based in California.
"They are very diversified," said Dorothy Pomerantz of Forbes.com. "There is nobody who just has restaurants. TV is a huge factor in making this list because they make so much more money from television than they can from their restaurants."
Merchandising and cookbooks also pumped up their incomes, Pomerantz said in an interview.
Completing the list's top five were Paula Deen, the southern U.S. cook criticized for buttery recipes and for becoming a pharmaceutical company spokeswoman after she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and Mario Batali, co-owner of more than a dozen restaurants and one of the stars of TV's "The Chew." They earned $17 million and $13 million, respectively.
Celebrity chefs were not the only people making big money in food. Some restaurants also had huge earnings.
Bob Chinn's Crab House restaurant in Wheeling, Illinois, made about $24 million, not including alcohol sales, and was named the top earning restaurant in the United States.
It was followed by The Grill on Main in Edgartown, Massachusetts, with $23.5 million, and Sparks Steak House in New York City, which has been in business since 1966 and made $23 million.
"It is an unusual list," said Pomerantz. "We are looking at just food sales, not alcohol. It is stand alone restaurants, so that cut some places out."
Crab House Owner Chinn, the 89-year-old son of Chinese immigrants, attributed his lucrative business to fresh seafood. The restaurant, his 14th business, flies in 3,000 pounds of fresh seafood daily, according to Chinn, who said he has no plans to retire although he does spend half his time in Hawaii.
"If I stop, the restaurant will collapse in a few years," he told Forbes.com.
Pomerantz said it was a combination of volume and price, and in some cases specializing in seafood which can be expensive, that contributed to the restaurant's earnings.
Tony's Restaurant & Catering in Houston hit $20 million in revenue, putting it in fourth place.
CHD Expert, a specialist in food service information, compiled the restaurant revenues for a 12-month period ending June 2011. Each of the top 10 earning restaurants made nearly $16 million or more.
The full list of chefs and restaurants can be found at www.forbes.com/foodies (Reporting by Patricia Reaney)