People will never agree when it comes to naming the planet’s best chef, but it’s hard to argue that these five famous feast-fixers wouldn’t at least get great seats at the chef’s dinner table without reservation.
1. Emeril Lagasse
From taking over the reigns after Chef Paul Prudhomme at the world-renown Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, to currently earning an estimated $150M in annual revenue from his various culinary enterprises, Emeril has made the most of every moment spent beneath his chef’s jacket. On top of opening several successful restaurants around the world and selling dry goods in supermarkets everywhere, he’s been a voice in a Disney Movie (The Princess and The Frog), a Top Chef judge, and has even created chicken recipes used to feed astronauts at the International Space Station. With galaxy-spanning gastronomic abilities like these, who needs Michelin stars?
2. Wolfgang Puck
The Mozart of munchies made his bones in Beverly Hills’ famed restaurant Spago, and has since gone on to cater the Academy Awards’ Governors Ball since 1994, appear on television and in movies frequently (Tales From the Crypt, The Smurfs, even a mention in Die Hard), and open restaurants around the country. Those of us who aren’t starring in the next Coen brother’s film can still enjoy his fancy fare at Wolfgang Puck Express casual eateries, where his signature dishes like house-smoked salmon pizza are accessibly prices for proles. Don’t worry; he’ll still sell you a $200 toaster oven if you’re buying.
3. James Beard
Lebron surely eats the best food a man can chew, but even the world’s greatest baller must bow to the braising, broiling and baking skills of the kitchen’s King James. Famous for bringing French cuisine to the U.S., then helping establish American fine dining, Beard wrote 20 cookbooks, is credited as having the first cooking show on television and after his death had his NYC home turned into a monument (at the behest of equally legendary foodsperson Julia Child) where great rising chefs are highlighted and given awards for their culinary achievements. Not bad for a guy who starred in ads for Shasta soda beverages–hey, those culinary school bills gotta be paid!
4. Rachael Ray
With 30-minute recipes, down-home cuteness by the Crock-Pot, and a little help from Oprah, this little lady created her own recipe for stardom. Critics are quick to point out her absence of formal training–she admits her lack of ingredient measurement makes her bad at baking–but multiple Emmy awards, millions of book sales, a championship win alongside Mario Batali on Iron Chef America, and even a 500-degree photo spread in FHM, you can’t say this NY-bred beauty isn’t a true breadwinner, regardless of whether or not she can actually work an oven.
5. Julia Child
This child (pun possibly intended) of wealthy Massachusetts elites earned a degree in English and worked as a home furnishings copywriter before becoming arguably the most important figure in the history of American culinary art. She and husband Paul were pseudo-spies during World War II and moved to Paris in 1948, where Child attended Le Cordon Bleu. They toured Europe together for years, eating everything digestible before returning to the States, at which point Julia started translating her favorite French recipes into English, and becoming an overnight television sensation in the process. Before her passing, she made lots of money, won Peabody and Emmy awards, started her own institute of wine and food (with Robert Mondavi), and won a National Book Award. Now we know why so many television chefs act so childish.
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