A celebrity chef is no ordinary chef. While a regular chef spends his time planning menus for a restaurant and preparing meals there, a he or she travels the world to open new restaurants and promote cookbooks. Such a chef is likely to have at least one television show and a line of products bearing his or her name. These chefs also take home a much larger salary than a regular chef.
Celebrity chefs range in skill and style. A few chefs earned their fame and celebrity by showing people how to prepare simple meals quickly, usually ingredients that a regular person would have in his pantry. Other chefs earned their celebrity by being virtuosos and by crafting meals that cannot easily be recreated at home. A few other chefs became celebrities because of their loud, in-your-face mannerisms and opinions.
While many aspiring cooks and chefs are encouraged to attend culinary school to learn their skills and their way around the business, a number of celebrity chefs either never attended school or dropped out midway through their studies to pursue their dream. In some cases, the chef's lack of training is what makes him or her appeal to the populace.
Television has played a large role in the rise of celebrity chefs. Many host at least one instructional cooking show, where they demonstrate how to prepare recipes that match their signature food styles. Other chefs have spin-off shows where they travel the globe, sampling the cuisine of various cultures. A few chefs host talk shows that have little to do with actual cooking.
A celebrity chef may also use his or her talents to judge new, aspiring chefs. The popularity of chefs, cooking, and eating has led to several cooking competition television shows in which chef wannabes compete to host their own television show or helm their own restaurant. While the competitions may make becoming a celebrity chef easy, competition to get on the shows is fierce, and even a chef who wins the show may not succeed.
Celebrity chefs earn considerably more each year than a standard chef, from television appearances, book deals, or their restaurants. While a head or executive chef in the United States can expect to earn between $40,000 and $70,000 US Dollars (USD) a year, a celebrity chef can take home millions of dollars annually. In 2008, the 10 top earning chefs took home between $3 and $18 million USD.