How Chefs make a living

A nice, interesting article from Mr. Ruhlman in the New York Times today about how top chefs make a living (login: accidental password: hedonist).

Even television projects are often of more promotional than monetary value for high-profile chefs, said Laurie Donnelly of WGBH in Boston, who produces a number of shows, including (Ming) Tsaiâ??s.

â??Theyâ??re not doing it to make money,â? Ms. Donnelly said. Some earn only the minimum allowed under the contract with the television actorsâ?? union. Others may earn a couple of thousand dollars a show, although the top stars of the Food Network can earn 10 times as much

It’s a nice bit of perspective on the industry, highlighting the fact that restaurants are, first and foremost, a business. Sometimes I feel that this point is lost on the uninitiated gourmets in the world. Trying and creating new and interesting dishes is a good thing at times, but if a chef can’t make money at it, it can be all for naught.

Part of doing business includes promotion, which means the chef has to get their name and their restaurant’s name out in any way possible. Which leads me to another tidbit that most fans of food often forget. Show me a popular chef, and I’ll show you a good to great publicist working behind the scenes. The majority of the top chef’s in Seattle have them, while others have their spouses or significant others fulfilling that role. I suspect it’s like this in many of the major metropolitan areas of the world. I don’t know if it’s a rule of thumb that one must have one, but I do know that they are common enough in the industry that they are not an anomaly.

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But it is important to note that a restaurant’s popularity is not be all about the food. Rather it’s often a combination of good product, good margins and good promotions.

tags technorati : restaurant, restaurant industry