Hosting a television cooking show wasn’t an occupation most people dreamed of. The field was limited to the likes of Julia Child, Graham Kerr, Jeff Smith and, of course, the grandfather of all cooking show hosts, James Beard. But with the launch of Food Network back in 1993, it’s become a possibility and aspiration of many chefs and foodies. To land such a gig can bring top-dollar paydays.
In 2012, a television host earned an average of $41,860 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those working specifically in cable television, where you’d find most cooking shows, earned much more, at an average of $59,650 a year, as of 2010. Indeed, a national jobseeker’s website, sets the average even higher, estimating earnings at $82,000 in 2013. For comparison, chefs and head cooks earned an average of $46,570 a year, with the top 10 percent bringing home more than $74,120 annually.
For the lucky few, salaries can reach upward of eight figures, especially when you factor in cookbook sales, restaurant earnings and merchandise, such as cookware, dinnerware and other related fare. As of 2012, Gordon Ramsey was the highest earner, making $38 million a year. Rachel Ray was a distant second, averaging $25 million a year. Paula Deen earned $17 million a year, while Mario Batali brought home $13 million. Rounding out the top 10 was Guy Fieri, with an average income of $8 million a year.
Though announcers and TV hosts often need a degree in journalism, communications or broadcasting, the same can’t be said of the hosts of cooking shows. Networks typically seek candidates who can cook, but they also want hosts who have their own special spin on cooking. They also must have good communication skills and personality -- they don’t call hosts on-air personalities for nothing. To succeed in this business, you also need persistence, as you’ll be met with “no” more than “yes.”
The BLS expects employment for announcers, including TV hosts, to grow by as much as 7 percent through 2020. This is half the national average for all U.S. occupations, a projected 14 percent. With only 280 hosts working in the cable TV industry, the 7 percent growth works out to the creation of around 20 new jobs. Expect strong competition for openings, as many people want to work in an industry with such high earning potential, especially when looking at the most famous TV cooking hosts.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.