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Cooking Competition Shows With the Biggest Payouts

Jordan Rosenfeld
·6 min read
Paul Buck/EPA/Shutterstock
Paul Buck/EPA/Shutterstock

There’s just something mesmerizing about watching other people make food. Perhaps this is why cooking shows have become such a hit over the past two decades.

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Psychologists suggest that watching these shows provides a satisfying sense of order and completion, with a note of predictability that can be welcome when life is chaotic. Certainly, the big networks have figured out that cooking plus competition is a winning combination, as cooking shows continue to be popular and attract celebrity interest. Here we rank 11 of the most popular shows by the payouts they offer the lucky culinary winners.

Last updated: Jan. 8, 2021

lev radin / Shutterstock.com
lev radin / Shutterstock.com

'Nailed It!'

  • First aired: 2018

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $10,000 per episode

Netflix has made an entire show out of the hilarity that ensues when amateur bakers attempt impressive and complex desserts. “Nailed It!” stars comedian Nicole Byer and world-renowned pastry chef Jacques Torres and a bunch of bakers without much talent. The show was inspired by “Pinterest fail” memes where people share the disasters they make compared to the masterpieces they were aiming for.

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©Mediapunch/Shutterstock
©Mediapunch/Shutterstock

'Sugar Rush'

  • First aired: 2018

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $10,000 per episode

Another Netflix show, “Sugar Rush” is a timed competition for dessert bakers. Four teams of professional bakers go head to head over three rounds, hoping to win $10,000. The rounds consist of cupcakes, confections and cake making, and the bakers get only two hours between cupcakes and confections and three hours for cakes. It’s judged by Candace Nelson, creator of Sprinkles Bakery, and Australian pastry chef Adriano Zumbo, who also has his own show.

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©Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock
©Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock

'Chopped'

  • First aired: 2007

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $10,000 per episode

In The Food Network’s show “Chopped,” starring host Ted Allen (formerly of “Queer Eye”), four chefs compete to prepare a three-course meal of an appetizer, entree and dessert. However, the ingredients are a mystery to them until the show begins, and they have to use all ingredients over the course of their meals. A panel of three guest judges “chops” the chefs whose work doesn’t measure up. The winner earns $10,000. However, a special championship episode pairs four past winners for a chance to win $50,000.

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Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

'Guy’s Grocery Games'

  • First aired: 2013

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $20,000 per episode

Well-known chef Guy Fieri’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” typically sent four chefs to the grocery store with “real-world challenges like finding workarounds when all the essential ingredients are suddenly out-of-stock,” according to the show’s website. The winning chef takes home up to $20,000 per episode.

To be able to film safely during COVID-19, however, Fieri changed the show so that chefs receive grocery delivery boxes at home, instead.

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©GCaballero/SouthBeachPhoto/REX/Shutterstock
©GCaballero/SouthBeachPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

'Worst Cooks in America'

  • First aired: 2010

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $25,000 per season

On the popular Food Network show “Worst Cooks in America,” professional chefs pull together teams of people who really can’t cook from a pool of contestants. These bad cooks are then quickly trained before being thrust into different cooking competitions. The worst of the worst cooks get eliminated by a variety of guest judges, and the winner is named “the best of the worst” and wins $25,000.

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Aaron Davidson / Getty Images
Aaron Davidson / Getty Images

'Holiday Baking Championship'

  • First aired: 2014

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $25,000 per season

The Food Network show “Holiday Baking Championship” aims to find “the greatest holiday baker.” Each show begins with eight amateur bakers who test family traditions and show off their skills. They must survive weekly challenges under the scrutiny of judges Duff Goldman, Nancy Fuller and Lorraine Pascale for a chance to win $25,000. The show is hosted by former NFL player Jesse Palmer.

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Eric Risberg/AP/ / Shutterstock.com
Eric Risberg/AP/ / Shutterstock.com

'The Great Food Truck Race'

  • First aired: 2010

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $50,000 per season

Seven teams of food truck owners compete in big cities around the country to try and outsell each other in the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race.” Each season takes on a different geographic location, currently the “wild west” of California. The winning team receives a significant $50,000 prize. It’s hosted by chef Tyler Florence.

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©Solent News/Shutterstock
©Solent News/Shutterstock

'Zumbo’s Just Desserts'

  • First aired: 2016

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $100,000 per season

Famous dessert chef Adriano Zumbo oversees — with co-host Rachel Khoo — amateur bakers on Netflix’s “Zumbo’s Just Desserts” as they compete to produce high-quality desserts that will meet Zumbo’s scrutiny. This dessert show’s stakes are a bit higher than other shows, as bakers compete for a huge $100,000 payout.

Read: 12 Most Expensive Meals in the World

©Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
©Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

'Top Chef'

  • First aired: 2006

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $125,000 per season

Bravo’s “Top Chef” has been a fan favorite since its debut in 2006. Some of the most talented “up-and-coming chefs” compete in “extreme cooking challenges” according to Mashed, to try and create meals that will impress their judges. Hosted by Padma Lakshmi, and judged by Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and occasional guest judges, competitors try to impress with their culinary creativity so they can win $125,000. Occasional specials, such as the recent “all-stars” season, offer even more money, $250,000.

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Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

'Hell’s Kitchen'

  • First aired: 2005

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $250,000 salaried job

“Hell’s Kitchen” on Fox features host and chef Gordon Ramsay, known for his hot head as well as his excellent kitchen skills. The show is currently taking place in Las Vegas at the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Caesar’s Palace. Sixteen aspiring chefs face weekly and “rigorous culinary challenges,” according to the website, “all with a Vegas flare.” The winner earns a job, with a salary of $250,000 (though there have been winners who did not want the job and thus took a lump sum).

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Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Ethan Miller / Getty Images

'Master Chef'

  • First aired: 2010

  • Last episode: Ongoing

  • Prize: $250,000 per season

“Master Chef,” another Fox show, also features Gordon Ramsay and young, hungry wannabe chefs competing to impress for a chance to win $250,000, and also mentorship from other chefs. Ramsay also brings in celebrity guest judges. After seven months of COVID-19 related shutdown, the show is returning for its 11th season.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Cooking Competition Shows With the Biggest Payouts