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Sookie St. James was a renowned chef according to the writers of Gilmore Girls. In fact, her food is so good that Emily Gilmore even approves of her cuisine and uses her catering prowess to host a party or two. That’s a big compliment from the ever fussy Gilmore matriarch. While the writers of Gilmore Girls never delves into the financial details of its primary and secondary characters, many fans have hypothesized about Sookie’s potential salary. We did some digging and have an idea of how much she would have made if Sookie was working in the real world.

How much do chefs earn?

Chefs don’t come in one shape and size. In fact, there are multiple paths within the hospitality industry that professional chefs can take. People interested in the culinary arts can become private chefs, working in busy restaurants, or handle the kitchen of boutique hotels. They can go into catering, baking, and even food science. Because there are so many potential career paths, the pay scale is pretty varied, too.

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a chef in the United States is around $43,000, but the location of their business and the type of company they work in can vary their earning potential significantly. For example, private chefs can expect to make around $85,000 a year, which is substantially more than the average. Chefs in New York also earn considerably more than chefs working in less metropolitan locales.

Did Sookie’s position as a chef at an inn hurt her earning potential?

Sookie was a well-regarded chef in culinary circles it would seem. She even noted that she cooked for several high-profile clients, including Billy Joel, who allegedly stopped into The Independence Inn, although his alleged visit is never featured on Gilmore Girls. If Sookie was as talented as it is claimed, one would think she’d be earning a pretty penny, but according to estimates, Sookie’s salary was modest, at best.

It’s possible that her earning potential was stifled by her choice of employers. According to ZipRecruiter, a hotel chef in Connecticut can expect to earn around $60,000 per year, but the same chef could make between $75,000 to $90,000 per year in New York City. While Stars Hollow is a fictional town, it’s primarily based on the hamlet of Washington Depot, Connecticut. Washington Depot is located about two hours north of Manhattan.

If Sookie had taken her cooking prowess to a high-end restaurant, she could have earned even more. According to Glassdoor, chefs at well-regarded eateries can earn as much as $140,000 per year, when bonuses and incentives are factored in. While fans never find out how Sookie stacks up against well-known chefs, her food is apparently legendary, so she’d likely be able to score a job at a high-end eatery if she really wanted it.

Could Sookie’s salary really pay her bills?

Whether or not Sookie could make more money elsewhere doesn’t really matter in the long run. The executive chef had a lot of freedom at both The Independence Inn and, later, at The Dragonfly Inn. She pretty much made whatever she wanted to make, and for a creative chef like Sookie, that’s probably worth its weight in gold. Still, though, could Sookie really afford to pay her bills on her reported salary?

Sookie didn’t seem to have a lot of high-end tastes, save for the expensive cookware she enjoyed. She had her own home, but fans never find out how she came into possession of it, or if she owned or rented it. Fans do know that Jackson Belville rented his apartment and moved in with Sookie during their courtship, presumably splitting the bills with her. With Jackson, another small business owner, sharing expenses money was likely tight as they were trying to get The Dragonfly Inn off the ground, but once things got running, they probably did okay for themselves. Were the couple swimming in cash? Absolutely not, but it seems like they lived reasonably comfortably.