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According to Rachael Ray, she grew up in food. “My first vivid memory is watching Mom in a restaurant kitchen. She was flipping something with a spatula. I tried to copy her and ended up grilling my right thumb! I was 3 or 4,” says Ray, who insists that cooking is a way of life she was simply born into. “Everyone on both sides of my family cooks.”
Ray has parlayed that birthright into a wildly successful career as an iconic Food Network television show host, bestselling cookbook author and editor-in-chief of her own lifestyle magazine. In 2007, she is now known for success in syndication as host of “Rachael Ray,” an hour-long, daytime show that debuted on September 18, 2006. The show has received seven daytime Emmy award nominations in its first year.
Showcasing Ray’s warmth, energy and boundless curiosity, the show – produced by CBS Television Distirubtino and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions – invites viewers to experience life “the Rachael Ray way.” She shares her secrets for fearless, can-do living and offers simple solutions to everyday problems. The show is an “open forum” for viewers, who are invited to share their stories, problems and give advice to one another, creating a community among “Rachael Ray” viewers.
Growing up in a family steeped in culinary tradition, Ray was exposed to a wide range of cooking techniques, from her maternal grandfather who grew and cooked everything his family of 12 ate, to her dad’s family, which embraced the food-rich traditions of Louisiana. The Ray family owned several restaurants on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, before relocating to upstate New York, where her mother worked as the food supervisor for a restaurant chain. “I was surrounded by all different styles of cooking and worked in the food service industry in just about every capacity you can imagine,” Ray says.
By her early twenties, Ray developed a hankering for city life and moved to New York where she landed at Macy’s, working first at the candy counter and then as manager of the Fresh Foods Department. She credits her two years there for giving her an education in gourmet foods. After Macy's, Ray helped open Agata & Valentina, the prestigious New York gourmet marketplace, where she was the store manager and buyer.
Despite the exciting lifestyle in the foodie circles of New York City, Ray decided that wasn’t how she wanted to live long term so she moved back to upstate New York and started managing pubs and restaurants at the famed Sagamore Resort on Lake George. From there, she was recruited by Cowan & Lobel, a large gourmet market in Albany, to be their food buyer and eventually their chef.
As a way to increase grocery sales during the holidays, Ray began a series of cooking classes, including a course promising to teach thirty “30-Minute Mediterranean Meals,” which exploded in popularity. The CBS station in Albany-Schenectady, WRGB-TV, discovered Ray and signed her on to do a weekly “30-Minute Meals” segment for the evening news. Nominated for two regional Emmys in its first year, the segment was a major success; a companion cookbook sold 10,000 copies locally during the holidays. With that, a franchise was born!
Ray's television work grew to include a series of lifestyle and travel segments as well as a long-term relationship with the Food Network, hosting shows such as “Tasty Travels,” “$40 A Day,” “Inside Dish” and “30 Minute Meals,” the latter of which earned Ray a 2006 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Service Show and a nomination for Outstanding Service Show Host.
In addition to her television endeavors, Rachael has turned her “30-Minute Meals” concept into a bestselling series of cookbooks, including “30-Minute Meals,” “30-Minute Meals 2,” “30-Minute Meals: Get Togethers,” “Comfort Foods,” “Veggie Meals,” “The Open House Cookbook,” “Cooking ‘Round The Clock Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals,” “Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids,” “Rachael Ray Best Eats In Town On $40 A Day,” “Rachael Ray 30-Minute Get Real Meals,” “Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners” and the newly released “Express Lane Meals,” which teaches readers how to whiz through the grocery store and prepare wholesome and delicious dinners with just 10 items or less.
Taking the can-do spirit of her television shows and books, Ray launched a lifestyle magazine in 2005 bearing her vision called Every Day With Rachael Ray. With great food at its heart, the full-size glossy magazine, for which Ray serves as editor-in-chief, covers much more than food. The magazine offers smart and easy recipes for an array of delicious foods, as well as practical advice on food destinations and entertaining. Through the magazine, Ray takes readers around the country to meet people who love food – from top celebrities to authentic artisans to great home cooks.
“My life has been a total accident – a very happy, wonderful accident that I didn't and couldn't have planned,” says Ray. Despite her growing celebrity she is determined to stay grounded and hold on to her down-to-earth values. She still spends as much time as she can at her cabin in the Adirondacks with her husband, John, her family – the “research team” – and her beloved pit bull IsaBoo.
Rachael Ray’s official website is www.rachaelray.com.
“You can have a wonderful, much better quality of life than you think. You really do think you lead a rich life if you do something as simple as making dinner for yourself. You don't have to be left out of anything. Maybe you can't stay in the five-star suite, maybe you can just sit in the cocktail lounge and look at the beautiful view, but you can still go there.”
“People know me for my love of food, but I have so much more I want to share, ... Our show's going to be all about taking a bigger bite out of life. I want people to see themselves in this show because life is full of messes and successes, and getting there is half the fun.”