Rachael Ray’s Journey: Taking over the Cooking World

Racheal Ray is one of Food Networks’ most famous cooks. She has had an incredible amount of success and didn’t get there without humble beginnings. She comes from a small town in New York and never had any proper cooking school training. Some people love her cooking; some find her downright annoying.

Rachael Ray / Rachael Ray / Rachael Ray House On Fire / Rachael Ray.

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Whatever your opinion, she has undoubtedly impacted the cooking industry by releasing numerous cookbooks and becoming a star, earning herself a daytime Emmy. Some of her more recognized shows include 30 Minute Meals, Everyday with Rachael Ray, and Racheal Ray in Season.

How Old is Rachel Ray?

The superstar is now 53 years old and she’s on top of her endless list of cooking shows, quick and simple dishes, Racheal Ray has wholly turned herself into a brand. You can find everything from recipes to kitchenware, pet food, home design, and clothing on her website. Way to break out as a cooking celebrity and a complete entrepreneur!

Fans and audience members wait outside to enter Rachel's show.

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Ray has a talk show, the Rachael Ray Show, and a magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray. Her concept has always been to make the simplest meals in the least amount of time possible. However, some people don’t find her recipes that “easy” to make in 30 minutes.

30 Minute Meals

Inspiration for 30 Minute Meals goes way back. In the early part of her career, before she became the cooking sensation, Rachael worked as a buyer at Cowan & Lobel in Albany. This was a gourmet market where she interacted with people who weren’t big fans of cooking.

Rachael Ray during a cooking segment on her show.

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From there, she moved to teach a course on how to make meals in just under thirty minutes. The Course fostered an opportunity to work on a local weekly appearance on a CBS-TV affiliate (WRGB). Combining this with a broadcast radio show led to her first gig on Food Network in 2001.

Her Cooking Style

Ray has repeatedly mentioned that she started with no experience. She stresses that she doesn’t have a formal education and is not a “chef.” She took a lot of inspiration from her roots. Her grandmother is Sicilian, and Ray holds Cajun ancestry.

Rachael Ray laughs during an interview.

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Growing up in this atmosphere has allowed her to creatively use flavors such as garlic, chicken stock, and fresh herbs. She also doesn’t believe in measuring as she thinks the experience is a lot less enjoyable. She prefers “eyeing” the ingredients. Ray has received backlash for her short-timed meals as it doesn’t include preparation.

Getting on Oprah

30 Minute Meals lasted for over ten years reeling in 11 seasons. This eventually led to the premiere of her talk show, Rachael Ray. What boosted the popularity were appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show. I mean, once you get on Oprah, it must mean you are going places.

Rachael Ray behind the scenes of her talk show.

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In 2008, Rachael took her career to the next level by premiering a food travel series called Racheal’s Vacation. There she traveled to different countries in Europe, taking in the flavors and enjoying the cooking artistry. Viva Daisy! was her first-ever personally produced Latin-style cooking show featuring Daisy Martinez.

Catchphrases

Her quirky personality and lighthearted outlook on cooking have led her to make up a series of catchphrases she uses on her show. Take, for example, “E-V-O-O” – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, “Oh my Gravy,” and “Stoup” – a combination of soup and stew.

Rachael Ray cooks on the set of her show.

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Her catchphrases made a lot of noise as Oxford American College Dictionary decided to make the addition of EVOO an official acronym. She was given credit for coining the phrase as she was the one who made it famous. Not bad, Ray.

Print Popularity

In 2003, Rachael was featured in For Him Magazine. The pictures seemed to be every man’s fantasy as she posed in sexy photos cooking. However, the images weren’t as alluring as the usual spreads; nevertheless, she received criticism. This didn’t seem to bother her, and she said she would do it again if given the chance.

Rachael Ray poses, smiling at the press.

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Every Day with Rachael Ray was launched on October 25th, 2005. The Reader’s Digest Association launched the magazine, which reached ten issues in 2007, later bought by Meredith Magazine.

Endorsement Deals

Rachael’s first endorsement product deal was becoming the Nabisco crackers spokesperson. She did commercials for them as well as adding her recipes to the products presented in 2007. Moving away from cooking, Rachael received an endorsement from home product brand WestPoint Home. The products included coverlets, blankets, and sheets.

Rachael Ray attends an event.

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Other endorsements include Dunkin Donuts coffee, as Rachel has mentioned that she’s not an expert in making it herself. “Nutrish,” a pet food line, was launched in 2008, where all the proceeds go to Rachael’s Rescue for at-risk animals.

The Dunkin Donuts Commercial

Controversy over the commercial spurred quickly after it was viewed. In the commercial, Rachael Ray wears a scarf that people noted symbolized Muslim extremism for that period. People were not quiet to comment on the black and white scarf, and the commercial was eventually taken down.

A still from Rachael Ray in the commercial.

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Dunkin Donuts stated, “the possibility of misperception detracted from its original intention to promote our iced coffee.” The coffee brand emphasized their lack of intention, “Absolutely no symbolism was intended.” It wasn’t enough to quiet the uproar, it seems.

The Not So Perfect Girl Scout

For those who have seen her shows, Rachael Ray has a bubbly personality. She does not seem like the type to get herself caught in any nonsense. Rather than selling the cookies and getting her badges, Rachael got kicked out of Girl Scouts.

Rachael Ray walks the street.

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Rachael Ray admitted that the Girl Scouts simply wasn’t for her. She “made up dirty lyrics to a Girl Scouts song” and didn’t wear her full uniform, only the sash, and hat.” Ray tried to eventually mend things up by helping Troop 468 receive their badge for cooking.

College Dropout

Rachael graduated from high school in 1986. She then attended Pace University of New York. She was heading towards earning a degree in literature and communications. After a few years, Rachael called it quits and went on to work at a gourmet market.

A portrait of Rachael from high school.

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No doubt, she isn’t the first celebrity not to enjoy the traditional path of higher education. Other stars include tech giant Mark Zuckerberg, famous TV personality Ellen DeGeneres, Vogue magazine’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour., NBC’s news journalist Brian Williams and Dell Corporation Director Michael Dell.

Baking a Cake

Rachael has built herself this massive empire but, she can’t do everything. Compared to other celebrity chefs, she doesn’t have the education or the mastery. She has most certainly succeeded, but not in baking.

Martha Stewart and Rachael attend an event.

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When she was young, she failed in baking a lemon cake for her mom. Have her skills improved since then? Even if they haven’t, she certainly has the resources and celebrity chef circle to enhance the artistry. Baking a cake shouldn’t be that hard, right?

Dog Food Scandal

Rachael has her own Pitbull named Isaboo. Her love for dogs led her to create her own dog food business called Nutrish. Things didn’t go over smoothly, considering a lawsuit was filed against her by a man living in the Bronx, New York. The man claimed that the food contained glyphosate, “a chemical known to cause detrimental health effects” to canines.

Rachael and her husband during the Nutrish's Yappie Hour event.

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A five-million-dollar case was filed against her emphasizing the lack of pure ingredients. Rachel still believes in her brand as she feeds it to her dog.

The Popularity of the Garbage Bowl

Ray has been credited with the term GB (Garbage Bowl) and her use of it on the show. She wasn’t the first person to invent the idea, but she enhanced its popularity. It’s simply a bowl used to collect all the scraps and toss them out later rather than creating one big cooking mess.

Rachael speaks to the camera holding a Garbage Bowl.

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The “bowl” is not an invention but a design patent. The aesthetic design of the bowl is what she chartered as opposed to the actual function. It’s not a revolutionary idea but a practical one.

Setting the Kitchen on Fire

Rookie’s mistake, it seems. It happens even to the best and most famous chefs. During Pilot on celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s set, she set the pan on fire. It turns out Ray was extraordinarily nervous and became a chatterbox. When she finally added oil to the pan, “huge flames shot up.”

Rachael and chef Emeril Lagasse pose for the press.

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Ray shared her embarrassing memory when Emeril himself was a guest on her show. However, Emeril didn’t seem to take it so severely, laughing it off as she said, “I set Emeril’s kitchen on fire.”

Martha Takes a Crack

Marth Stuart is famous for lifestyle brands, baking recipes, and multiple ventures. She took an opinion to Ray in 2009, “She just did a new cookbook which is just a re-edit of a lot of her old recipes…And that’s not good enough for me.”

Martha speaks to the media.

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Rachael didn’t seem to take it too badly. She instead admitted to Martha having cooking capabilities far above her own and didn’t mind her opinion. It was probably thought to be a much bigger deal to the fans than the two businesswomen.

Obsessed with Burgers

The celebrity chef holds a massive love for burgers. Having put out many hamburger recipes herself, Rachael is certainly a meat lover. Rachael has shared a few tips on her website, expressing how she emphasized her admiration for burgers.

Rachael and her husband pose next to a giant plastic burger.

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Among her preferences, “For me, burgers are best produced in a big ol’ cast-iron skillet.” She also enjoys adding kosher salt to her burgers. Another one of her tips is to make the burgers thicker on the outside and thinner in the center. That way, it cooks out evenly.

Choosing Carefully

Ray is known for her simplicity, and maintaining a budget for food is essential to her. Not when it comes to eggs, though, because she chooses them very carefully. She is willing to pay extra to purchase good-quality eggs. Cage-free eggs from a non-mass-producing farm are what she recommends.

A picture of Rachael in the kitchen.

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Her favorite eggs are Araucana. These are blue/green-colored eggs produced by a Chilean breed chicken, and only a few other breeds have them. Maybe trying a different colored egg is worth the quality.

Looking Good on Camera

It’s no secret that celebrities have their hair done and makeup perfected when they go on camera. With everyone’s opinion roaming around and the camera supposedly adding ten pounds, getting all glammed up for the camera is a given.

Rachael attends an event.

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Rachael, however, doesn’t enjoy wearing makeup outside of work. When she’s at home, the makeup is taken off, and she enjoys relaxing in her endless collection of flannel pajamas. It’s understandable, considering wearing tons of makeup daily makes you want to wind down at the end of the day.

Family is Most Important

It seems that you can have all the fame in the world for Rachel, but it’s not worth it without your family. She was once asked about having her ideal dinner party inviting her dream guest list. After adding famous musicians and actors to her perfect list, she mentions wanting her first dog, Boo, being at the table.

A portrait of Rachael Ray.

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She would also want her grandfather to be there, “My grandpa would want spaghetti with a lot of sardines or anchovies, and Boo would want butternut squash.”

Home Design

Homes in New York are expensive, and spaces are tight. Living in small apartments can be challenging when it comes to making a good home. This is something that has inspired her design choices.

A screengrab of Rachael during an interview.

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Rachael Ray lived in Manhattan for a long time, and the compact spaces have influenced the way she created her over-shaped baking sets, “You can turn (the sister set of pans) sideways, and they’ll both fit in your oven.” In small ovens, trying to load a simple meal can be a challenge.

Yum-O!

This is a non-profit organization that Rachael Ray launched in 2006. The insight into creating the organization comes from empowering families and kids to have a healthy relationship with food. The three main initiatives are Cook, Feed, and Fund.

Rachael talks to the press / A photo of Rachael's cookbook cover.

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“Cook” focuses on making meals that are tasty, easy, and affordable. “Feed” contributes to the aid in ending hunger in America regardless of being one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Lastly, “Fund” partners with the National Restaurant Association and Educational Foundation to help kids realize their cuisine-related future careers.

Inspiration from a Previous Generation

Who shaped Rachael Ray into the empire she is today? Her mom is one prominent person who influenced her as she worked in the restaurant business for sixty years. She mentions that she learned to take her work seriously but not to take herself too seriously.

A picture of Rachael Ray.

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Rachael spoke about how her mom never had a bedtime routine for her and her siblings. If they wanted to stay up late to do something productive such as drawing, she would let them do it until they were exhausted.

Rachael’s Mantra

In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Rachael mentions that “You don’t have to be rich to have a rich life.” She speaks about how her brand is managed and the reason people stay loyal. She allows flexible hours and remote work.

A portrait of Rachael in the kitchen.

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“What bonds us as a family is that belief that quality of life matters even if you can’t have balance… shouldn’t be determined by social status or paycheck.” She emphasizes working with specific goals making sure the people working are satisfied but that intentions remain positive.

Cooking at Home

It seems that Rachael cooks every night when she gets home, and no cameras are filming. As for choosing what to make, it’s all up to her mood that day, so nothing too routine. She mentions that the food choice is usually based on the time she has for cooking.

Rachael does a culinary demonstration during a commercial.

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Eating at home is preferred overordering, so cooking happens almost every night for her and her husband. “If I’m coming home at 8:30 or so, we’re probably having pasta of some sort.” Easy choice for the Italian rooted cook.

Recommended Holiday Recipe

Rachael noted that it’s better to cook what you know and are good at for the holidays than cooking something to put on a show. It seems that the best way to go is cooking something that lacks stress, is simple, and tasty in order to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.

Rachael during a culinary demonstration.

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For Thanksgiving, Ray recommends having chicken or turkey stock in large amounts. This way, if the turkey is dry, it can be sliced up and drizzled with the stock, making it moist and delicious.

Giving Advice

As she passes on her mother’s words of wisdom, Rachael doesn’t believe in doing something simply for the money. Passion is important, and what you are communicating to people should be thought out. “You have to do what makes you happy and something that involves some larger purpose or message.”

Rachael Ray poses for a picture.

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Working at a miserable job that makes you millions of dollars isn’t worth it for Ray. She believes decisions shouldn’t be made by who’s handing out the fattest check. It makes sense considering we spend most of our life working.

Sicilian Sensations

One of the reasons Rachael fell in love with Italian food is because of her grandfather. She mentioned her grandfather’s favorite recipe was “stuffed artichokes, with tons of anchovies, breadcrumbs, and cheese.”

Rachael poses with her book

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The Italians have a rich kitchen with endless tastes, smells, and choices. Taking on the Italian tradition was assured for Rachael because her grandfather passed it on to her mother, who presumably passed it on to her. She must be thankful for that, as it had contributed to many of her cooking book recipes.

Not a Heels Type of Gal

The celebrity chef has mentioned that wearing a dress and heels makes her uncomfortable. She doesn’t believe dressing up represents who she is and could care less about the shoe designer she chose to wear.

Rachael Ray speaks on stage.

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Rachael believes that she should enjoy herself and not worry about people judging what outfit she picked out, “I’m not supposed to be at the party. I don’t want people looking at my body or what I chose to wear that day. I don’t care who made my shoes”.

Lover of Wine

It is not surprising that Ray is a fan of wine, keeping her Italian roots in mind. Sweets are among people’s favorite indulgences, but not for Rachael, “I don’t like sweets.” Rachael once worked at Howard Johnson, and she remembers taking off the nuts from an ice cream they used to serve and eating them with her mom.

Rachael raises her wine glass during a culinary demonstration.

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When it comes to wine, in 2006, Rachael spoke to Diane Sawyer, mentioning that visiting her favorite winery on Long Island every fall was a must.

She Married an Italian

John M. Cusumano and Rachael Ray got married in 2005. He is an American actor, singer, and film producer. Besides being most famous for being Rachael’s husband, he is most notably known to be the lead singer of The Cringe, an indie rock band.

Rachael and her husband arrive at an event.

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Like Ray, John is also a New Yorker. He was born in Long Island and is of Italian descent. The couple had initially met at a friend’s party and sealed the deal after a year of dating. They do have a dog but no children.

Passion for Music

The celebrity chef and her husband have a huge passion for music. Considering her husband works in the business, it would only make sense to enjoy this interest together. “We love rap, we love opera, we love classic rock and good pop.”

Rachael attends her husband's live performance.

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Rachael has mentioned attending the SXSW (South by Southwest) festival for over twenty years, something she and her husband still enjoy together. The festival takes place in mid-March in Austin, Texas. SXSW showcases new and upcoming artists and collaborates with record labels to showcase fresh musicians.

Alternative Career Choice

If Ray weren’t the cooking sensation she was today, she would probably have chosen to be a drummer for a rock and roll band. I think all of us have once dreamed about being rock stars, and Rachael is no different.

Rachael attends an event.

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Exhibiting her love for music, she would have either wanted to be a drummer or Jane Bond. She got the fame and fortune of being a Rockstar, but the music didn’t seem to be her destiny. At least she has the vinyl collection, so she’s not missing out on the piece.

Losing and Gaining Weight

If you have followed Rachael’s career, I’m sure you noticed that she had had some weight fluctuations. In 2019, Rachael Ray had reached an all-time high, gaining numerous pounds in the process.

Rachael laughs onstage.

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Earlier in her career, Rachael was a lot slimmer. Some critique her saying that the weight gain has been in jeopardy of her fans and that now being 48, the extra pounds could promote health risks. This doesn’t come easy with as a celebrity chef and having your career being surrounded by food.

Stressful Grocery List

When it comes to creating a grocery list, Ray doesn’t have mercy. Her grocery lists seem to belong, confusing and packed. However, it does seem to work for her. One of the main details about her grocery list is that everything is written in capital letters as if it wasn’t stressful enough.

Rachael talks to the press.

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She also writes the desired amount next to each item, making sure not to miss a single detail. Ray adds arbitrary items in the open spaces left. Hopefully, she doesn’t forget all the first items she listed.

Recipes to Share

On Rachael Ray’s website, some of the most searched items include burgers, chicken, beef, vegetarian quick and easy, and make your own takeout recipes. Under burgers, you can find some of her most popular recipes, including sweet onion burgers and vinegar oven fries.

Rachael holds a burger during a culinary demonstration.

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Are you looking for something spicy? She also has a famous spicy Turkey Burger with barbeque onions recipe for anyone looking for an extra kick in their meal. For those out there who are vegetarian, her first listed recipe is for roasted honey-soy green beans.

Cheering at the Games

We know that Rachael is chalked full of energy. Seeing her shows makes you realize that she’s got an upbeat personality. It kind of makes sense since she was a cheerleader in high school.

A vintage portrait of Rachael as a cheerleader.

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Ray cheered on her high school squad (Lake George High School) in New York before becoming today’s cuisine queen. She wasn’t the most favored cheerleader as she shared that her prominent role was to climb to the top of the pyramid, jump, and get caught in the other’s arms.

Devastating Wildfire

In August of 2020, Rachael shared her tragic experience of her house going up in flames. The fire ruined her entire home. “On August 9th, my house burned. Fifteen years of memories; 40 years of notebooks, drawings, thoughts, my life’s work.” All that damage also spread to photos and cooking notebooks that contain her legacy and work.

Photos of Rachael's house after the fire.

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The fire started in her chimney. She was lucky to be notified by a man who happened to be passing by their backyard screaming, “Your roofs on fire.”

On TV and In Writing

Other than seeing her bubbly persona on TV, Rachael has published over twenty books. In 1999, Rachael came out with the 30 Minute Meal cookbook, which intuitively inspired the TV show.

Rachael speaks to the press.

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She has reached nearly thirty cookbooks altogether throughout her career. Some of her more famous publications include Rachael Ray 50: Memories and Meals from a Sweet and Savory Life: A cookbook, Everyone is Italian on Sunday, The Book of Burger, Yum-O! The Family Cookbook and Comfort Foods: Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals.

Dreaming Big

Rachael had loved the world of food and cooking from a young age. As early as high school, Rachael began testing her entrepreneurship skills. She helped her mom at her restaurant and started Delicious Liaisons.

Rachael speaks onstage at the Daytime Emmy Awards.

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Ray would arrange catered baskets after school that would then be delivered to customers. Items in the basket included pasta and cocoa mix, and she decorated it herself. She must have had a lot of success to motivate and push her forward. She started small in the hope of making it big.

Famous Crush

The Legendary Tom Jones was Ray’s first celebrity crush. You might recognize some of his hits, such as “It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone,” constantly danced by Carlton Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

A vintage portrait of Tom Jones.

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Ray had mentioned him on her show numerous times, making it clear that she was a huge fan. The cherry on top was in 2008 when Tom Jones made a guest appearance on her talk show. She must have been stoked to not only meet him but have him appear on her successful show.

Open-Minded

Rachaels’ go-to classics are Italian dishes and burgers. However, she is open to trying various types of food. She has admitted to trying eyeballs, brain and other organ meats, and the insides of animals.

Rachael Ray speaks to a chef during an interview.

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She also has tried insects. On one of her TV episodes, she ate a deep-fried maggot. If something can add color to a dish, Ray will give it a go. For some people, bizarre foods can mean dipping your French fries in ice cream. For Rachael, bugs and organs are defined as more exotic.

Getting Mugged in the Big Apple

In an issue of Vanity Fair, Ray has mentioned that she has had a few bad experiences growing up in New York. One time, in the lobby of her apartment, she was held up by a teenage boy whom she scared off with pepper spray.

Rachael speaks during a book signing.

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The boy came back and tried again, but this time, Lisa, the guard dog, was the one who saved her. She eventually moved to upstate New York and began her 30 Minute Meals classes. New York can be incredible and scary at the same time.

Talent is Recognized

Being one of the most noteworthy women in the business comes with its rewards. Rachael has collected numerous awards for the 30 Minute Meals show as well as her persona. In 2006 she received two Daytime Emmys—one for Best Outstanding Service and the other for Outstanding Service Host.

Rachael poses with the Daytime Emmy Award.

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She received some of the same awards in the years following. She was also named one of Time Magazines’ 100 Most Influential People, and in 2011, she received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite TV Cook. Rachael Ray has shown what she’s worth.