Rachael Ray has cooked her way full circle.
Between her TV shows, dog food and furniture lines, nonprofits benefiting animals and kids, and magazine Every Day with Rachael Ray, the TV personality, celebrity chef, and author is now back in the Food Network kitchen that catapulted her career two decades ago with the recently relaunched 30 Minute Meals, aimed at a new generation of parents too busy to cook. And between all that, she also recently released her latest book, Rachael Ray 50: Memories and Meals from a Sweet and Savory Life a batch of recipes recalling her favorite dishes, after recently celebrating her 50th birthday.
Although she’s proudly an upstate New York native, she also has Long Island ties. The precursor of her other popular shows, $40 A Day, got its start on the East End. She has family here. And she’s got a house in Southampton, although she’s looking to unload it for a mere $4 million.
But the bubbly TV personality is more famous for reminding viewers that she’s not a trained chef — and that’s the point: Anyone with a fistful of ingredients and willingness to ignore measurements can recreate her recipes.
The Press recently chatted with Ray about her book, life, food, and more. She comes to LI to promote her new book at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington. Tickets are $40 for the event, hosted by Long Island LitFest. This conversation was edited for length and clarity.
How did your parents influence you? My mom worked in restaurants for 60 years and one or all of us were on her hip or by her side. She was the firstborn of 10 kids and it was her responsibility to be the right hand of my grandpa, and his responsibility to the family was not only the breadwinner, but the cook. My grandmother was a seamstress and a baker. But grandpa was a gardener and the main cook. So my mother was always in the kitchen with him, which I suppose is how she ended up making food for her life’s work. And I guess more than anything in the world I wanted to be my mom. My dad is a good eater.
How did you get the inspiration for your 26th book? I wasn’t going to write another book because I’ve written so many — 30 Minute Meals, and My Year in Meals — I felt like I didn’t really have anything left to do in books, but I do enjoy just writing. I’ve always kept an obsessive amount of notebooks my whole life. My friends were just saying, “You should write down some of your favorite memories and how you got here.” Once I sat down and I just tried to write anything about my life, I actually discovered I enjoyed it.
How does it feel to be back where it started with the rebooted 30 Minute Meals? I love it so much, because technology has changed so much. There’s a big black and red clock and when we start the roll, they literally start the clock. And we try to keep it completely legit. We just keep going, going, going. Thirty minutes is up? Boom! I can shoot four of them before lunch with the reset and the breakdown and the whole thing. It’s super exciting. It’s wonderful to be working for decades and still feel relatively relevant.
What do you want your fans to know before your Long Island appearance? My sister lives on Long Island. The first 30 Minute Meals sidekick, the forerunner of $40 a Day, was created on Long Island. I did a show for the local news in addition to 30 Minute Meals. The rules for me within 100 miles or less than $100. And I did the wine region of Long Island. And that was the beginning of $40 a Day. It’s part of my life story. As much as I’m an upstate New York girl, I am a New York Stater for sure.
Do you have any fond memories from your time here? The North Fork, of course. The wine country there is incredible. I still think it’s underappreciated, how great the wines are from Long Island. And everybody talks about the Hamptons and the beach and all that. I prefer going out to the vineyards and the farm country.
Why are you selling your Southampton home? I’ve been trying to sell it for years because it takes too long to get there and land came up for sale across the street from the little cabin I’ve been in for 25 years or so. So I bought it and took some fallen beams from barns and I built a house that looks like it’s been there forever. And I just thought now I have enough room, I can entertain, I have the kitchen of my dreams, my husband built a studio over the garage that’s the studio of his dreams, and I’m like, “We’re never gonna go there.” I love that piece of land, it’s very peaceful because it’s always quiet, there’s no one behind you. I think it’s beautiful, it’s just for the amount of time it takes to get there, I can also get upstate. I won’t be there enough and I feel bad about that. I’d rather it be loved and have people that are going to be there more often.
What do you have coming up for Breast Cancer Awareness Month? I just did a thing for the Pink Lotus Foundation, which is my dear friend Kristi Funk. She’s the most badass breast cancer doctor. She has come up with techniques for women to save their nipples and by doing double biopsies when they get mastectomies, she’s saved lives of many of my friends. Some of my closest friends in their 30s, 40s, and beyond have battled and won against breast cancer. I hate pink, but I force myself to love it in October.
You’ve been credited with coining EVOO, short for extra-virgin olive oil. Do you have any catch phrases that you hope will make the dictionary next? No, I never tried to come up with a catchphrase. I was just cooking alone, talking to myself, and sometimes I abbreviate things. When people are at home and you’re in the kitchen, you don’t realize what you’re saying, you’re just going about life. So it wasn’t that I tried to come up with a catchphrase, it just happened. “Yum-o” was because I used to say, “Yum! Oh my god, that’s good,” and people used to write in that they were offended that I said “Oh my god.” So the network asked me to stop saying God. So I would stop myself and would say, “Yum-o!” And then remember, stop talking here.
What’s something readers would be surprised to learn about you? I love to jump out of airplanes more than anything in the world. It kind of organizes my thoughts. I don’t know that people would be surprised by too much. I try to be as open as possible with our audience and I think that’s what builds trust.
Who’s one chef you would never want to face off against on a cooking competition show? A million of them. Jacques Pépin, because he’s like family to me. And because he’s the greatest, most amazing chef. I have seen him debone a chicken with basically a paring knife, the tiniest little knife. Debone a chicken, stuff it, and tie it in one segment. So, less than seven minutes. I would never ever, ever, ever want to cook against in any way shape or form Jacques Pépin.