By Angela Barbuti
Rachael Ray is an inspiration to home cooks everywhere, but the fact that she lives downtown gives New Yorkers a definite advantage. Neighbors go so far as to ask her what she’s cooking for dinner when they run into her. The 44-year-old has created a food empire encompassing a talk show, magazine, nonprofit organization and 21 cookbooks. Her newest book, My Year in Meals, hit shelves Nov. 13. When she is not writing recipes for her famous 30-Minute Meals, she is stirring up carbonara sauce for her husband, John.
What is a typical day like for you?
[Laughs] There are no typical days. But if we are taping the daytime show, I will get up around 5 a.m. and head to the gym, then start getting ready for the show. We typically tape between two to three shows during the day. At lunch, I will write some recipes for Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine or for an upcoming book. Then, after taping, I’ll head home and make dinner for John.
Walk us through the process of writing a cookbook.
I keep a notebook with me at all times, and when I have an idea or am inspired, I start jotting down recipes. Then I have to code them—“EDWRR” means it might work for the magazine Every Day with Rachael Ray, while “MYIM” means it would go in the new book My Year in Meals. I code them as the ideas come to me. For the books, I’m always working one or two concepts out so if a recipe doesn’t fit for this cookbook, it could roll over to someplace else. There’s always a home for it.
Your daytime television show, Rachael Ray, launched in 2006. Who has been your most memorable guest?
I can’t pick the most memorable. We’ve had so many seasons of amazing guests. I would have to say it’s a three-way tie between Michelle Obama, President Clinton and Michael J. Fox, who is my personal hero. Oh wait … Hugh Jackman and Ringo Starr were pretty amazing!
Any funny set stories that stand out?
One day the turntable that our audience sits on, allowing them to rotate to different parts of the set, broke down, so all of them had to get up and help us spin it around. There was another time when Emeril and Bobby Flay both set the kitchen set on fire.
What is your favorite dish to cook at home with your husband?
Carbonara—hands down—it’s his favorite.
What area of the city do you live in? What are your favorite places there?
I live below 14th Street and love being downtown. I’m always at the Union Square market and stores like John Derian.
Do people stop you in the city to discuss food?
Yes, all the time. My fans come up to me in the grocery store and say, “Hey Rach, do you know where the canned tomatoes are?” or “What are you making for dinner?”
What are your favorite restaurants and food stores in Manhattan?
My husband and I like eating pizza at Motorino. I love shopping in Chelsea Market where the Food Network is, especially Buon Italia, where I get a lot of groceries.
Where were you during hurricane Sandy?
The daytime show was dark that week, so I was already home with my family upstate.
What was it like to help the victims by working the ABC telethon?
It was great to be a part of it. The folks we were talking to on the phone were so happy to help. It was really empowering to see how people come together in times like these.
You also run a nonprofit, Yum-o! Please describe this organization and let readers know how they can help.
Yum-o! is a nonprofit organization that empowers kids and their families to develop healthy relationships with food and cooking by teaching families to cook, feeding hungry kids and funding cooking education and scholarships. Through our three core work areas of Cook, Feed and Fund, Yum-o! educates kids and their families about food and cooking by offering an interactive website that enables young cooks to get started in the kitchen and try out family-friendly recipes. We team up with partner organizations to feed hungry children, and fund innovative cooking programs in schools and give educational opportunities for kids who are interested in pursuing careers in the restaurant and food service industry. People can help by visiting www.yum-o.org.
You are known for your 30-Minute Meals. Which is your favorite?
That’s like picking your favorite kid!
What will be on the menu for your Thanksgiving dinner this year?
We usually make two smaller birds since they take less time to cook and we can sleep in. We make an apple and onion stuffing and mashed potatoes with parsnips.
You won the Outstanding Talk Show Emmy twice. Where are your awards?
Sitting in my office at the daytime show.
Who are your favorite celebrity chefs?
I can’t choose favorites. I love Mario and Bobby. Emeril is the greatest.
What are your future plans?
I haven’t planned anything to this point, so why start now?
Why do you think you have become so successful?
When you love what you do and work hard, it’s hard not to find success on some level.
To learn more about Rachael, visit www.rachaelray.com
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