Interview with Celebrity Chef Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray is very busy these days. In addition to several shows on the Food Network, she’s also entered into a partnership with Ziploc®, has a new book coming out in June, and is taping some exciting episodes for her Emmy-winning daytime show. TheCelebrityCafe.com had a chance to speak with Rachael about her burger obsession, her love of cooking, and inspiring kids to eat healthier.

TheCelebrityCafe: What’s coming up on your show that you’re really excited about?

Rachael Ray: For the big May sweeps, I think I’m most excited about a game show week we’re planning. I love games and I get to play cash cow. So I’m kind of really looking forward to that.

I’m going to go shark diving with my friend Bert the Conqueror. He and I challenge each other all the time. I threw him out of an airplane. He threw me down a golf course inside a big golf ball. We threw each other off a mountain and repelled down fifteen stories in Mexico. So our next challenge is swimming with sharks outside a cage.

TheCelebrityCafe: You're going to be outside of a cage?

Rachael Ray: Yes, and I’m really scared about that, but I’m really looking forward to it too in a sort of a weird way.

And we are going to be the first daytime show ever to have a house band train [on the show]. It’s going to be our house band for a whole week.

I just taped with 50 Cent, and I’m such a huge fan of his. And we were just together down at South by Southwest (SXSW), so that was a really fun show and exciting for us.

Every single day that I go to work is such an adventure and a lot of our shows that I really love sometimes don’t involve celebrities at all. Like I love our tip off shows where our viewers come on and offer their double duty tips for things around the house. We have all of our friends come on and try and out tip each other with clever solutions for fashion and food and home. That’s what I love about our show is that every day is so different and it’s not always celebrity oriented.

A lot of our programming includes and comes from our viewers. I don’t really have one show that I look forward to more than the next. Each one of them is so different and really is just hanging out as a big block party. We shoot up to three episodes a day because I spend my hiatus from the daytime show making my food network and cooking-channel shows. We have really long, 10/12 hours worth of bringing audiences in and out and making television a day. So one day can have literally three shows worth of acts in it, with twenty-five different acts of television going on.

TheCelebrityCafe: Where did your love of cooking come from and how did it lead to your own show?

Rachael Ray: I was always a person on my mother’s hip in the kitchen. My mom really wanted her kids at her side as much as possible, and she worked in restaurants for over fifty years. And my grandfather had ten children, and he grew and prepared most of the food. My grandmother, on my mother’s side, was the family seamstress and the baker. So my mom, the eldest child, was always in the kitchen with my grandpa and I was always in the production and restaurant kitchens and our own kitchen with my mom. And it’s just something that has always spoken to me.

I literally started 30 Minute Meals to sell more groceries in a market that I was working at. The prepared foods were moving really well, but I couldn’t get my customers to buy any of the great ingredients and I was the store buyer. So my boss said why don’t you just teach a cooking class. And I said because I’m not a chef and she said well everybody loves your food. They pay for it in the prepared food case. Let’s teach them to make what you know how to make. So, I started a class called30-30 Minute Meals and it ended up on the local news. And two years later it ended up on the Food Network and it just sort of happened. I was just trying to teach people how to make dinner so I could sell more groceries to them.

TheCelebrityCafe: Who have been some of your most favorite guests?

Rachael Ray: President Clinton was there the day we launched our Yum-O! initiative. That was a huge day in my life, and he remains a terrific partner of ours.

Michael J. Fox is a person that really inspires me. And the first time he joined us was to surprise a young lady who had raised sixty-four thousand dollars for Parkinson’s selling pancakes. It was really special and we danced and he sang that song that was playing when he danced with Tracy on his TV show. So Michael J. Fox singing in your ear and dancing cheek to cheek was pretty good.

My first crush was Tom Jones when I was three years old. So when Tom Jones came on, I was pretty excited.

But every day is such an adventure and I’m just so grateful to I have the job I have.

And then there are the people that just crack you up like Dennis Leary, Chris Rock, and Russell Brand.

TheCelebrityCafe: Can you tell me about your new partnership with Ziploc®?

Rachael Ray: I’m lucky enough to be on television and do what I love and work with food. I’m asked by lots of people, and I find it very flattering of course, to pair up and lend my name to this or that project. The reason I made time for this one is because it was about so much more than just the Ziploc® brand. I use a ton of Ziploc®. I’m sort of Ziploc® obsessed. My favorite Ziploc® tip I think was years ago working at Food Network, I walked into the production kitchen and I saw all these giant plastic bags over basil, and I’m like what’s up with that? Well, we never put our basil in fridge. And I said I don’t really either. I keep it on the counter in water like fresh cut flowers. But they said if you put the baggie over the top it makes a green house and it lasts for weeks. And I’m like, oh my God, that’s amazing.

So I said, 'I will sit down and listen to Ziploc® because I love Ziploc®.' Fine. But the campaign really excited me a paragraph or two in, once we were all chatting, because it is exactly the messaging of our Yum-O! organization. It is identical to our brand. The [Ziploc®] Freshover is a challenge to American families kids, moms, dads, to get what their survey proves they want - more fruits and vegetables and fresh foods into their diet. So, the Ziploc® Facebook fan page is a place to go, a destination, to get recipes, to get information, to get tips, to get coupons and savings.

There is a five-mom mom blog attached to it so that it can be an ongoing conversation once you start using the recipes and developing some of your own. If you want, you can give your own money saving tips about how you incorporate fruits, vegetables, and better foods for less money into your family’s diet. It’s a destination, and one that offer families all of the messaging and everything I care about. So I committed my recipes, my videos - I made a whole bunch of video content with tips, because it was so on point with everything I try and teach and share with our own organization.

And they love what we’re doing at Yum-O! It’s a partnership. They didn’t just say 'hey, will you be the face of this or talk about this.' They offered a true partnership with us. Allowing us to give them information and share what we know and have learned about child nutrition with the lobbying we’ve done in Washington and the work we do in school systems. So we were happy, and I mean we because I have a huge team of people that run our charitable organization and work behind the scenes of our show, and work on our magazines. They offered a real family partnership. They let us become a part of this community, so that is why I was proud to do it.

TheCelebrityCafe: With the high rates of obesity and diabetes in this country, how do you feel celebrity chefs can make a difference?

Rachael Ray: Well, Mrs. Obama put out a challenge for all the chefs across the country to get into their local school systems and donate some of their time. Either to plant a garden, or to go into classrooms and do a little demonstration for moms and kids and teachers about easy affordable recipes, and eating in a more healthful way. But I think that’s a great tool for moms and dads and families that do a lot of cooking or know how to plant a garden. All of our schools are an even playing ground. It’s the even field that we can reach all of our kids nationwide. That’s where we can insure they are getting good nutrition and good messaging about the foods they eat. So you can donate a little bit of time, or build a window box for a classroom, so a child can learn where food grows. Or offer to teach a course about healthy snacks or about fruits you love. You know a lot of the children in classrooms that I’ve been in, up to even second grade, some kids don’t even know how to identify certain vegetables - like what a cucumber actually looks like. Everybody can get involved and it can be as easy as just having that conversation with your own child, or with your child and their friends in your home, or in your local school. And I think once you empower kids with getting them involved in choosing the color of the vegetable their going to eat tonight, or bringing them grocery shopping with you, and allowing them in the kitchen during the preparation of mealtime, it becomes a self-esteem issue for them. Then they want to try that food because they were a part of making it and bringing it to the table.

TheCelebrityCafe: Your have a new book coming out in June. Can you tell me more about it?

Rachael Ray: I am burger obsessed and I love playing with the idea of what a burger can be for people. I make burgers out of everything from grains to seafood to, of course, browned meats of every kind. What I love about the burger is it makes food accessible and fun for everyone. Several years ago I challenged all of the great chefs that are invited to the wonderful South Beach Food and Wine Festival to come in and put their skills into making burgers. So I have a collection in my next book The Book of Burger of all of my favorite recipes over the last ten years. I have hundreds and hundreds of them never before published in my book of my burgers, but then I also have a bonus section of all of our award-winning chef burgers from our burger bash. And I invited all of my cheffy friends that are equally burger obsessed to do burger essays and odes to burgers. It’s a smart book. There's lots of coding throughout the book so you can watch videos. There’s a code at the back of the book so I can keep uploading new burger recipes that I come up with so that you can get even more recipes than you get in the printed form.

I am also working simultaneously on our holiday book this year. It’s my first co-authored book. My husband is the co-author and it’s My Year in Meals and my husband John Cusimano’s year in cocktails. So we’ve taken pictures and journaled of every single thing we’ve made in our home and every cocktail we’ve made at home for the last two years.

TheCelebrityCafe:What is your absolute favorite meal? Is it something you make yourself, or someone else's specialty?

Rachael Ray: I don’t know that I have a favorite meal. When I’m cooking I’m thinking about the person I’m feeding and I want to make them whatever they want. My husband’s favorite meal is carbonara. I guess my favorite food is anything my mom makes. Because like anybody who loves their mother’s cooking, if you try and make your mom’s recipes, they never taste quite the same. And I don’t know if that’s because she’s lying about what she’s putting in there and just not telling me. Like when I turn my back, she’s sneaking something in there. It just never seems to taste the same.

TheCelebrityCafe: What are some of your favorite restaurants outside the U.S.?

Rachael Ray: I was married in Italy and my husband’s first word was “more” and my first word was “vino” so we thought - more wine - lets get married in the vineyard. And my favorite family restaurant in Florence is Il Latini and it’s owned by this wonderful character named is Torello, which means the bull. He looks like a bull. He’s big and strong, but he’s actually a big teddy bear. It’s just a wonderful family place. We go there and put our elbows on the table and Torello just brings us plates and platters of all of the local favorites like the warm chicken livers on crispy crostini and foto salads and pomodoro. We just can’t even move by the time we leave.

TheCelebrityCafe: If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

Rachael Ray: Patience – I would give myself more patience. I’m a very impatient person.

TheCelebrityCafe: How would you like to be remembered?

Rachael Ray: Ew creepy. I guess I want to be remembered for not taking life too seriously, and that I tried to help kids go to school with our scholarship program, and I tried to help families eat a little healthier. I hope that I did more good than bad in my lifetime and that I made people laugh.

For great recipes and cooking tips visit Rachael Ray online. Learn more about The Great American Freshover project and Rachael Ray's partnership with Ziploc® here.

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