The Untold Truth Of Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray has been a familiar face on television screens since the early 2000s, when she burst on the culinary scene with her Food Network hit "30-Minute Meals." She then parlayed that success into "Rachael Ray," her own daytime talk show, which launched in 2006 and ran for 17 hit seasons. Along the way, she has embarked on a variety of other ventures, ranging from other TV shows, a pet food company, writing several books, publishing her own magazine (Every Day With Rachael Ray), and her non-profit charity, Yum-o!

Her brand may be focused on food, yet at the center of everything is her boundless positivity. That, she said in an interview with Forbes, is the result of a lesson delivered by her beloved grandfather. "My grandfather taught me that there's really only one choice in life," she explained. "Life will be up; life will be down, but when it comes to you, you can laugh at it or you can cry at it, and laughing feels better than crying."

When her long-running talk show came to an end in 2023, Ray never stopped, even announcing new ventures of her own. No matter what has come her way, this savvy businesswoman has worked hard for her enterprise, and there's a lot that fans and viewers may not know about the celebrity chef.

Rachael Ray's grandfather inspired her love of food

Rachael Ray was brought up in a large, boisterous family that shared an appreciation for good food — not surprising, given that her mom's heritage is Italian, while her father was born in Louisiana. As she explained in an interview with Rachael Ray Magazine (via Business Insider), her own appreciation of food flowed from her Sicilian grandfather, who taught her mother how to cook countless dishes. "There are too many recipes to think of picking a favorite, but if I had to: stuffed artichokes, with tons of anchovies, bread crumbs, and cheese," she gushed.

Ray paid tribute to her grandfather during an episode of her eponymous daytime show. "I lost him when I was still very young, but he was absolutely my best friend," she told the studio audience, revealing they would often share a favorite snack: sardine sandwiches with plenty of onions. 

She learned a tough lesson on her first day of school when she brought one of those sandwiches for lunch — only to be ridiculed by her less gastronomically adventurous classmates. "I came home that day being the stinky girl in the funny clothes with the funny shoes," she relayed to NPR, remembering that she vowed to never return to school. She recalled that her grandfather, hearing her sobbing, advised her, "There's plenty in life that you have no control over that you will cry about. Certainly your vanity should never be one of them, you know?"

Her in-person 30-Minute Meals classes advanced to television

When she was in her 20s, Rachael Ray relocated to upstate New York and landed a job at a gourmet market in Albany. During that time, she was enlisted to teach some cooking classes, with the intention that her interaction with customers would spur sales of the ingredients in her recipes. Her classes — which she dubbed "30-Minute Mediterranean Meals" — became such a hit that Ray captured the interest of a local TV station, which brought her onto its news broadcast for a once-a-week segment called "30-Minute Meals."

When Ray's companion cookbook sold 10,000 copies, she realized she was onto something. Apparently, so did executives at the Food Network. In 2001, she launched her first Food Network TV show, "30-Minute Meals," expanding on the concept she had introduced in Albany. The brilliantly simple concept — home-made meals that can be whipped up in a half-hour or less — has also spawned a series of cookbooks, ranging from the health-conscious "Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Get Real Meals," to "Get Togethers: Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals," which focused on entertaining.

The show ended its successful run in 2012, but she returned to revive the franchise in 2019. "It's fun to be asked to do something 20 years later and reinvent it for a new group of people," she told The Washington Post of why she decided to return to her first TV hit. "Who wouldn't say yes?"

Ray was caught leaving bad tips on $40 a Day

Before becoming a successful television personality, Rachael Ray held numerous non-celebrity jobs. That included working at one of the restaurants her family owned in the Massachusetts coastal tourist town of Cape Cod. "I was surrounded by all different styles of cooking and worked in the food service industry in just about every capacity you can imagine," she said in her Food Network biography.

That included everything from waiting tables to washing dishes. "I think that everybody should have to be a dishwasher," she explained in an interview with "CBS Mornings." "I think that everybody should learn how to take an order and serve people, you know? It's very humbling, and I think it's the luckiest thing that ever happened to me that I was born into that industry."

Famous folks who waited tables on their way to the top often turn out to be generous tippers once they're successful, but there are also celebs who are terrible tippers – and Ray may be among them. That was something noted by viewers of her Food Network series, "$40 a Day," in which she went out on the town but had to stay within a $40 budget. According to a viewer, Ray managed that by leaving minuscule tips, in most episodes giving less than one dollar as a tip on around $12 tabs.

She almost set Emeril Lagasse's on-air kitchen on fire

Rachael Ray may have amassed some experience in front of the camera by appearing on Albany local news, but filming a pilot for the Food Network was uncharted territory for her. As she wrote in her 2019 book, "Rachael Ray 50," she was a nervous wreck when she shot the pilot episode of her first series, "30-Minute Meals," on the set of "Emeril Live," the Food Network hit hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. It didn't go well. "I did set Emeril Lagasse's kitchen on fire my first day of taping at Food Network kitchens," she wrote.

Ray recounted the incident when Lagasse dropped by as a guest on "Rachael Ray," revealing she was anxious and distracted by all the activity going on around her, and hadn't noticed production staffers had heated her pans in the oven. "I was so nervous I didn't want to start, so I kept talking and talking and talking, and when I went to put oil in the pan, huge flames shot up!" she narrated.

That wasn't the only mishap to occur while filming the "30-Minute Meals" pilot. In her book, she revealed that she also sliced the tip of her index finger off while chopping something. However, Ray proved to be a trouper when she reattached the fingertip with Krazy Glue and kept on filming.

Ray shares her passion for music with her husband

It's no secret that Rachael Ray is incredibly passionate about food, but she has another interest that's equally important to her and her husband, John Cusimano (a guitar player and lead singer in the rock band, The Cringe, whom she wed in 2005). "We are obsessed with our music and we listen to everything," she enthused in an interview with USA Today, revealing their tastes are as eclectic as it gets. "We love rap. We love opera. We love classic rock and good pop," she added while promoting her festival of music and food at SXSW, the Rachael Ray Feedback Party.

As for how they prefer to listen to their beloved tunes, forget streaming or CDs: they're strictly vinyl purists. "My husband and I are big music junkies and we have an enormous vinyl collection with around 1,500 to 2,000 records," she noted to Forbes. "That's probably our favorite family pastime: to listen to music with the dog." So impassioned are they about their vinyl, she revealed to The Wall Street Journal, that the most expensive item they own is their high-end AVID Acutus SP turntable, which can retail for more than $45,000.

In fact, if Ray hadn't become a successful talk show host and TV chef, she might have taken a very different career path within the realm of music. "My dream job is to be a rock drummer and the alternate drummer for the Foo Fighters," she once told Parade.

She's not afraid to indulge in her guilty pleasures

Most people occasionally give in and dig into a favorite food that they know isn't good for them, and Rachael Ray is certainly no different. "I have never associated food with guilt. I don't feel guilty about eating a pizza or a hot dog or a hamburger," Ray explained in an interview with Parade. "I think that life should be lived in moderation."

That said, whenever she does treat herself to cuisine of that ilk, Ray has come to learn that regular exercise is also a must in order to balance the scales. "I go to the gym six days a week and I've learned to love it," she added. "And because I make that time, I feel like I'm okay if I have a piece of pizza or French fries with lunch."

That refusal to accept food guilt was on display when Ray became a spokesperson for Burger King, extolling the virtues of the fast-food chain's savory mustard chicken baguette in a 2003 TV commercial. Plus, as her fans may recall, she's such a fan of burgers that she wrote an entire cookbook devoted to them, 2012's aptly titled "The Book of Burger."

Her wild recurring dream

During that aforementioned interview with Parade, Rachael Ray not only divulged her guilty-pleasure food, but she also revealed that she had been having a recurring dream. That dream is seemingly incongruent with the perky TV star whom foodie fans have come to embrace, and would probably keep any Freudian analyst occupied for a while trying to interpret its subconscious meaning.

"The weirdest thing about me is that I've had a recurring dream my whole life that I get into a bar fight," she relayed. "I start breaking pool sticks and I beat everyone up in the bar. That's kind of creepy and I don't understand it, but apparently I want to be in an action movie!"

While the notion of watching Ray on the silver screen emulating the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger may seem far-fetched, a source insisted that if Ray ever were cast in an action movie, she would totally crush it. "I have no doubt that she'd make a great movie star, and despite what she said about pool cues, I think a film director will more likely play up the fact that she's a master with a knife," the source told the National Enquirer. "We've all been joking that Rachael could be in the next James Bond movie, using her knife skills to chop up bad guys."

She taste-tested her brand's pet food

Anyone who has watched Rachael Ray on TV over the past few years should be well aware that she has expanded her empire beyond feeding humans with her own branded line of Rachael Ray Nutrish pet food.

When envisioning Nutrish — which carries both cat food and dog food — Ray was adamant about producing pet food that met such high standards that it would be safe for humans to eat. As a result, Ray has happily chowed down on it herself. "I've eaten my own cat food, too," she revealed to Parade in 2016. "I had the mackerel and chicken on 'Morning Joe.' It needed salt for me, but it was delicious!"

Despite her insistence that Nutrish was, well, nutritious, this was questioned when the brand was sued. In 2018, she was hit with a class-action lawsuit over claims that her dog food was actually less healthy than other dog food on the market. Meanwhile, another lawsuit claimed Nutrish contained a herbicide that could be harmful to dogs, which was ultimately dismissed in 2021.

She went skydiving with a famous comedian

Interviewed by Forbes, Rachel Ray revealed that she enjoyed an extreme hobby that most people would deem to be of the daredevil variety. "Something people may not know about me is that I like to jump out of airplanes," she said. "I've done so many times."

Her passion for skydiving was on full display during a special edition of her daytime show in 2011, when she and comedian Bert Kreischer took off in an airplane and came down to earth in parachutes. It all started, Ray explained, when Kreischer guested on her show and, when asked if there was anything he wouldn't do, singled out skydiving. However, the host declared that she would bring him with her on a skydiving excursion — and promised that he would love it. After she issued a challenge, Kresicher bravely accepted.

As the segment demonstrated, Kreischer wasn't just kicked out of the plane, but he also underwent extensive training at jump school. "Here's the problem with jump school, is, I didn't pay attention at real school," he mused. Ultimately, it all went off without a hitch, with Ray and Kreischer flying through the sky together and safely landing on the ground.

Her Dunkin' Donuts commercial generated unexpected controversy

Burger King isn't the only corporation to enlist Rachael Ray as an advertising tool. In 2007, she signed on with Dunkin' Donuts, working with the donut chain to develop healthier menu items, while also appearing in its TV commercials. That news didn't receive a warm reception from late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who slammed Ray as "evil" for shilling the sugary goodies, and compared her association with the brand to "peddling crack to kids." In response, Ray told ABC News she greatly respected Bourdain, but didn't feel she was doing anything wrong — although she did concede that partnering with the company "wasn't the greatest thing for my PR."

That wasn't the only controversy to emerge, though. In one online commercial, Ray wore a scarf around her neck. That triggered conservative pundit Michelle Malkin, who wrote a column claiming the scarf resembled a keffiyeh – a traditional scarf worn in the Middle East — which, in a mighty leap of logic, made Ray a terrorist sympathizer. 

Malkin stirred up enough of a media frenzy to spook Dunkin' Donuts, which pulled the commercial. ”In a recent online ad, Rachael Ray is wearing a black-and-white silk scarf with a paisley design," the chain said in a statement (via HuffPost). "It was selected by her stylist for the advertising shoot. Absolutely no symbolism was intended. However, given the possibility of misperception, we are no longer using the commercial."

She adores her beloved pit bulls

Given the fact that she sells (and occasionally eats) her own line of pet food, it shouldn't be surprising to learn that Rachael Ray loves dogs, and pit bulls in particular. In 2020, Ray and her husband, John Cusimano, were brokenhearted when their beloved pit bull, Isaboo, died. A few weeks later, they adopted another pit bull, which they named Bella Boo Blue.

She made her love of pit bulls known in a 2016 interview with Parade, when she vowed that she would never again visit Montreal after the Canadian city banned the breed (that legislation was repealed in 2017). "There's no such thing as an evil breed of dogs. It's ignorance and I'm filled with heartache and sadness," she said.

That said, Ray had her issues with Isaboo over the years; Most notoriously, a 2010 incident in which her pet bit another dog's ear off. That wasn't the first time that the dog had gone rogue, either. According to RadarOnline, Isaboo was allegedly involved in five earlier encounters with other dogs that the outlet described as "violent," including one that took place three years earlier, when Ray's hand was bloodied as she tried to break up a fight between Isaboo and another canine.

Why she ended her daytime show after 17 seasons

In 2023, Rachael Ray announced that she was bringing her daytime show to a conclusion after 17 seasons in syndication. "My passions have evolved from the talk-show format production and syndication model to a platform unencumbered by the traditional rules of distribution," she explained in a statement (via Entertainment Weekly). At the same time, she revealed she was launching her own production company, Free Food Studios, that would take more of a multi-platform approach than just daytime television. 

Free Food Studios entered into a deal with A&E to produce 278 episodes of content for the network. The first few hours of that content debuted in 2024 on the A&E-owned FYI channel, "Rachael Ray's Meals in Minutes," which was certainly in her wheelhouse. As Ray explained to USA Today, she envisioned empowerment as the connective tissue in all of her new programming. "I want you to know you can do anything we share with you, whether that's travel or how to make dinner," she said.

Among the projects on her plate: "Rachael Ray's Rebuild," a 2023 show for A&E about people who've lost their homes similar to the way she and her husband lost theirs in a 2020 fire. "These shows are so moving and these folks have gone through so much, emotionally," she remarked about the series in an interview with the New York Post. "We end each of the home shows with food — they design their own menus and I make them anything they want."