Rachael Ray

Published: Nov. 3, 2006 at 9:19 PM EST
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According to Rachael Ray, she grew up in food.  "My first vivid memory is watching Mom in a restaurant kitchen.  She was flipping something with a spatula.  I tried to copy her and ended up grilling my right thumb!  I was 3 or 4," says Ray, who insists that cooking is a way of life she was simply born into.  "Everyone on both sides of my family cooks."

Ray has parlayed that birthright into a wildly successful career as an iconic Food Network television show host, bestselling cookbook author and editor-in-chief of her own lifestyle magazine. Now she's tackling syndication as host of RACHAEL RAY, an hour-long, daily talk show debuting in September 2006.

Showcasing Ray's warmth, energy and boundless curiosity, the series-produced by King World Productions and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions-invites viewers to experience life "the Rachael Ray way." She shares her secrets for fearless, can-do living; offers simple solutions to everyday problems; and shows how "you do not have to be wealthy to live a rich life."

Growing up in a family steeped in culinary tradition, Ray was exposed to a wide range of cooking techniques, from her maternal grandfather who grew and cooked everything his family of 12 ate, to her dad's family, which embraced the food-rich traditions of Louisiana. The Ray family owned several restaurants on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, before relocating to upstate New York, where her mother worked as the food supervisor for a restaurant chain.  "I was surrounded by all different styles of cooking and worked in the food service industry in just about every capacity you can imagine," Ray says.

By her early twenties, Ray developed a hankering for city life and moved to New York where she landed at Macy's, working first at the candy counter and then as manager of the Fresh Foods Department.  She credits her two years there for giving her an education in gourmet foods.  After Macy's, Ray helped open Agata & Valentina, the prestigious New York gourmet marketplace, where she was the store manager and buyer.

Despite the exciting lifestyle in the foodie circles of New York City, Ray decided that wasn't how she wanted to live long term so she moved back to upstate New York and started managing pubs and restaurants at the famed Sagamore Resort on Lake George. From there, she was recruited by Cowan & Lobel, a large gourmet market in Albany, to be their food buyer and eventually their chef.

As a way to increase grocery sales during the holidays, Ray began a series of cooking classes, including a course promising to teach thirty "30-Minute Mediterranean Meals," which exploded in popularity.  The CBS station in Albany-Schenectady, WRGB-TV, discovered Ray and signed her on to do a weekly "30-Minute Meals" segment for the evening news. Nominated for two regional Emmys in its first year, the segment was a major success; a companion cookbook sold 10,000 copies locally during the holidays.  With that, a franchise was born!

Ray's television work grew to include a series of lifestyle and travel segments as well as a long-term relationship with the Food Network, hosting shows such as "Tasty Travels," "$40 A Day," "Inside Dish" and "30-Minute Meals," the latter of which earned Ray a 2006 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Service Show and a nomination for Outstanding Service Show Host.

In addition to her television endeavors, Rachael has turned her "30-Minute Meals" concept into a bestselling series of cookbooks, including "30-Minute Meals," "30-Minute Meals 2," "30-Minute Meals: Get Togethers," "Comfort Foods," "Veggie Meals," "The Open House Cookbook," "Cooking 'Round The Clock Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals," "Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids," "Rachael Ray Best Eats In Town On $40 A Day," "Rachael Ray 30-Minute Get Real Meals," "Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners" and the newly released "Express Lane Meals," which teaches readers how to whiz through the grocery store and prepare wholesome and delicious dinners with just 10 items or less.

Taking the can-do spirit of her television shows and books, Ray recently launched a new lifestyle magazine bearing her vision called Every Day With Rachael Ray.  With great food at its heart, the new full-size glossy magazine, for which Ray serves as Editor In Chief, covers much more than food.  The magazine offers smart and easy recipes for an array of delicious foods, as well as practical advice on food destinations and entertaining. Through the magazine, Ray takes readers around the country to meet people who love food-from top celebrities to authentic artisans to great home cooks.

"My life has been a total accident-a very happy, wonderful accident that I didn't and couldn't have planned," says Ray.  Despite her growing celebrity she is determined to stay grounded and hold on to her down-to-earth values.  She still spends as much time as she can at her cabin in the Adirondacks with her husband, John, her family-the "research team"- and her beloved pit bull IsaBoo.