Rachael Revisits Her Past with TV Guide

TV Guide features Rachael Ray in its new double issue on newsstands now. In the magazine, Rachael provides 16 secrets for holiday entertaining and is interviewed by TV Guide's Jeff Pearlman. With all its talk of Rachael's history and how those events affected Rachael, the interview reminds me of a visit with the ghost of Christmas past - but don't worry, Rachael isn't a Scrooge.

Pearlman first discusses the contributors to Rachael's empire: her mom, Elsa Scuderi, her grandfather, Emmanuel Scuderi, both of whom taught her how to cook and inspire her. There's also Al Roker,"who showcased Ray on the Today show when she was little more than a small-town nobody with a trunkful o' cookbooks." And don't forget Rachael's "friends and fans, mentors and publicists, financial backers and eager assistants."

Who Rachael Ray is today was formed, at least in part, by a teenager who flashed a pistol while trying to mug her. The incident took place at her Woodside, Queens, apartment when she was 23. She provided some details on the attack:

"I’m such a moron, I'm thinking they live in the building and want to come in," Ray says. "I'm standing there apologizing to them for taking so long." Without warning, one of the boys flashed a pistol. In similar circumstances, most people hand over their wallets. Or beg for life. Or cry. Or . . . something. Not Rachael Ray. She grabbed her Mace, spun around and sprayed one of the assailants. They both sprinted off. "It was a very, very scary moment," Ray says. "And I probably should have left the city right then and there."

Then, surprisingly, the teenager came back a week later and attacked her again:

As Ray again began to enter her complex, he emerged from nowhere, jabbed the weapon into her gut and ordered her to walk toward a passageway that ran beneath the building. "That's when he started pistol-whipping me," Ray recalls. "I think he was embarrassed from the last time and he wanted to get even." Bloodied and battered, Ray gazed up to see the boy pointing the gun at her head. "That was it," she says. "I was pretty sure I was dead." Instead, a dog began barking from the laundry room, and the attacker ran off.

Pearlman reveals that Rachael doesn't feel sorry for herself about these attacks. Instead, she considers them a major turning point in her life. If she hadn't been mugged, she probably would still be working as a buyer and manager at gourmet store Agata & Valentina.

Next in Rachael's life came some gigs that helped her learn the skills that now make her famous. She managed Mister Brown’s Pub at the Sagamore Resort on Lake George, and she was a food buyer and chef for Albany, New York's gourmet market, Cowan & Lobel.

It's at Cowan & Lobel that her life changed: "I started asking my customers why they didn't buy the great stuff I was bringing in," she says. "Their universal response was, 'We don't cook, we don't know how to cook, and we don’t have time to cook.' That's when I realized there was more than one way to skin a cat." And so begins the Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meals empire.

She began offering a series of classes that promised to teach 30-minute Mediterranean meals. In Albany, where a trip to the mall passes for excitement, the tutorials were a hit. Soon, a local TV station, WRGB, asked Ray to do a weekly segment, "30 Minute Meals," for the evening news. The show was nominated for two regional Emmys in its first year, and her companion cookbook sold 10,000 copies locally during the holidays.

Ray still remembers the day in November 2001 when her mother called, breathless on the other end of the phone. "The Today show left a message!" Elsa said. "They want you to come and cook soup with Al Roker!" Ray didn't believe it. Couldn't believe it. Yet within a few days there she was, back in the Big Apple making six types of soup before millions of viewers and uttering the word "groovy" on air, oh, 500 times. "I carried my pots and pans in apple crates," Ray recalls. "Of all the soups I made, Al decided to taste the chicken soup, which wasn't fully cooked. I was thinking, 'Great, I'm about to kill Al Roker on national TV.'"

And the rest is history. The Food Network saw her appearance and came to Rachael about starting her own show. In 2001, 30 Minute Meals debuted on the network and EVOO was on its way to becoming firmly implanted in the American vocabulary.

And, finally, someone in the mainstream media gets it:

Ray’s laid-back approach and culinary colloquialisms ("Yum-O," "Sammies," etc.) might drive some established chefs to gag on their slotted spoons, but she speaks clearly to the person in Franklin, Tennessee, and Tempe, Arizona, and Mahopac, New York — the at-home steak-and-egg hack who is simply trying to make an edible dish for the family.

Amen to that.

Check out some video of the photo shoot for the magazine here (on the right-hand side). It includes clips of Rachael, her husband John and their dog Isaboo during the shoot. Thanks go to Rob for pointing out the video to me!

4 comments:

  1. Isn't her dogs name BOO?? I love that dog. She should really do a show on Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) that affects Pit Bulls and the misconceptions that go along with it. It's such a travesty that people look at pit bulls with such disdain. I think she could be a pit bull advocate, considering her dog is one.

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  2. Sadly, Boo died a couple years ago. She did a whole episode of 30 Minute Meals where she made Boo's favorite recipes. Her new dog is named Isaboo.

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  3. Ohhhh...that's right. Poor Boo. She had Boo for many years, right?? And the name Isaboo is adorable! :)

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  4. Yeah, I think she had Boo for a loooong time. Definitely back in her single days.

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