Rachael Ray in the Weekly Standard?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Now, this doesn't happen every day. Rachael Ray was featured in The Weekly Standard. It's a conservative magazine edited by Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes. It's certainly not the type of magazine I'm used to seeing Rachael in. Us Weekly and People are much more standard appearances.

The article, by Victorino Matus, is all about the celebrity chef phenomenon. He focuses on how if you watch any food television, "chances are, at this very moment, the show you will find devoted to food is on the Food Network, a channel now available in more than 90 million homes. And the person you are most likely to see on this network is a woman named Rachael Domenica Ray."

Matus points out Rachael's five shows (two of which are not in production anymore), her over 10 cookbooks (13 to be exact), magazine, knife set, and job promoting Dunkin' Donuts. Here's how Matus sums up the public perception of Rachael Ray:


Some see Rachael Ray as the greatest TV cook since Julia Child. Others view her as the embodiment of all that is wrong with our food culture today and, as another celebrity chef put it, "closer to Paris Hilton than to Julia Child as someone who is famous for just being there." Either way, Rachael Ray is one of the most successful, powerful, and influential food celebrities in the country today--quite an accomplishment for someone who insists she is not a chef.

A bit of an overstatement, don't you think? I am (obviously) a RR fan, but would I compare her to Julia Child? Um no. And I don't think Rachael would encourage such a comparison either.

The article goes on to discuss the beginnings of the Food Network and its first star, Emeril Lagasse. To research his column, Matus went on a tour of the Network's Chelsea Market offices and learned that there are two talent waiting rooms, "one for Rachael Ray and Emeril (he normally likes a fruit plate) and another for everyone else."

Of course, Matus had to talk to at least one Rachael Ray critic. This time it's Anthony Bourdain, who says: "My criticism is not so much that her food suffers by comparison to restaurant food," he told me. "It's that she cheats. She tells people you don't even have to dice an onion. A prechopped onion bought in a supermarket first of all tastes terrible. It's a completely different flavor. To ignore that is to lie. It's also more expensive. So to claim you are helping working families by suggesting such a thing is shameful."

Tony, I hate to tell you this, but in all the RR recipes I've ever read or used during the past four years, she's never recommended using a prechopped onion. Maybe she has said it on TV (although I've never heard her say it), but it's certainly not one of her regular tips. She's actually picked on pretty often for how she "hacks" onions. So, time to come up with a new criticism, since this one is tired and incorrect.

As for Rachael's ratings, Matus informs us that she currently draws 750,000 viewers on weekdays and more than a million when her shows are re-aired on the weekend. The remainder of the article is a veritable treasure trove of information about celebrity chefs and chefs who are not celebrities. Matus is apparently writing a book on the topic. If this article is any indication, the book will be a good one.

6 comments:

Jeff said...

I'm still skeptical of Anthony Bourdain's opinion of anything, especially the "Empress of EVOO." (I maintain the absinthe got to him on that trip to France for his show "No Reservations.")
Sort of like how those nannies refuted Rita Cosby's attributions to them in her book about Anna Nicole. My favorite comfort meal is still RR's Lamb Chops in Balsamic Reduction Sauce.

Madeline said...

That's a perfect example, Jeff! I'm making dinner for a friend's bday party and I'm making Roasted Garlic Rosemary Chicken. What's so wrong with that?

Anonymous said...

Bourdain, his show and books (Which do not draw in the ratings and sales figures that Rachael does) are just not for everyone. In fact, hearing his name alone makes me squeamish. >:0 By the way ... Rachael may not chop her onions perfectly ... but I follow her method and have done better, thanks to her. ;-) My dishes have tasted better since, too. So take that, Tony!

Madeline said...

Anony - I have to admit that I love Bourdain's sense of humor. And Kitchen Confidential is a great read. I could do with the unfounded RR bashing though.

Anonymous said...

Bourdain is running out of things to criticize that he has to start making things up. How pathetic.

I use to watch his show when it was about him traveling to exotic places and eating exotic food, but then it turned into Jackass meets Fear Factor crap, him trying to prove his manhood every week and I turned it off.

He's become boring just like his rants about Food Network. Funny he seems to loathe FN, but then one night guess who I saw while viewing an episode of "Glutton for Punishment" (maybe FN's stupidest show, IMO), Mr. I-Hate-Food-Network himself making an appearance.

Next we'll see him dining with that moron on "Have Fork Will Travel". Bourdain has become an attention seeker.

Madeline said...

Hey, a guy's gotta make a living, right? Despite his flaws, I still like the guy. He just cracks me up.

Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving a comment! Reading comments and responding to them is one of my favorite parts of having a blog, so thanks for contributing.