Rachael Ray Biography

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Birth Name: Rachael Ray
Born: 08/25/1968
Birth Place: Glens Falls, New York, USA

Born Aug. 25, 1968 in Cape Cod, MA, Ray was raised in a world of food. Her family owned a restaurant where Ray learned tricks of the trade by watching her mother, Elsa Scuderi, work magic in the kitchen. One of Ray's earliest memories was burning herself at age three while imitating her mother cooking with a spatula. She and sister Maria and brother Emmanuel (Manny) performed every job in the restaurant - from busing tables to washing dishes. The family soon relocated to New York where her mom worked as food supervisor for a chain of upstate restaurants.

Eventually, Ray landed a job at NYC's Macy's Marketplace - first at the candy counter and then as manager of the fresh food department. After leaving Macy's, Ray helped open Agata & Valentina - a renowned gourmet food marketplace in the city. She eventually served as manager and buyer for the establishment, but yearned to move away from the hustle and bustle to the quieter Adirondacks. Once relocated upstate, she managed several pubs and restaurants at Sagamore Resort on Lake George. Cowan & Lobel, a large gourmet market in Albany, took notice and hired Ray to be their food buyer. As a way to pad the pocketbook during the holidays, Ray instructed cooking classes, calling them "30-Minute Meals." During these classes, the self-effacing cook taught in three hour blocks, featuring her own 30-minute recipes and using basic food ingredients - even cheating by using pre-packaged mixes and sauces as ways to cut financial corners.

It was her ability to connect with people one-on-one in this normally intimidating environment that first got her noticed on a grander scale. The classes became so popular that local Albany media covered her instructions and found her up-beat, down-to-earth personality a plus with viewers. A local TV news station featured "30-Minute Meals" on their evening news program to such great success, that not only did it win two regional Emmys and spawn a successful local cookbook, that even "The Today Show" took notice. Jane Pauley's request for Ray's turkey chili recipe was an early career highlight for the emerging chef in 2001.

It was only natural that The Food Network would come calling, offering the now-validated Ray her own show in 2001. The rest is culinary history. Ray's first offering - not unlike her cooking class that started it all - "30-Minute Meals" (2002- ) became such a success by viewers put off by the intricacies of cooking a la "Iron Chef," that more programs would soon follow. Ray next helmed "$40 a Day" (2002 - ) where she vacationed around the world, showing travelers how to eat well on a small budget in even the most expensive cities. This was followed by "Inside Dish" (2004- ) where she visited celebs to discuss their favorite foods. Her latest offering - "Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels" (2005 - ) further drove home her main point - you do not have to have tons of money to live a good, healthy life. This message was not lost by average viewers who tuned in en mass to watch her bubbly, ditzy personality (all food was "Delish!") and to latch on to "Racheal-isms" - her excitable abbreviations (EVOO: Extra Virgin Olive Oil or TWO TURNS OF THE PAN) while whipping up You-won't-be-Single-for-Long Vodka Crème Pasta or Devilish Chili Cheese Dogs.

Wanting to expand her influence, Ray, known for writing 600 recipes a year, authored numerous cookbooks in the last few years, including Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals: Cooking 'Round the Clock, The Open House Cookbook, Comfort Foods, Veggie Meals and Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats--A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners.

The Rachael Ray phenomenon continued when she posed for FHM's US version in October, 2003, licking chocolate off the spoon clad only in lingerie. The photo - and no doubt the inevitable connection between food and sex - helped land her on the magazine's "100 Sexiest Women of 2004" poll. When she promoted Wusthof's Santoku knife, sales skyrocketed enough that she decided to promote her own line of cutlery. Ray even appeared in a 2003 Burger King commercial, promoting a chicken sandwich because, well, she actually liked it. Gourmet chefs shuddered yet again, but Ray stayed true to herself and her audience. Love her or hate her, this ability to see the bigger picture had served her well in a brief period of time by anyone's standards.

With success of this kind, came the inevitable detractors. Professional chefs and elitist food critics cried foul each time Rachael reached for a box of Bisquick. Entire blogs, including "Rachael Ray Sucks" sprung up on the internet. Regardless of these critics, Ray knew her message was being driven home when strangers began stopping her on the street to offer their own quickie recipes and thanking her for understanding their situations as working moms and dads with little spare time. Because Ray's ingredients could all be bought at the average grocery store, everyone could try the recipes at home to great success. And they did.

Although often described as "the anti-Martha" (a plaque reading "Martha Stewart doesn't live here" hangs in her Adirondacks' home), Ray recently launched her first bi-monthly magazine called Every Day with Rachael Ray. And landing the dream of all who wish to move to the next level of fame and success in American pop culture, Ray inked a deal with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions for her first daily TV talk show.

By Jenna Girard