Rachael Domenica Scuderi-Ray was born in Glens Falls, New York in 1968, and today she’s one of the most famous culinary personalities in America, hosting her own daytime talk show as well as several programs on Food Network. She’s also won three Daytime Emmy Awards, the People’s Choice Award for Favorite TV Chef, and in 2006 was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in America. But while Ray seems to be everywhere you look these days, we bet that there are still a few things you likely don’t know about her.
She’s Published 22 Books
Ray has written 22 cookbooks since 1999, from her first, 30 Minute Meals, to her most recent, 2012’s My Year in Meals.
She was Savagely Attacked in Her 20s
After moving to New York in her early 20s, she lived in Queens and worked at a specialty store on the Upper East Side called Agata & Valentina. According to Allen Salkin’s From Scratch, one night when she was 27 she fended off a mugger with pepper spray, but he returned a couple weeks later, dragged her to a dark corner, and began beating her with a gun. He ran off when a local dog approached, but Ray was so badly shaken that she left New York and didn’t move back for several years.
“30 Minute Meals” Started as a Class
While working at Cowan & Lobel, a gourmet shop in Albany, she noticed that some items weren’t selling. She suggested bringing in chefs to teach a class on how to cook a meal in only, as the store promised, “30 minutes or less” (a spin on Domino’s promise to deliver in 30 minutes or less). When hiring chefs became cost-prohibitive, Ray took over the classes herself.
A Radio Interview Changed Her Life
Ray did a local promotional tour after publishing her first book in 1999, and cooking show coach Lou Ekus (who trained the likes of Bobby Flay and Ming Tsai), just happened to catch an interview she did with a local radio station while driving to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. He liked what he heard, so he called Food Network head honcho Bob Tuschmann and arranged a meeting.
She Almost Burned Down Emeril’s Set
She filmed the pilot for 30 Minute Meals on the Emeril Live set, and wasn’t expecting a pan on the stove to be pre-heating. Since it was heating up during her intro, when she added some oil to it, it immediately combusted and flames shot up, almost burning her eyebrows.
She Can’t Make Coffee
“I have no formal anything. I’m completely unqualified for any job I’ve ever had,” Ray told The New York Times, later adding that she can’t make coffee and always burns toast when she tries to make it in the broiler.
She Started Her First Business in High School
Called “Delicious Liaisons,” it was a gift basket service that she ran (and wrote the catalog for) single-handedly.
The Garbage Bowl Wasn’t Her Idea
The “garbage bowl” has become one of Ray’s standby tools, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was her invention. In fact, the first person to use one on television was Cooking Live host Sara Moulton, who passed along the idea to Ray.
Her First Crush was Tom Jones
Ray had a thing for the Welsh singer when she was younger, according to FN Dish. It was apparently a dream come true when she got to meet (and feed) him on The Rachael Ray Show.
She Pretended to Work at a Dry Cleaner on Television
For a 2010 episode of the CBS show I Get That a Lot, Ray posed as an employee at a dry cleaner in order to confuse customers, Candid Camera-style. It doesn’t appear as if she fooled many people.