Being Rachael Ray

I admit it, I have a huge crush on Rachael Ray, and I’m sometimes found secretly sighing over her on The Food Network.

As I’m a totaly sucker for the small-time-girl-makes-it-big story (for obvious reasons), I was delighted to find this:

Most of the thousands of recipes Ms. Ray has “canoodled” over the years were written in her cabin. She rented it 13 years ago and has lived there off and on with her mother and, sometimes, her younger brother, since. Some months she could barely put together enough money to cover the $550 rent.

“It was check-to-check living,” Ms. Ray said.

She had grown up around Lake George, but the cycle of small-town life and low-paying jobs was wearing thin. In 1995, Ms. Ray headed to New York City. She worked first at the Macy’s Marketplace candy counter and moved up the ranks quickly, learning about everything from buying cheese to how to shop for Liza Minnelli’s holiday food gifts. When Macy’s tried to promote her to a buyer in accessories, she moved to Agata & Valentina, the specialty foods store.

She stayed in the city for only two years. After a bad break-up, a broken ankle and a violent mugging in front of her Queens apartment that left her scraped and shaken, she headed home.

Ms. Ray moved back into the cabin and eventually landed a job at the fanciest food and equipment store in Albany. She was a buyer and a cook, preparing hundreds of pounds of food every day. As a holiday promotion, she developed a class to help people get dinner on the table in half an hour.

It caught on, so Ms. Ray started teaching the concept at a chain of local grocery stores and on a Schenectady television station. Anywhere they would let her, really. By 1998, she figured she could sell a companion cookbook, so she talked an independent Manhattan publisher into turning her pile of photocopied recipes into a book.

Then her moment arrived.

In 2001 a Food Network executive heard Ms. Ray cook on an upstate public radio show. The same week, a “Today” show producer saw her book and called.

Ms. Ray and her mom drove nine hours south in a snowstorm, and she nailed the “Today” show appearance. The next day, she said, the Food Network signed her to a $360,000 contract to teach America what she had been teaching the folks upstate.

My favorite part:

A favorite slam is that her meals take more than 30 minutes, which, especially for people with little kitchen acumen, they often do. They say she is untrained and relies on too many shortcuts, like shredded cheese and frozen French fries.

To which Ms. Ray says, they’re right.

“I have no formal anything,” she said. “I’m completely unqualified for any job I’ve ever had.”

ha ha. Translation: Fuck you.

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