Rachael Ray is a celebrity — and not just to foodies. The television personality may be best known for her cooking prowess, but the host of Rachael Ray is so much more than that. Her relatable, down-to-earth, girl-next-door personality is just part of what makes Ray so iconic. While some celebs became famous seemingly through sheer luck, Ray’s ascent to the top seemed almost inevitable when you look at how hard she worked to achieve her dreams.
Rachael Ray has been a mainstay on television since the 2000s, and she’s changed a lot since then. But Ray’s story doesn’t start with her first television appearance. Her career spans decades, and it all started in her mother’s kitchen. Born on Aug. 25, 1968 (per Biography), Ray has been passionate about food practically since birth. From her early days growing up in the family business to her present-day success, here’s a look at the stunning way that Rachael Ray has transformed over the decades.
Rachael Ray "literally grew up in restaurants"
Cooking is in Rachael Ray’s blood. Her family was in the restaurant business, and Ray grew up in her mom‘s restaurant, The Carvery. "Literally my first memory in life was my mom on the phone fighting with a meat purveyor," she told the Boston Globe. "And I was on her hip, as I always was. I was maybe 3. She’s talking on the wall phone. She gets us all tangled up, because she’s walking in circles pacing. … And that’s literally my first memory in life."
Ray said that she was "branded" with this memory, and it’s evident that being raised in the industry had a lifelong impact. "I literally grew up in restaurants, and kitchens, and walk-ins, and that’s just the environment I felt most comfortable in: unloading trucks and stuff, and cleaning shrimp, and cleaning out the walk-in, and just being around hard work and food," she told Forbes. "It felt very normal to me."
Rachael Ray was bullied as a child
Fans all over the globe adore the upbeat Rachael Ray, but the TV personality is no stranger to criticism. Having some haters is inevitable when you have reached the level of fame and success that Ray has, but she had an even earlier experience with being disliked. Ray told Good Morning America about being bullied in school for her "stinky" lunch of sardines and onions on bread with olive oil. While it was a difficult time for her, Ray revealed that her grandfather gave her some excellent advice that stuck with her for the rest of her life.
"He made me count my fingers and he made me count my toes and he knocked on my skull and his point was if you have 10 fingers, 10 toes and you still have a brain in your head, you have absolutely no reason to be crying," she said.
Rachael Ray started her first business while she was still a student
While Rachael Ray wasn’t quite an entrepreneur from birth, she did get a pretty early start in business. According to Good Housekeeping, Ray’s first business was a gift basket service she started in high school called Delicious Liaisons. From there, Ray’s life took an interesting turn. After graduating from high school, Ray didn’t study business or culinary arts as might be expected, but attended Pace University for two years, studying literature and communications.
After dropping out of college, Ray ended up moving to New York City where she finally began to pursue her love of working in food. In the city, Ray worked as a candy counter manager at Macy’s. When she was promoted to a management position in fashion accessories, Ray decided she loved working with food too much and turned down the job. Instead, Rachael Ray got a job in a gourmet store.
Leaving New York City turned out to be a smart career move for Rachael Ray
While many people move to the Big Apple in search of their big break, moving to New York City was actually the wrong move for Rachael Ray. In fact, she personally believes that if she hadn’t left the city, she would have never become as successful as she is. Ray left the city after a couple of years, citing a bad breakup, a broken ankle, and two muggings as being the reason she left. "People have a lot worse things happen to them in life," she told Vanity Fair (via the biography Rachael Ray). "But I felt like the whole universe was telling me, ‘You’re not supposed to be here right now.’"
Ray ended up moving back to upstate New York. "Had I not moved back upstate to the Adirondacks, I never would have been on Food Network, or had a TV show, or any of that stuff," Rachael Ray told the Boston Globe. "I learned you have to work harder than anybody else and be grateful for it, and you have to understand that sometimes the universe is showing you something, even when something terrible happens."
Rachael Ray’s mom was a huge influence on her career
Rachael Ray comes by her business acumen honestly, and she credits her entrepreneurial mother with influencing her career. The cook told Forbes that she learned a lot from her, including to "take your work very seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously." Ray also noted, "Work harder than everyone else and never complain about it. Don’t go to bed if you’re not proud of the product of your day; stay awake until you are."
Ray also said that her grandfather was a huge influence on her and helped her develop her work ethic. "My mom, and my grandfather, believe that you shouldn’t go to bed if you’re not physically or mentally tired each day, or you wasted your day," she said. "My grandfather taught me that there’s really only one choice in life. Life will be up; life will be down, but when it comes to you, you can laugh at it or you can cry at it, and laughing feels better than crying. Don’t feel sorry for yourself."
Rachael Ray’s cookbooks were the beginning of her success
Even though we tend to think of her as a television chef, Rachael Ray wasn’t originally on TV. Instead, the TV personality broke into the industry through her cookbooks. After leaving New York, the cook began teaching cooking classes. It was there that she came up with the idea for her first cookbook: a collection of 30-minute meals based on the classes she was teaching. According to The Washington Post, Ray convinced Hiroko Kiifner at Lake Isle Press to publish that first cookbook, which was released in 1998, and the rest is history.
From that first cookbook came television appearances. By 2001, Rachael Ray had sold 10,000 copies of her cookbooks and had her own TV segment in Albany, N.Y. (per Westwind Communications). From there, she landed a cooking demo on Northeast Public Radio’s "Vox Pop" where she was scouted by not just Food Network but also the Today show.
Rachael Ray once traveled through a snowstorm to be on the Today show
In March 2001, Today desperately needed someone on the show. Guests had canceled because of a snowstorm, but Rachael Ray was undaunted, as Good Housekeeping reported. Ray drove nine hours through a snowstorm in a journey that would have normally taken four hours, and her hard work paid off. That segment on the Today show marked a turning point in Rachael Ray’s career. A Food Network contract followed, as did more cookbooks and a talk show. Today, Rachael Ray is a household name, and it’s all due to her incredible work ethic and the fact that she follows her instincts.
"She started out doing demos in stores, then landed one show, which turned into two, and then it just blew up," fellow food personality Guy Fieri told Good Housekeeping. "Once you meet her, you understand just what a powerhouse she is. This isn’t a coincidental opportunity. She was destined for this."
Rachael Ray prioritizes her career
Rachael Ray has been happily married to John Cusimano since 2005, but she hasn’t allowed her personal life to get in the way of her career. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t love Cusimano, though, and she is honest with her husband about how she approaches their relationship. "I can’t give a man an enormous amount of attention," she told People in 2007. "And John is totally down with that. When men I have dated over the years whined about, ‘Oh, you make no time for me’ — see ya! I just dumped them. I don’t need that pressure in my life."
Ray met Cusimano in 2001, and said that she was surprised to find someone so compatible with her. "He came at a point in my life when I had decided, I’m not going to chase [marriage]," she said. "I don’t think young men or women should feel pressured into marriage. You shouldn’t marry anyone, in my opinion, who you have to try hard for."
Rachael Ray considers herself a cook, not a chef
Even though Rachael Ray has built up quite the reputation for herself, she doesn’t consider herself a chef. Many people might disagree with her, but Ray has a very specific reason for not wanting to call herself a chef. And it’s one that makes a lot of sense. "Because people that are chefs go through a process to become one, and I did not," she explained to the Boston Globe. "I think that you should drive in your lane, and I like the word ‘cook.’"
Even the word "cook" doesn’t sit quite right with the humble Rachael Ray, though. "I think of myself even more as a waitress than a cook"," she said. I want to serve people; that makes me happy. I want people to feel good about themselves, to be more adventurous, to try new things, new flavors, to talk to each other more."
Rachael Ray decided not to have kids for this reason
Rachael Ray’s commitment to her work is a reason that she and her husband, John Cusimano, chose not to have children. Even though she has been able to make room in her life for a partner, Ray doesn’t feel like she is able to dedicate time to having a child. "I don’t have time," Ray told People in 2007. "I work too much to be an appropriate parent. I feel like a bad mom to my dog some days because I’m just not here enough. I just feel like I would do a bad job if I actually took the time to literally give birth to a kid right now and try and juggle everything I’m doing."
Years later, it looks like Ray has not changed her stance on having children. She did, however, have a dog, a pit bull named Isaboo, who sadly died in 2020. She’s since adopted another dog, Bella Boo Blue (via People).
Rachael Ray still doesn’t know her net worth
It’s safe to say that Rachael Ray is rich, but just how rich is the celebrity? Her decades-long career has amassed her a huge following and a huge bank account, but even Ray herself doesn’t know just how huge her net worth is. According to The New York Times, there are reports that Ray’s fortune surpasses $60 million, but Ray was unable to confirm that number in a 2018 interview. "I have no idea if there’s $4 in my pocket or $400," she said. "I never ask about it. That’s why I have bankers."
Rachael Ray doesn’t just not know how much money she has, but she also doesn’t care. To Ray, money is just a byproduct of doing what she loves to do. "I don’t want to know anything at all about what I’ve got or what I don’t," she said. "It’s never motivated me. It never will."
Rachael Ray doesn’t spend much time on social media
While Rachael Ray has active Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, she isn’t the most prolific poster. Unlike other celebs who carefully cultivate their social media images, Ray doesn’t spend very much time on social media, preferring to spend her time in the physical world. "I don’t take in negative information online," she told The New York Times. "I just don’t feel it’s a constructive use of my time, and I have too much work to do."
Perhaps even more surprising than Rachael Ray’s relative quietness on social media is that she doesn’t have as many followers as you’d think for such a famous celebrity. On Instagram, for example, Ray’s follower account is just 1 million, although she has more than 4.4 million on Twitter. Her lack of followers may be, however, simply due to the fact that Ray doesn’t prioritize social media.
Rachael Ray still cooks dinner every night at home
Even though she’s a world famous celebrity, Rachael Ray is still Rachel Ray, and some things never change. Even though she could certainly hire someone to cook for her, she still chooses to cook dinner every night at home. It seems that she and husband John Cusimano can be homebodies, at least when it comes to eating. "I cook whatever my husband and I are in the mood to eat, but I prefer to be at home than anyplace else, and it depends on how much time we have," she told Forbes. "If I’m coming home at 8:30 or so, we’re probably having pasta of some sort. But we do prefer to eat in than takeout."
That being said, Rachael Ray and her husband do enjoy the occasional takeout pizza, even though she cooks "whatever [they’re] in the mood to eat" most nights.
Rachael Ray is still a small town girl
Rachael Ray isn’t your ordinary celebrity. At heart, she’s still a small town girl, and she refuses to buy into the celebrity lifestyle. As the granddaughter of an immigrant, Ray is still in awe of her own success. "It really is remarkable that in this country, in just two generations, you can go from walking off a boat to being on television and having a successful brand," she told Forbes. "It’s amazing. It really is."
Ray still refuses to live in the city, in spite of her success. She still lives in the Adirondacks and is content there. "I love New York, and I love that I get to have a taste of that world as well; the city life; but I am from a small town, and this is where I grew up," she said. "I’m comfortable here, because this is where I come from."
Rachael Ray branched out from food
Cooking and television hosting are far from Rachael Ray’s only talents. In 2019, Ray branched out from the food industry and launched a handbag line during her SXSW Feedback event in Austin, Texas. The line includes a variety of bags as well as belts, all of which are made of Italian leather and affordably priced. "I think a bag should be functional, look really cool, and not be too precious," Ray said in a post about the line on her website. "You should be able to take it anywhere and it should last for years."
The line is called Convalore, which means "with valor." Ray explained the name of the line, saying, "To me, that means living with gusto."
The brand was launched on a new e-commerce site, We Are Moxie Made. Ray said she created the site as "a place that celebrates the work of women [and] empowers female artists."