Rachael Ray and Emeril Lagasse

If you enjoy cooking or watching food shows, you’ve likely heard of chefs Rachael Ray and Emeril Lagasse. Ray’s been wowing audiences with her easy-to-prep meals on television and in her cookbooks for more than 20 years. Lagasse, known for his "New New Orleans" cooking style, has been cooking professionally since 1979. And like Ray, he’s shared his recipes and techniques on television and in print for decades.

Both also have their own line of cookware and food products, including Ray’s premium pet food and Lagasse’s gourmet products. And, of course, they share a passion for cooking. Plus, the two chefs were on Food Network at the same time. Seems like they’d be BFFs, right?

While their relationship started off amicably, it took an expected turn years later that left fans wondering what went wrong. So, what did happen between these two celebrity chefs, and what’s their friendship status now?

How Rachael Ray met Emeril Lagasse

Rachael Ray smiling and hugging Emeril Lagasse

Rachael Ray and Emeril Lagasse might have known of each other for years before their paths crossed, but they didn’t meet publicly until around 2001. By that time, Lagasse already had three Food Network shows under his belt, while Ray was just approaching the first rung of the network’s ladder. Part of her audition process to be on the network involved appearing on Lagasse’s "Emeril Live" show; it was on his set that they met publicly for the first time.

Unfortunately, the meeting wasn’t the best first impression. Racked with nerves, Ray ended up setting a fire in a pan after waiting too long to pour oil in it.

Luckily, the mishap didn’t damage Ray’s career like it did Lagasse’s kitchen; the network hired her, birthing the critically acclaimed "30 Minute Meals" program in 2001. The show later inspired her line of cookbooks centered on convenience cooking. (Although the program ended in 2012, it was rebooted in 2019.)

What went wrong?

Emeril Lagasse stirring a pot of sauce with serious expression

Food Network snatched Emeril Lagasse in 1993 as the host of "How to Boil Water" before launching his own show, "Essence of Emeril," from 1994 to 1996. A year later, the award-winning "Emeril Live" show began airing, but the network pulled the plug after a 10-year run, leaving Lagasse confused and in disbelief. "Why are they doing this?" he said at the time, according to Allen Salkin’s 2013 book "From Scratch: Inside The Food Network" (via NPR). "Budget? Ken’s not here? He didn’t even call me? How can this be real?"

While Lagasse’s TV career was on the decline, Rachael Ray’s seemed to be on the incline. Her "30-Minute Meals" show was still on the air. Ray, a celebrity chef who had no formal cooking experience prior to the start of the show, still had a show. But Lagasse? The man who enrolled in a culinary arts program in high school, graduated from culinary school, worked as an executive chef for years at Massachusetts resort, and opened up his own restaurant — all before appearing on television … got the axe.

The network’s decision led Lagasse to develop a not-so-favorable public opinion of Ray, as shared in "From Scratch" (via The Daily Beast). "[She] doesn’t know anything about food. I would not put her on [the network]," he said.

Lagasse vs. Ray food fight

Rachael Ray touching hair with serious expression

When there are two celebrities who are good at the same thing on the same TV network, it’s hard not to make comparisons. And when food is involved, it becomes even more difficult. In these chefs’ case, writers have examined their overall success to determine whether Rachael Ray or Emeril Lagasse is richer, and there are plenty of online forums comparing the two chefs’ cooking styles.

In fact, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel started a "Food Fight" forum in March 2009, prompting fans to vote for which chef they preferred among the two. Some voters favored Lagasse, calling him a "skilled chef," while others complimented Ray’s television presence, saying they’d rather watch her than Lagasse.

It’s unclear whether either chef ever caught wind of any of these online comparisons made about them. But from the start, fans seemed determine to compare the two, despite their drastically different approaches to cooking.

What other celebrities think of Ray and Lagasse

Martha Stewart and Bobby Flay smiling at an event

Other celebrities and food personalities have shared their thoughts on Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray, too. Some were positive; others, not so much. During an ABC News interview in 2009, Martha Stewart claimed that one of Ray’s cookbooks was a "re-edit of her old recipes … and that’s not good enough for me." Eek.

Then there’s Bobby Flay, who seems to have a more positive opinion of the "30 Minute Meals" star. He’s appeared on "The Rachael Ray Show" multiple times, including the memorable Season 10 premier in 2020, in which he surprised her as a "mystery taster."

Lagasse has also received a mixture of responses from celebrities over the years. After getting kicked out of Lagasse’s Delmonico’s restaurant in 2019, Tommy Lee (of Mötley Crüe fame) vented about the experience on Twitter. "Hey @Emeril I just was at your restaurant in New Orleans and was aggressively asked to leave because I was upset about removing my hat. I removed it and they still came up to the table and gave me a hard time. Wtf dude????"

But, like Ray, Lagasse has also received positive commentary from celebrities, including the late Anthony Bourdain. The "Kitchen Confidential" author wrote of Lagasse in his 2007 memoir (via Eater), "Emeril was actually a real chef once. I hear from mutual friends that he’s good in a bar fight — something that only raises him in my estimation."

What is Rachael Ray and Emeril Lagasse’s relationship like now?

Rachael Ray standing on stage with Emeril Lagasse, who's wearing a crown

As time went on, wounds healed, and the once-rocky relationship between Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray improved. (Or, it seemed that way on television, at least.) Just as Ray had once appeared on Lagasse’s show, Lagasse appeared on Ray’s show several times, too. It was actually during one of these episodes in 2017 that she reminisced about the moment she "set Emeril’s kitchen on fire."

Both of their careers took some unexpected turns, but despite the big Food Network hiccup, the celebrity chefs seem to be on good terms again and have spoken favorably about each other in public.

Plus, Ray will always have a special place in her heart for Lagasse because he called her mom on her 70th birthday to sing "Happy Birthday" to her, she shared with PopSugar in 2014. And as a co-host on her show, Lagasse told Ray he loved the guest appearance because of her love for cooking.