March is Women’s History Month, and each week we will be highlighting an Italian or Italian American woman for #ItalianoftheWeek. This week, we’re focusing on the extremely popular Italian American celebrity chef: Rachael Ray.
Rachael Domenica Ray was born on August 25, 1968 in New York to Elsa Scuderi and James Ray. She was born into a family that treasured cooking and the kitchen. Her grandfather would grow and cook for the entire family. Her parents worked in and owned restaurants. According to Rachael, her oldest memory comes from when she was 3 or 4: “[I was] watching my mom in a restaurant kitchen. She was flipping something with a spatula. I tried to copy her and ended up grilling my right thumb!” Her first word was “vino.”
After a stint in New York City in her late twenties, Rachael decided to relocate to Albany, NY where she began to work at a gourmet food store. After seeing that prepared foods sold better than basic groceries, Rachael decided to teach cooking classes called 30-minute meals. They were a huge success, and her local television station gave her her own series. This led to a book deal and guest spots on national TV (including the Today Show). In 2001, the Food Network approached Rachael and offered her several shows to host including 30-Minute Meals, Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels, and $40 a Day.
Once her franchise took off, Rachael decided to go into the magazine business: Every Day with Rachael Ray hit the shelves in October 2005. A year later in September, the daytime TV talk show Rachael Ray premiered to critical acclaim. Her shows have been nominated for 11 Daytime Emmy Awards, and have won 3 times. She has also published numerous books, created kitchen gadgets and products, developed a line of pet products, and has started a nonprofit organization.
Even with her busy schedule, Rachael tries to stay grounded by spending time at her home in the Adirondacks with her husband, John Cusimano, and their four-legged family member, Isaboo.