Rachael Ray has turned 50 and to celebrate, she has written "Rachael Ray 50." For those keeping count, that makes 27 books by Ray so far, while she also (you may have heard) hosts a daytime series that just entered its 14th season. Add to this the Food Network shows, her magazines, and her line of Nutrish pet foods, the proceeds of which go to her non-profits (Yum-Oh!; Rachael's Rescue).
You may begin to wonder: When does "Rach," as she demands I call her, find time to sleep? She promises she will, right after the two-hour event she will host Monday at Port Washington's Jeanne Rimsky Theater (moderated by Newsday food writer Erica Marcus).
I recently had a wide-ranging chat with Rach. Here's an edited version:
I imagine you and the North Shore Animal League — which will bring an adoption van to the Rimsky parking lot — go way back, correct?
I wanted the North Shore [at the event] not only because of the great stuff they do on Long Island but what they do nationwide. I don't think people understand it's one of the few groups out there buying up puppy mills...But we have a ton of groups [that Rachael's Rescues] give to [including] Goats of Anarchy, run by a woman who literally saves goats born with birth defects.
What will you tell the vegans and vegetarians in your audience Monday about meat consumption?
We're doing a segment [on the TV show] called 'Food for Thought' where we teach all different types of diets, and also why the world needs to eat less meat…You need to eat responsibly and know where your meat comes from…. When we were hunters and gatherers, we used everything -- every part of the animal. When you take something you have to give back and you should respect where it came from. I don't think that's a big creepy weird idea, but a sensible one.
You've written a memoir, but you are, relatively speaking, a kid. How can you have a whole memoir in you by now?
Don't call it a memoir! I don't make [readers] walk through every minute of my life. I already talk too much. I'm just trying to share stories, to look back on my life,and put a little scrapbook together for my self, telling me how this happened or that happened. I didn't plan any of what I've done. I've had great good fortune. I'm dumbstruck by it.
Some lives have themes, but you've had such a packed one since growing up in Glens Falls, it's hard to condense exactly what yours is. So, who are you, Rach, exactly?
I am Rachael. I am your neighbor, or I want to be your neighbor.
Good heavens, you almost sound like Fred Rogers.
He's one of the people I admire most in the universe. So funny you should bring him up. When I was a little girl, I loved watching Charlie Chan movies, or murder mysteries. When the voice of Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley came on the TV, I started crying. I was a super serious toddler. But when I got into my teens, I developed a weird obsession with children's programs, and watched 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' as a young adult because his message was so beautiful. What high school kid is obsessed with Mister Rogers? He was so cool, progressive, like David Bowie from another planet...He was all about being your best self and not feeling self-conscious about anything.
Who gave you your start in the TV biz? Oprah? (whose Harpo Productions is overseer of Ray's daytime show]?
My start actually came from Al Roker. Oprah gave me my start in daytime [syndication] and changed the course of my life forever. Oprah is mind, body and soul a rock star. But the reason I got the Food Network job was Al Roker [who needed an interview guest at 'Today'] after a storm had closed down New York, and I was upstate doing a Price Chopper presentation on my book 'Comfort Foods: 30 Minute Meals' when his producer called …
Your TV show just entered its 14th season, so cue here to the obligatory 'where did the time go'?
Hey buddy, the Food Network shows started 20 years ago! But 14 years is everything to me. Got married 14 years ago, too, and Isaboo is 14 years old.
Wow, Isaboo (Rach's rescue Pit, as her regular TV viewers know) is still alive?
She injured discs in her back, so I carry her everywhere, and she eats really well, obviously, but she's otherwise very much her old self.
By the way, what's new this season on "Rachael Ray?"
Every episode we're trying to develop themes so people know where we're going in the hour. We wanted to deliver one strong message in every show, a fun message.
Long Island Litfest Presents Rachael Ray
WHEN|WHERE Monday at 7:30 p.m., Jeanne Rimsky Theater at Landmark on Main Street, 232 Main St., Port Washington
TICKETS $40, includes a signed copy of her new book.