"I'm grossly unqualified for every job I ever had."
Rachael Ray

In today's pop culinary world, you cannot read one magazine, watch one show, or visit one website without mention--good or bad--of Rachael Ray. Loved by many, hated by the rest, Rachael Ray has cornered the Food Network market with her goofy smile, humble attitude, and user-friendly recipes.

Rachael Domenica Ray was born on August 25, 1968, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Food ran in her rather large family; both parents came from culinary lines and they managed a family restaurant together until their divorce in 1971. At age 13, Rachael moved with her mom to New York. Mom worked as a supervisor and, of course, was eventually able to get Rache a job waiting tables.

From an early age, Ms. Ray knew she wanted a career in food, though she perhaps went about it a strange way. Attempting everything but culinary school, Rachael worked as a waitress, a Macy's candy clerk, food counter manager, buyer, and restaurant manager. One holiday season, in an effort to boost grocery sales at the gourmet market where she was working, Rachael began offering cooking classes. Her classes were so successful they attracted the attention of the local media, earned her several awards, and caught the eye of the Food Network, who brought her celebrity to an international level by producing her classes in a show titled, "30 Minute Meals."

Critics tear Rachael Ray apart. She has no formal training, she rarely uses appropriate cooking cleanliness, her recipes, which she describes as "Frankenstein" are definitely more monster than masterpiece. She doesn't measure properly, she's obnoxious, and she constantly uses strange phrases like "yumm-o" and "stoup." She refers to extra virgin olive oil as "EVOO" to save time, but then always explains the acronym anyway. She burns bread on camera on a regular basis. She posed nearly nude for FHM and, for God's sake, many of her so-called "30 Minute Meals" actually take much longer to prepare in a standard kitchen setting!

Her fans, however, are willing to forgive Rachael's idiosyncrasies. She doesn't use the kitchen as a scene for a dramatic interpretation, like Mario Batali or Giada De Laurentiis. There's no Martha Stewart snobbery--just a chick who loves to eat having fun in a kitchen. They often identify more closely to Rache than to other Food Network celebrity chefs and therein lies her success. She makes cooking seem "easy-peasy," to borrow her phrase, using only ingredients available at local supermarkets and preparing dishes with names any 10 year old could understand.

Since beginning 30 Minute Meals, Rachael has received expanded coverage on the Food Network with her shows $40 a Day (in which she visits cities, eats locally, and proves one can manage on a $40 meal budget as if that were difficult), Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels, and Inside Dish with Rachael Ray. She has authored at least 16 cookbooks to date, has her own bi-monthly magazine called Every Day with Rachael Ray, and has since caught the eye of Time Magazine, who named her one of the 100 "People Who Shape Our World." Most recently, Rachael has won the coveted attention of media powerhouse Oprah Winfrey. Largely due to Oprah's endorsement, Ray has landed a spiffy new talkshow (airing fall 2006) to be distributed by King World Productions. The show, she promises, is less about cooking and more about simple living and having fun. Rachael Ray has become to cooking what Dr. Phil is to psychotherapy: not exactly the real thing, but entertaining enough to catch on.

So my boyfriend's favorite joke is: "You know how Rachael Ray ended up on TV? They were tracking her on the Discovery Channel and then they sold her to the Food Network."

Some information from foodnetwork.com, rachaelray.com, rachaelrayshow.com, askmen.com, and Time.com.

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