Rachael Ray is cute as a button. The perky brunette who started out working in a Macy’s candy stand has emerged as popular culture’s Next Big Thing. Her image is everywhere: from sets of knives to cookbooks to cookware to a new magazine to Nabisco crackers to dinner selections aboard the Space shuttle Discovery.
Rachael first became known to the world through her 30 minute meal TV programs. Appealing to busy moms and dads, she taught viewers how to throw together a family dinner in 30 minutes (although a lot of the prep work for her meals is done before taping begins and stages of the meals are completed during commercial breaks.)
The extroverted star doesn’t measure when she cooks, takes advantage of pre-made mixes in some of her recipes, uses no-no's like salt and butter and oodles of her favorite -- EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). (The term EVOO has landed a spot in the Oxford American College Dictionary. Even the scholars are getting in on the Rachael Ray action.)
But in the American tradition of creating celebrities, Rachael has broadened her horizons and is now hosting her very own network talk show. (Rachael is also the host of four other shows on the Food Network -- 30 Minute Meals, $40 a Day, Inside Dish and Tasty Travels -- but the Rachael Ray talk show is her first experience with a longer, more varied format.)
The 38-year-old gourmand who grew up around lots of great cooks appears to have the energy of many. She needs it just to keep an eye on her growing empire.
It does raise the question of why the gurus on Madison Avenue -- or whoever determines the anointed ones in American celebrity -- do this? Why do they take someone who is obviously good at something and turn them into an expert on all things? To make more money, maybe? That would be my guess. Just think about all the people who earn money off Rachael Ray and her various income streams.
Rachael attempts to talk with the guests on her show about psychological issues, parenting questions (she has no children, only a dog) and other non-cooking subjects, segments of the show where she seems uncomfortable in front of the cameras. But put her behind a stove top island with lots of pots and pans and fresh food, and she is in her element, evidence that maybe she should focus on what she does best -- sharing her love of cooking. With Oprah’s production company, Harpo, behind the new talk show, however, that ship has sailed.
There are several nasty blogs on the Net blasting Rachael for her weight, her recipes, her speech and everything and anything she could possibly be criticized for. That seems a little unfair, but I guess it goes with the territory these days. Want to be famous? Want to be a household name? In our society, celebrity doesn’t come easy. There are some dues, unfortunately, that have to be paid.
By Teresa K. Flatley