Food Network Locks up Rachael Ray Through 2010

Food Network signed a contract extension with one of its biggest stars, 30 Minute Meals host Rachael Ray.

"Rachael is the quintessential example of the homegrown stars we create at Food Network," president Brooke Johnson said in a statement announcing the deal. "She has been with us since 2001 and we have built a strong partnership that will continue for years to come and bring more new and exciting projects."

Under the new contract, Ray will host 60 episodes per year of 30 Minute Meals, down from 80 under the previous contract. However, the network will launch a new primetime travel series, Rachael’s Vacation, Jan. 12. The new program will follow Ray as she travels to exotic locales and provides travel and vacation tips. While the new show is reminiscent of Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels, it will focus (slightly) less on the food and more on the traveling experience.

Ray has gone on to have breakout success beyond Food, hosting a popular daytime talk show produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and forming lifestyle magazines and products.

The agreement comes at a time when Food has been trying to salvage weakening daytime ratings and has been making its primetime programming less focused on food and more focused on travel and lifestyle.

One of the network’s most popular primetime shows, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which follows host Guy Fieri as he travels the country checking out local restaurants, was recently picked up for an additional two seasons.