Spending the 2,000th Day With Rachael Ray

On Thursday, Oct. 26, CBS Television Distribution’s Rachael Ray will celebrate its milestone 2,000th episode with guest stars such as Oprah Winfrey, who originally launched Ray into syndication, as well as Tony Bennett, Emeril Lagasse and Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro, said executive producer Janet Annino.

Since Rachael Ray launched in 2006, Ray herself has gone on to do many other things, including design a multifunctional furniture line, create healthy pet food with her Nutrish label, publish the magazine Rachael Ray Every Day, and launch charities such as Yum-O and Rachael’s Rescue via her Rachael Ray Foundation.

In between doing all that and shooting the show, Ray caught up with B&C contributing editor Paige Albiniak to talk about this TV landmark. An edited transcript follows.

When you first realized you were going to host a talk show did you think, ‘OK, I’m going to be doing this for 11 years and 2,000 episodes?’

No, I have never looked at my life in that regard. I try to value every job I have and I also try to be open-minded as to what my options are as I move forward in life. If I can close my eyes and imagine trying something, I do. I think if you are not afraid of where you come from or what you did in your past you can be fearless in what you try going forward.

When this show started, you were known as a person who cooks on TV. The show has expanded far past that.

People initially perceived me only as a person that was in the kitchen and they thought this would be a largely food content-driven show. But our intent from day one remains the same as it is today: We want people to see celebrities in a completely different light. We want viewers to have a chance to get to know them as human beings.

Another thing that’s been important since day one is that we want people to see themselves on our show. We want everybody to believe that they can be a Rachael Ray, that they are as important as the host or any other guest on the show. That’s the definition of who we wanted to be day one and it remains our mission today.

Do you feel like your own accessibility and relatability is what has helped you be so successful?

I don’t think about me in the equation of what my jobs are, I think about my customer. I grew up in the service industry and that’s the way I approach life. Whether I’m drawing a piece of furniture or a dish or I’m cooking for an audience or I’m interviewing someone, I’m trying to service my customer. I don’t think about what makes me successful or not successful. I think about the job itself.

How do you feel the show helps integrate and amplify your different lines and brands?

I try not to use the show very much when it comes to tootin’ my horn or showing off. My show isn’t supposed to be a commercial, it’s supposed make people feel good about themselves, not to get them to buy more of my stuff. I am very careful with that. When I am cooking in my kitchen here, I don’t sit here and toot my own horn. I don’t want people to feel that our show comes with a price tag, ever.

What would you say right now is your biggest passion and is it something you are working into the show?

We are passionate about every element of it. That goes back to having to keep the promise to the people, are they feeling good about what they are seeing, do they feel included? I just try to get up every day and approach each thing with respect. Am I giving this my attention? Am I giving this my respect? And it takes itself from there. Whatever needs me more at this time — furniture, animal food, television shows, magazine, my family — I try to give my respect and attention to that thing. That’s the way I work and the way I live. I like getting to the end of the day and being proud of where I am. I don’t wake up and think ‘Let’s plot out the next six months or next 10 years.’ I’m not into that.

You just said you don’t like to plan too far ahead, but do you expect to keep doing this?

For season 13, I may have to lie for the whole season and call it something else because 13 freaks me out. I’m very superstitious. I’ll keep doing this as long as people keep watching. It’s not up to us — it’s up to the viewers — but we’re happy to stay if they’ll have us.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.