Rachael Ray on Ending Her Daytime Show & Her (Adorable) Recent Injury: “I’m Not Dead!”
Rachael Ray reveals what's cooking for her this summer and beyond—including the yumm-o fish she loves most—and how the past 20 years have changed the American kitchen.
Rachael Ray is entering a new phase in her life. Decades after rising to become one of the biggest Food Network personalities, not to mention an impressive 17 years as host of The Rachael Ray Show, the TV cooking powerhouse is saying Arrivaderci to her Emmy-winning network TV series.
But before any Rachael Ray fans worry she’s planning to retire and ride off into the Tuscan sunset, Rachael Ray told us: “I’m not dead!” Far from it—the 54-year-old is launching a new production company, has four shows in the works and is still partnering with brands she loves—most recently Genova Premium Tuna, with whom she’s giving fans the opportunity to win an al fresco outdoor dining kit.
Ray hopped on the phone with The Healthy @Readers Digest from her place in New York to talk about what she’s looking forward to next, the pain-in-the-butt (literally!) injury she’s recovering from, and how her new life in Tuscany has sparked touching nostalgia.
Rachael Ray’s favorite fish dish
The Healthy @Readers Digest: Our readers love learning about the health benefits of tuna. It’s a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids—which is necessary for optimizing so many functions and organs, including a healthy brain. When you’re standing in the grocery store aisle, it can be tough to discern what you really need. How do you select the tuna you want to use when you’re cooking?
Rachael Ray: Genova is a premium tuna, of course, but it’s hand-filleted, it’s wild-caught, and it’s in olive oil. I’m an Italian, that’s how we buy our tuna, and tuna is a staple. My job is to cook food that is affordable and that you can have on hand in your pantry.
My grandfather, Emmanuel Scuderi, came to America when he was just a child and he had 10 children of his own. He grew everything, or he lived off of hand-stored and jarred food for the rest of the family’s ingredients. So it’s something I like to reteach people over and over again, because I don’t think people think of it. When I was a kid, everybody had tuna casserole and used tuna in a million different ways and they just don’t anymore. And I don’t know why. The staples of a pantry are so, so important.
The Healthy: What do you love to cook?
Rachael Ray: I love making a tuna puttanesca, all sorts of fresh tuna salads for the summer. I love making my sister’s favorite, this lemon pasta with lots of roasted baby artichokes. It’s just such an easy go-to for people, and I think we all have lives that are so busy. One of my favorite pizzas of all time is Regina—it’s tomatoes with tuna.
Rachael Ray on how travel keeps us well
The Healthy: You have a place in Tuscany—how much time do you spend in Italy, and is there anything you’d like to share about why travel and experiencing beautiful places is so important to health and the spirit?
Rachael Ray: Well, that’s a whopper of a question. I could be here for hours for that, but everybody will roll their eyes if I do that. The reason I chose Tuscany is because I was married there, and so it’s very special to me. I bought land, and my husband said, “Don’t do this, please.” There was no electricity, there were no toilets, there was no running water, nothing. The only thing that was kept up on the property were the grape vines for Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello [wines], the Sangiovese grape, and olive trees. That was it. Those were kept perfect, but the family for a couple generations…no one wanted to live there. I fell in love with our little patch of land. I’ve always been a person who works by feeling. I just work from my gut and that’s how I know what the next right thing is to do.
The Healthy: What health rituals have you learned from living in Italy?
Rachael Ray: They’re the same I was brought up with. I was brought up by my grandfather—he was my babysitter when I was little and my absolute best friend for many years until he passed. My mom is first-generation, she was born here. My grandfather and my mom are the way I live. I liked kale before kale was cool. I liked fish before eating more seafood was cool for everybody else. I grew up as a little Sicilian kid. I didn’t get the American part of me until much later. But I lived very much the life that I live when I’m in Italy.
Rachael Ray’s self-care secrets
The Healthy: What is one self-care routine that you refuse to skip?
Rachael Ray: Well, it used to be climbing five miles of stairs every morning and listening to my favorite music on a playlist that my husband makes for me. But I recently truly fell on my tush trying to save the zucchini flowers from falling before me, and I broke my tush. So I can’t do the stairs that I love, but that’s probably my favorite thing. I drink tons of water at night. I drink lots of wine or my husband’s martinis during the day, and I hate having a broken tush.
The Healthy: Yeah, that’s horrible. I’m so sorry.
Rachael Ray: It takes like eight, 10 weeks, but whatever. I’m alive.
Rachael Ray on ending The Rachael Ray Show
The Healthy: What’s next for you as The Rachel Ray Show wraps its final season?
Rachael Ray: I have five shows coming out, but I can’t tell everybody about them until the paperwork is signed. But I will be doing a thing on my own and four other things, producing other people.
The Healthy: Amazing. You started the show in your thirties, and now you’re in your fifties. What feels different at this time in your life?
Rachael Ray: Oh, I started working when I was 12. I started at Food Network when I was in my early twenties, so it’s been a lot longer than that. People think about my life, I think because it was 17 years, that it was just The Rachel Ray Show. But I was working many, many years before that. My first year at Food Network, I did 263 episodes between the travel show and the 30 Minute Meals. So it’s been a long run, a real long run so far, but I’m not dead. We are just changing, shifting gears, and I still hope to work with many of the people I have been working with for all these decades. I’ve watched them marry, have children, grow families. Our show family is very much a part of my life and they are family to me. So they’re going to pop up. I can at least be the side hustle for a lot of them.
The Healthy: You’ve been such a big part of the cultural shift toward better eating. What have you noticed has changed in terms of the way people grocery-shop and eat?
Rachael Ray: They’re more educated as to what they buy—the importance of the quality of what they buy, how it’s caught, how the proteins, especially, are treated. The diversity is incredible. I was a buyer in food for many years and it used to be … that you’d have to go to a specialty store and pay a premium. Now, whether I’m in upstate New York or here, I can walk around the corner and there are gluten-free options, there are meat-free options. And all of what used to be called a high-end product are reasonably priced now because the market bears it. Because people care about what their food is and where it comes from.
The Healthy: You’ve started Free Food Studios. What is it, and what inspired the name?
Rachael Ray: We are people that are free-thinkers. We’re not scripted or over-scripted. We just want to make TV that we believe in and we want it to be completely real. No “open the door three times” or re-say something four times. Just keep it real and tell people the truth. So, Free Food is just about a way of free-thinking.