Rachael Ray launches new season on new outlet in Chicago

SHARE Rachael Ray launches new season on new outlet in Chicago

Rachael Ray is joined by Michael Strahan on the first show of her new season — launching Monday.

Cooking queen and talk show host Rachael Ray was in town a few days ago to chat up the launch of the ninth season of her self-titled daily talk show — now airing on WLS-Channel 7 (1 p.m. weekdays). The TV personality talked about everything from a new anti-hunger intitiative she’s launching to what a perfect day is like for Rachael Ray.

Q: You’re moving to Channel 7 in Chicago with this new season. What can your fans look forward to?

A: It’s our ninth year, but with all the new stations we’ve moved to, it’s really like re-launching the show all over again. There are now going to be a lot of people who may not have watched us before, so that’s exciting — having a lot of new audiences around the country.

Q: I know that part of your new season launch also involves a campaign to fight hunger in America. Tell me about that.

A: Several years ago we started our big initiative. We spent about a third of the money on hunger relief. A third of it on all sorts of programs to make our kids healthier in general — like improved meals in public schools. Finally, a third of the money was for scholarships for kids interested in going into food-related careers.

The partners with us on the hunger program was Feeding America, and what used to be called Share Our Strength, now called No Child Hungry. Because it’s our ninth season, we wanted to launch this new season with a statement about who we are as a television show. We also wanted to express a message of community and certainly about food. Since it’s our ninth season, we came up with the idea of 9 million meals.

It’s something that everybody can get behind and viewers can participate, particularly during this first week of five new shows.

Q: What’s your first week of shows going to look like?

A: Our first show [on Monday] has Michael Strahan as my guest. He’s a celebrity that I admire, because he has a great work ethic. I like that he’s a real family man — a mama’s boy, self-proclaimed. He’s got this wonderful smile and attitude. He’s got this positive energy about him. So he’s a great person, to say, what we — ‘The Rachael Ray Show’ — like about celebrities, when we have them on.

Q: There are a lot of daytime talk shows. How do you feel you’re distinctive from all the rest?

A: I think we have a very distinctive personality. We have celebrities on, but we often forget that they’re celebrities, because we have fun. We cook with them, we joke around with them, we make it feel like you’re simply sitting down with them, as people, in my kitchen.

Plus we don’t just have celebrities on. We have regular viewers on all the time — who come on to share content with each other. That’s what I like about our show, it’s not simply celebrity-driven. We’re just as likely to have your neighbor next door on — as an Oscar winner.

Food, of course, plays a huge role.

Q: You could never escape food and cooking, can you?!

A: Indeed! My entire team surprised me on the first show by bringing in all the kids from my Kids Cook-off — I didn’t know they were coming in! So on that first episode, we make enough food for 1,000 people. And the little kids — my little kid chefs came in to surprise me. They came in the middle of the night before that taping to cook 1,000 meals . It just brought me to tears.

Q: What else do you have going on this first week?

A: Well, we have Neil Patrick Harris — I’m his number one super-fan. And he just got married in Italy — just like me! I can’t wait to talk to him! We’ve got Tony Gonzalez from ‘The NFL Today’ coming on. He and his wife, October, are the sweetest people. What a class act he is. We have an amazing ‘Field of Dreams’ story in his show. There’s this couple in L.A. who donate all of their time to a program, they started all with their own money. They are life coaches and they make food for these children in a football and cheerleading program. They make sure the kids get at least one nutritious meal in their day. They are angels on earth. Tony went out there, gave them $10,000 for their program, and then we brought the couple to our show and gave them a trip to Hawaii.

Also, speaking of Tony — he’s a great cook himself. He cooks this enormous dinner every Sunday. So, of course, we’ll have him cook on our show.

At the end of the day, we like to entertain people and have fun, but we also want to convey useful information about small things people can use in their everyday lives.

Q: How do you continue to have such enthusiasm for what you do?

A: I feel so blessed to go to work everyday. I love it. Like [Winston] Churchill said, ‘If you do what you enjoy, you’re never AT work.’ I love that every day is different. That I have a show that is accessible to people. I want people to know they can do anything they try. I want to communicate a sense of community. That even if you’re just making a tasty dinner, or talking to a stranger on your way to work, you can make a difference in this world.

Q: What’s a perfect day off for Rachael Ray?

A: I plan our meals — for me and my husband John— when I’m on airplanes, or when I’m in the car on the way to work in the morning. I sort of doodle out what I’d like to do for the following week. This weekend my garden has some red cabbage in it, so I’m going to do schnitzel night with different schnitzels. Red cabbage with cider vinegar and brown sugar and Worcestershire and juniper berries to serve with the schnitzel. I really do love to cook. If I’m traveling, and I have a day off, I love to take pictures. I’m a bit of an amateur photographer. I love to read thrillers and murder mysteries. My average day, if I’m upstate [in New York where she grew up], I’ll get up, go for a run, play with the dogs. I’ll change and make brunch or lunch. I go out into the garden. I try to read a bit, especially on weekends. Then John will come downstairs and we’ll make dinner and then watch an old movie. I also love to build a big fire. I love fires and fireplaces. I’m a firebug! I’ve got outdoor firepits and things like that. Then sit by the fire, have a glass of wine — and then turn in!

Q: You always seem to have a cookbook coming out. What’s next?

A: I just delivered my largest manuscript ever with 700 pages, single-spaced! It’s called ‘Everybody’s Italian on Sunday,’ it is such a huge book. It will come out next year, either in the spring or the fall, depending on what the publisher decides.

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