12 to Watch: Rachael Ray

Jan 30, 2006  •  Post A Comment

At first glance, it would be easy to forgive Rachael Ray if she chose to focus just on her already considerable business ventures, from her “30 Minute Meals” books to her myriad cooking and travel programs on Food Network to her new magazine, Every Day With Rachael Ray.

But Ms. Ray has decided to expand from cable into syndication this fall as the host of her own daytime talk show with the help of distributor King World Productions and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

“You can’t do the same thing for too long,” Ms. Ray said in December from an airport newsstand, where she was waiting for a flight to the next stop on a 20-day book-signing tour. “You get to a bad place personally, and people get sick of you.”

Ms. Ray, who got her start in TV in Albany, N.Y., after a local station found her teaching cooking classes at a gourmet food shop, has a clear idea of what she wants to do in her latest television foray: She wants to interact on a daily basis with the thousands of people who show up at the stops on her book tour.

“For a girl all about access, I’m strangely left alone,” she said, noting that the Food Network formats usually have her operating solo. “I’m alone in the kitchen talking to vegetables.”

Ms. Ray’s relaxed, free-wheeling style, which has alienated some foodies while attracting an audience that never watched cooking shows, will be welcome in syndication, said Terry Wood, president of creative affairs and development for King World Productions and Paramount Domestic Television.

“She has this powerful, strong relationship with this core audience and a wide-ranging demographic,” Ms. Wood said. “She is a real person to them, not a personality.”

In a syndication marketplace where several bankable personalities have come and gone without making a mark, Ms. Ray stressed that her show will be unique because it won’t be a straight talk show and will involve more than trying out recipes.

“We’re just trying to make more of a forum instead of me sitting on a sofa interviewing people,” she said. “There will be no crying on our show. It’s not that serious.”

And as for comparisons to the current domestic queen of syndication, Martha Stewart, Ms. Ray is puzzled by the suggestion that they are similar.

“Do I seem like a domestic goddess to you?” Ms. Ray asked. “I couldn’t craft to save my life. I don’t know how to paint. My show will be more about how to throw a party or change a tire-that’s not goddess to me, it’s basics to get by in life.”

At A Glance

Title: Star of syndicated talk show planned for fall; cable TV host, author and magazine creator

How long in current position: Food Network host since 2001

Year of birth: 1968

Place of birth: Glen Falls, N.Y.

What to watch for: Whether Ms. Ray’s talents will translate to syndication

Who knew? She is deathly afraid of getting a massage. “I was born in a knot and I’m sticking to it,” she said.