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Rachael Ray Timeline: A Media Star is Born

Jan 15, 2007  •  Post A Comment

By Natalie Finn

Special to TelevisionWeek

1998

WRGB-TV, the CBS affiliate in Albany-Schenectady, N.Y., recruits Rachael Ray-who had been teaching cooking classes at the gourmet food market Cowan & Lobel-to do a weekly “30 Minute Meals” segment on the evening news. The segment is nominated for two regional Emmys and inspires a cookbook.

1999

“30-Minute Meals” is published by Lake Isle Press, a one-woman operation based in Manhattan, and sells more than 10,000 copies locally. Ms. Ray and publisher Hiroko Kliffner eventually put out nine “30-Minute Meals” titles, selling more than 3.2 million books.

2001

Ms. Ray publishes two more “30-Minute Meals” titles, “Comfort Foods” and “Veggie Meals.”

A Food Network executive hears Ms. Ray during a cooking segment on a New York public radio station, the same week Ms. Ray is scheduled to make her first appearance on NBC’s “Today” show. The day after she’s on “Today,” Food Network gives her a $360,000 contract.

“30 Minute Meals” premieres on Food Network Nov. 17.

Ms. Ray signs with Jon Rosen at the William Morris Agency. Mr. Rosen had contacted her after catching her Food Network debut.

2002

“$40 a Day,” in which Ms. Ray travels to an American or European city and shows vacationers how to eat well on a budget, premieres April 22 on Food Network.

The original “30-Minute Meals” cookbook hits USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list in November and peaks at No. 38.

2003

Men’s magazine FHM runs a photo spread featuring a scantily clad Ms. Ray in several, shall we say, saucy poses.

“30-Minute Meals 2” is published in June and “Get Togethers: Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals” follows in December.

2004

Ms. Ray signs a multi-book deal with Random House’s Clarkson Potter imprint, leaving Ms. Kliffner in control of the “30-Minute Meals” titles released by Lake Isle Press.

Ms. Ray is ranked No. 92 on FHM’s list of the 100 Sexiest Women of 2004. She’s promoted to No. 71 in 2006.

“Inside Dish,” a talk show/cooking show hybrid featuring Ms. Ray interviewing celebrity guests, premieres Nov. 5 on Food Network.

During the holiday season, Ms. Ray has five cookbooks on the New York Times Best Sellers list at once.

2005

Ms. Ray launches the Furi(r) Rachael Ray Gusto-Grip knife collection, her signature set of orange-handled cutlery, available in stores and online.

Ms. Ray’s fourth Food Network series, “Tasty Travels With Rachael Ray,” premieres Aug. 26, scoring the network its second-largest series debut audience in its 12-year history. First-run or repeat episodes of all four of Ms. Ray’s shows remain in regular rotation on Food Network.

Following in the footsteps of multimedia mavens Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, Ms. Ray launches her own lifestyle magazine, Everyday With Rachael Ray, on Oct. 25.

Ms. Ray’s 11th book, “365: No Repeats: A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners,” hits stores. “That was the stupidest idea I ever had,” Ms. Ray told The New York Times. “That many recipes nearly killed me.” That stupid idea sells more than 1.3 million copies.

Ms. Ray adds an oval-shaped saute pan and other cookware to her growing line of signature products, which now includes olive oil and a microwave oven.

2006

“Rachael Ray Express Lane Meals” debuts at No. 3 on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books List in April.

In May, Time magazine names Ms. Ray one of the 100 People Who Shape Our World.

“30 Minute Meals” wins a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Service Show.

Ms. Ray teams with Epic Records to release a series of cellphone voicetones and two albums: the Christmas mix “How Cool Is That” and the for-kids compilation “Too Cool for School,” each featuring a selection of songs picked by Ms. Ray.

Ms. Ray’s hour-long syndicated daytime talk show “Rachael Ray,” produced by CBS Corp.’s King World Productions in association with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo production company, Scripps Networks and Ray’s own Watch Entertainment, premieres Sept. 18. The show’s first episode earns a weighted metered market average 2.8 household rating and finishes the week with a 2.6, the most successful debut for a syndicated show since “Dr. Phil” in 2002.

The article “Rachael Ray Doesn’t Suck” in the October issue of Esquire addresses critics’ complaints that Ms. Ray’s perkiness is more off-putting than attractive and that she’s not much of a chef. To which she replies, “And the funny thing is, everything they say is valid: I’m not a chef; I’m a cook. But even the best chef in the world needs to know how to make a fast, tasty burger.”

At the request of NASA Food Lab, Ms. Ray takes her syndicated series to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to concoct 30-minute meals that can be eaten in space.

Ms. Ray is named the 11th-most-appealing celebrity on the latest Q Score list, which ranks the likability of more than 1,700 performers and personalities.

In November, Nabisco signs Ms. Ray as a spokesperson, featuring her in commercials and placing her image and recipes on boxes of Wheat Thins and Triscuits.

“Rachael Ray” averages a 2.1 household rating during November sweeps, leading all other first-run syndicated shows.

Ms. Ray’s 16th book, “2, 4, 6, 8: Great Meals for Couples or Crowds,” hits shelves in November, giving her more than 4.5 million books in print.

Ms. Ray debuts on Forbes’ 100 Most Influential Celebrities list at No. 81, ahead of celebrity chefs Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse. She, her new show and her brand also land on year-end kudos lists compiled by People, Forbes, Advertising Age, Business Week, PR Week and Business 2.0.

“Rachael Ray” moves into fourth place in the ratings among syndicated talk shows, ahead of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and behind only “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Dr. Phil” and “Live With Regis and Kelly.”

2007

Ms. Ray’s shorthand term for extra-virgin olive oil, EVOO, will be added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

TelevisionWeek names Ms. Ray its Syndication Personality of the Year.