After 17 seasons of weekday food and fun, the kitchen is closing for “Rachael Ray.”
That’s the program that goes by that name, not the title personality, who is already looking toward new media horizons for herself.
The last episode of her syndicated talk show airs Wednesday, May 24, and it’s sure to celebrate many of the top moments Ray has put forth over the better part of the past two decades — both as a culinary and lifestyle authority, and as someone whose interviewing skills have developed considerably during the show’s run.
“I’m a good cook who learned how to talk to anybody over time,” the ever-lively Ray says in assessing the longevity of her eponymous show, “and that’s because of practice. I have always believed that anybody in America can be successful at anything if they can close their eyes and see themselves trying it. If you’re not ashamed of where you came from, you never have to be ashamed of where you might go.”
When “Rachael Ray” began in 2006, its bubbly host already was widely known for the cooking shows she made principally for Food Network, including “30 Minute Meals,” a concept the former waitress and pub manager originated while she was a buyer for an upscale food market in upstate New York. She parlayed that job into classes she taught to customers, which drew the interest of an area television station; the segments she did there paved the way for NBC’s “Today” to feature her regularly, then for the Food Network to start showcasing her. Recurring spots on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” progressed to the point where Winfrey became an executive producer of Ray’s own talk show from its inception.
Rachael Ray, right, has welcomed a variety of celebrities, including Carrie Underwood, to cook with her on “The Rachael Ray Show,” which is ending its run Wednesday, May 24.
-Courtesy of CBS
Throughout the run of “Rachael Ray,” the host has had a true partner in her husband, musician and lawyer John Cusimano. Besides contributing melodically to the program, he effectively became Ray’s co-host when the coronavirus pandemic forced him to shift production from a Manhattan studio to the couple’s home in Lake Luzerne, New York.
As for what lies ahead for Ray, she intends to work again with many of her “Rachael Ray” colleagues in channeling much of her focus and energy into her new venture, Free Food Studios. It has a commitment to an A&E series tentatively titled “Rachael Ray Meals in Minutes,” the first effort in a new library of programming she intends to build with fellow producers she has worked with before. She also plans to nurture new talent in the food-show space.
“There’s tons of great content out there, now more than ever,” Ray reasons. “We’re going to be working on platforms on multiple levels. The world is constantly changing in that way, and I feel so lucky as an American woman in her 50s to still be relevant. It’s exciting and cool, and it proves the point that you can do anything you want.”