Rachael Ray Returns to Lake George to Benefit Charities
Rachael Ray is a small-town girl who hit it big, but hasn’t forgotten her roots.
The television food show celebrity whose brand — TV, publishing, consumer goods — tops $100 million in sales per year, entertained a sell-out crowd of 528 people during her annual benefit cooking show at Lake George High School on April 3.
In the studio, Ray is a non-stop, bundle of energy who makes cooking and food fun for millions of viewers each day.
At home, she lolls about the kitchen in pajamas and slippers — one pair has a King Kong face — while enjoying the peace and quiet of her woodsy, Lake Luzerne country setting.
She gave fans a glimpse of both worlds while whipping up tasty dishes.
“You don’t have to be rich to have a rich life,” said Ray, a 1986 Lake George graduate. “I wake up grateful for the opportunity to go to work and serve others.”
“My rule is, if I have 36 hours or more I come home,” she said. “I come home every weekend I can.”
Ray talked about family (“I love spending time with mom”), hard work (“Sleep is a waste of time. Take a nap when you’re dead”) and charitable giving.
Her nonprofit Yum-o! organization has raised more than $4 million in the fight against childhood hunger and obesity — two opposite, but equally serious health issues.
She posed for “selfies” with a little girl and told about her close friendship with First Lady Michelle Obama, whose Let’s Move! initiative has similar goals. On April 6, the day after Easter, Ray took part in the official White House Easter Egg Roll, an event dating back to 1878, on the South Lawn.
While there, Ray and Mrs. Obama discussed their common healthy eating, food education and anti-hunger campaigns.
“We talk a lot about getting more gardens into schools, getting more chefs involved in public school programs,” Ray said. “Children need to know where food actually comes from. The only place to battle children going hungry and obesity is through our public school system; making sure there is year-round access to healthy food choices, improving the quality of what we give our children in schools. It’s the only way to control unimaginable health care costs in the future.”
“Anybody could start a garden for their school,” Ray said. “If the First Lady, a professional chef or TV personality can do it, any mom, dad, cousin or brother — we can all do it. We all have more power than we think.”
Fans traveled far and wide for the benefit show, from Florida to Ontario, Canada.
Ray made three special dishes — crispy chicken paillard divan, flank steak stroganoff and penne alla senese. Steam rose from her makeshift kitchen, set up in from of the auditorium stage, and the aroma of fine food filled the large room.
“I love a good cast iron skillet any time you’re going to cook with protein (meat),” she said. “Any time I cook with beef I always add a little Worcestershire.”
She browns meat on the side. Once the skillet is hot, she cooks meat in olive oil and butter.
Alyssa Sylvia and Kevin Kelly, of Glens Falls, who were recently engaged on her television show, had front-row seats for the Lake George event. Of course, Ray’s mother, Elsa Scuderi, was also on hand along with Ray’s sister, brother and niece.
Joq Quintal, of Oscar’s Adirondack Smoke House in Warrensburg, thanked Ray for the publicity she regularly gives the business on television. One mention about the firm’s bacon or other meat products triggers hundreds of thousands of website hits.
“What she does for small business like ours is just incredible,” Quintal said.
As always, the year ahead will be another busy one for Ray. She and her husband, John Cusimano, plan to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in Montalcino, Italy — the Tuscany hill town world famous for its Brunello di Montalcino wine.
Her largest ever cookbook, “Everyone’s Italian on Sundays,” a 700-page work so big it requires two volumes, is scheduled for release in late summer. She’s already planning another publication, tentatively entitled “Delicious Duets,” featuring favorite recipes she’s worked on with people from all walks of life, from high-profile sports and entertainment figures to ordinary people she’s encountered during the course of her amazing career.
The only prerequisite is a shared love for food and its power to make people healthy and happy.