Rachael Ray says that producing live cooking segments for her daytime talk show during the pandemic, from her home in upstate New York, has worked better than she expected.
“The only transition was to let people into this space,” says Ray, 51. “This is my home, and over the years Food Network and other media have asked me to shoot here and I’ve always been like, ‘No way. This is my private zone.’
“The very first day I got a little teary and it was a little overwhelming. Here I am in sweats with no studio, no fancy makeup or clothes,” she says. “But it was strangely comforting and cathartic. We get to talk to [guests] on a different level on intimacy. I feel like I’m cutting school every day.
“I’ve always been proud that we’ve tried to make our TV show as comfortable to viewers as possible and we’re achieving that more than ever here,” she says, “by stripping it down completely.”
That’s not to say that Ray hasn’t worked just as hard, if not harder, while producing two live shows each Monday and Friday since “The Rachael Ray Show” shuttered its Manhattan studio in March. (The show, which airs at 2 p.m. on WABC/Ch. 7, is expected to return for a 15th season.)
In addition to her cooking segments and celebrity guests (including Valerie Bertinelli and Melissa Etheridge) Ray is joined on her live shows by her husband, musician John Cusimano, who prepares different cocktails, performs with his band, The Cringe and handles the technical elements of filming episodes on an iPhone and a bevy of computers.
“The only people here are me and John, period,” Ray says, getting a little teary when mentioning the recent passing of their beloved Pit Bull, Isaboo. “John is the cameraman, the director … and he tells me all the beats we need for each show. It’s literally two people doing what 100 people would do in the studio on a scaled-down version. John balances the iPhone on a whole bunch of Italian cookbooks so it won’t move and has these giant selfie-sticks with tripods on the bottom. He’s upgraded everything he can upgrade.”
Ray, as she does in the studio, prepares all the dishes herself for the Monday and Friday shows — ordering seafood, meat, poultry etc. from a variety of vendors (Sid Wainer, Pat LaFrieda, Fulton Fish Market) — and cleaning her counter top and stove top in-between.
“We sometimes have to shoot in bits and pieces,” she says. “If we do a Zoom call [with a guest] we sometimes have to separate that from the food preparation because that’s so laborious. On my longest day here, John sent in 52 pieces of tape and I did 31 food setups. I started at 5:40 a.m. and was still clearing the kitchen at 10:30 that night. It’s a lot of work and it’s intense, but I never feel like I’m at work — I just wear a black T-shirt everyday and I don’t have to go and fix my makeup or the fake eyelash didn’t come off.
“I live in my slippers and do the wash 3-4 times a day; there are segments when you can hear the washer beeping [when it’s done],” she says. “We’re exposing ourselves to people in a new way that feels beautiful.”
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