Minutes prior to Rachel Ray’s benefit show in Lake George High School April 12, the celebrity chef and famed talk show host (left) responds to a question posed by Denton Publications reporter Katherine Clark (right) in the school library.
I sat in the Lake George High School library, awaiting the arrival of celebrity talk-show host Rachael Ray who was offering media interviews prior to her annual local benefit show April 12 .
The celebrity chef entered the room, and without turning around, I immediately recognized her voice I had heard so many times before, only this time I was hearing it organically without speakers or radio frequencies.
There were many questions I sought to ask Rachael Ray about her hit television shows, her best-selling cookbooks, her extensive charity work; but I was most interested in relating to her as the girl once voted “Most Creative” at Lake George High — the girl from the Adirondacks that grew up to take over the world, one recipe at a time.
First off, I admitted to her that I was doing my best not to jump up and down like a school girl, and she responded to my frank admission with cool assurance.
AJ: You were voted “Most Creative” in high school — was this a factor in launching your career?
RR: “Was I really? I don’t even remember that, but all right, good for me!” —(laughs).
AJ: What were some of your early creative talents, and how do you get to use them now?
RR: “I loved to draw; I loved to write. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were my favorite teachers (at Lake George Elementary). My homeroom was the art studio. I liked the Wilsons so much I’d find any reason to hang out with them. We didn’t have jewelry-making and photography and all that, but I used to like to draw and paint. Now, I doodle a bit, but I don’t draw as much as I’d like to.
“And, I love photography. I make picture-books all the time I’m obsessed with iBooks. My dog gets her own book. Every year she loves to go apple picking, And she thinks all the apples are juicy balls and I take the same pictures every year at Hicks Apple Orchard and their corn maze, as well as the Adirondack Balloon Festival. My husband John and I make books of our travels, and it’s funny, no one in my family likes having their picture taken, most especially me. because it’s part of my job. But when we travel, I think we’re the only people in the world that have travel books with several hundred pictures each and with no pictures of any one we know.”
AJ: You’ve definitely gotten to go to a lot of places and do a lot of things — you’ve gotten to see so much....
RR: “I’m very lucky to see so much of the world, but this is where I live!”
AJ: What amazes you most when you come back with fresh eyes?
RR: “How beautiful where I grew up is — and my appreciation for it just grows the older I get. I love Italy very much —I was married there, my family is from there, my husband’s family is from there and it’s the place I most love to travel — but the only place I really feel at home is the Adirondacks. “
AJ: When you come back, what stands out the most?
RR: “I love coming over the Northway over the big hill and see the Great Escape — it was Storytown when I was a little kid — then I see the mountains and I know I’m home and I always get a little chill.
“In the fall I love coming over that crest and seeing the colorful foliage. And in the summer I like to see the bright green of the mountains.
“The air smells different here. Just everything is different here. I love how dark the sky still gets, not as black as I remember as a kid, and the winters aren’t as cold now — this last winter was heartbreaking, absolutely crushing. I’d gotten new toboggans for Christmas and we dug a new toboggan run about a half-mile long in the forest and we never got to use it. We never got enough snow from Christmas until now.
“That breaks my heart — when I was a kid we used to have the big winter carnival out on the lake and when my mom was a kid they used to have horse races out on the ice and this year, wow, I never went ice skating or anything — it was crazy.”
AJ: What kind of business ventures would you like to pursue in the future?
RR: “You know I’ve wanted for years to open my own slider bar/burger bar in New York City but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I have a very full, happy life and what ever time off I get, I am really happy being home (in Luzerne) in the woods and cooking. My husband has a little studio, more like a big music studio over the garage now and we put up sound-proofing so he can just stay in there all day and bang the drums and play the guitar — and I can just stay alone in the kitchen. (Her husband, John Cusimano, is lead singer of the rock group The Cringe.) Often, we invite our friends up to eat all the food I cook. I’m happy to kind of do nothing.”
AJ: Any advice for Lake George area students about achieving their dreams?
RR: “Work harder than the next person, don’t complain about it, and you'll always get noticed, no matter what job you’re doing, and you'll find an opportunity occurs that you didn't see coming.
“And have a sense of humor — don't take yourself or your studies or your food too seriously. In life you have to remember it's going to be a mixture of hard work and a certain amount of luck. At the end of the day, the only real choice you have is to laugh or cry.
“You'll get sick, you'll get well, you'll get happy, you'll get sad, you'll maybe get rich, maybe not, but you'll always have a choice: are you going to laugh about it or cry about it? My mom told me that was my grandfather’s advice, and I'll tell it to anybody who will listen — it’s the only true thing I know.”