Photo Credit: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Contributor/Getty Images
Cookbooks don’t usually attract much controversy, but after The New York Times published a story claiming that many chefs use ghostwriters to write their cookbooks, a slew of big-name chefs and authors, including Rachael Ray, vigorously defended their work. The Times interviewed chef Wes Martin, who has worked with Ray on many projects. “The team behind the face is invaluable,” Martin told the Times. “How many times can one person invent a new quick pasta dish?” So did she have help, or didn't she? We sat down with Ray at The Little Owl's event space in New York City's Greenwich Village to get the whole story.
While she does produce a staggering number of recipes for her magazine, cookbooks, television shows and other projects, she told iVillage that she does not work with ghostwriters and that Times reporter Julia Moskin misinterpreted Martin's comments. “I love the Times, I remain a lover of the Times, but they got it wrong,” she said. “I can see how it happened. You know, I gave them the name of Wes, who is my food stylist. He talked to them at great length about getting inside my skin to do my styling, so I can see how somebody thought he was only talking about the writing. I write every word in my books.”
Ray credits the stylists, recipe testers and editors who help get her books in people’s hands, but she said she is solely responsible for her recipes and stories, and it's a large part of her day-to-day life. “I keep a little notebook with me where I write down ideas. I type them up in the morning after the gym or at night when I get home. I have 15 years worth of notebooks.”
When asked how she is able to create a constant stream of new recipes, she said that having a huge archive actually helps. “As I grow older, and I cook more and I travel more and I eat more, I redevelop a lot of things,” she said. “I’ve done cacciatore probably 50 times, but I think it gets better every time because I’ve learned something. Now I don’t have to make everything in 30 minutes, now I can show people slow-cooked or braised versions that I’ve never been able to do before. So it’s easy for me to broaden my recipes because I’ve broadened my platform.”
Although you’d think cooking would be the last thing Ray would want to do in her free time, she said it’s still very much a part of her daily life. “If I’m home by nine, I make the time to cook supper,” she said. These intimate, real-life dinners are the inspiration for her upcoming book My Year in Meals, which will be released in the fall. “You actually see everything we made in our home that we photographed ourselves for a whole year."
“Cooking on television or cooking for a cookbook is storytelling. You’re trying to get the reader or the viewer excited about what you’re making. So it’s more about the story than the food. And then when I get home, it’s all about my time with my husband or my family or my mom and it’s very quiet. It feels very different compared to when you cook for work.”
In addition to My Year in Meals, Ray is releasing The Book of Burger in June, just in time for grilling season. And she’s partnered with Ziploc for The Great American FreshOver, a program to encourage families to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.