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Rachael Ray, revisited
Posted to Teevee at 01:13 PM on Mar 28, 2005

All Rachael, all the time.

Rachael Ray (or, as the folks at the television without pity forums know her, Ray-Ray) is the host of three shows on the Food Network: 30 Minute Meals, $40 a Day, and Inside Dish. She's like the new Emeril. If you flip to the Food Network, you're bound to see her if you wait a few minutes.

So, it's easy to imagine that Ray-Ray is spreading herself a bit thin. With all of the travel, how can she find the time to cook? Well, somehow, she manages. But just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Ray-Ray looks tired. She acts tired, too, despite having a Stuff magazine-inspired makeover and new duds. She's got streaked hair and new makeup, but it just doesn't hide the manic plastered-on grin and frantic, breathless pace on 30-Minute Meals. Only a couple years ago, Ray-Ray was a bubbly, down-to-earth, practical cook who looked like a mid-30's mom. Now, she's like a lingerie model on speed. She seems to barely have time to finish her recipes and looks like she's run a marathon at the end.

Worse yet, she's taking her fancy-meals-speeded-up philosophy to extremes. She's created something she calls "stoup": not quite a stew, not quite a soup; and the idea of a stoup is that it replicates a fancy fussy dinner in ladle-able form. Part of the appeal of, say, Osso Bucco (a recent stoup), is the process and the effort combined with the enjoyment of eating it. There's something about a liquid Osso Bucco that seems so lonely and unsatisfying. And what isn't turned into a stoup is ground up and turned into a burger. She is the self-proclaimed burger queen. I love a good burger, but some of Ray-Ray's burgers almost make me remember my long-ago vegetarian days fondly.

Oh, well. At least she's out of her low-carb phase. I really freaking hate these low calorie/diet shows. I truly do. I hope Juan Carlos Cruz gets a cushy job at a spa so I can stop seeing his smirking mug on my screen. But that's for another time.

On $40 a Day, Rachael travels all over the U.S. and Europe in search of food bargains. I don't have much to say about that, except she tips not nearly enough. Any waitress that has to deal with a hyper TV show hostess and her camera crew deserves 40 percent, if not more.

The last thing the food network needed was a celebrity kiss-ass show. We are saturated with celebrity news nearly around the clock on pretty much every other channel. I knew they could incorporate some type of voyeuristic celebrity worship on the channel somehow, but I was sincerely hoping they wouldn't. Now, Ray-Ray seems like a nice lady; I'd go have a beer with her. But she's the worst interviewer on Earth. She's far too starstruck. Witness the episode with Save the Last Dance star Mekhi Phifer. It is safe to say that she has a bit of a crush on Mekhi. A good celebrity interviewer is calm and detached, yet projects an honest interest in his subject. He does not have to get crazy drunk just to work up the nerve to talk to the person. She may not be nervous around all of her subjects, but she does drink with them, and Rachael+booze=big giggly mess.

Like I said, I enjoy watching Rachael. So it's a little ironic when I say I wish there was less of her. I think if they ran Good Eats all day long, I'd mock Alton Brown, too. Okay, maybe not. But if, suddenly, $40 a Day and Inside Dish get cancelled, I'll come back and write something more flattering.

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