By her own admission, Rachael Ray is “completely unqualified” for any job she’s ever had, especially the one she has now.

Despite the fact that she’s had no formal training as a chef, she oversees her own food and entertainment empire. She chopped, stirred and sautĂ©ed her way into America’s heart, all while chatting and enthusing and changing the way we talk about staples like Extra Virgin Olive Oil (it’s now EVOO, for those of you not in the know.)

The most extraordinary part? Ray didn’t set out to be a household name. There was no apparent grand scheme, no 5-year plan. Her extraordinary life and career just sort of happened, borne out necessity, good luck and a whole lot of hard work.

Ray is no stranger to the restaurant industry. Her mother, Elsa, managed several restaurants in New York City, and Ray herself managed a pub early on. But it was her time as a buyer for high-end grocery stores that really shaped the trajectory of her life. Ray was working as a buyer for Cowan & Lobel, a gourmet market in Albany, New York, when she realized that customers were reluctant to try new ingredients because they didn’t know how to use them, and they didn’t have the time. Ray cooked up the notion of “30-minute meals” and began hosting product demonstrations in the store. At first, she tried to recruit local chefs to lead the demos, but when that idea fell through, she picked up the spatula herself. A star was born.

Her engaging style caught the eye of a local TV producer, then the Today show, then Food Network. A couple dozen cookbooks later with several successful TV shows under her belt, Ray is a familiar face and a recognizable brand. Some takeaways from her life:

Be a problem solver. Ray’s signature 30-minutes meals concept came to be because she was trying to sell more products. She identified the delta where her problem and her potential customers’ problem overlapped, and she came up with a solution. That’s always a recipe for a win.

Be hands-on. Work ethic has been a hallmark of Ray’s success. From cooking to interviewing, everything she has accomplished she has learned by doing. There have been bumps along the way (she once overheated a pan on Emeril’s set and nearly burned it down) but Ray has simply kept on going. No one can tell you how to do something; in the end, you must just do it.

Be you. In industry dominated by culinary luminaries with diplomas from distinguished institutions on their walls and Michelin stars after their names, Ray has never pretended to be a chef. She’s emphatically declared she is not a chef. While her lack for formal education is a turn off for some, it’s not at all a barrier for legions of fans who just want to see someone like them preparing quick, delicious meals that expand their repertoire a bit. By being herself, Ray gives her fans permission to be themselves, too.

Ray’s moxie is all about showing up and embracing opportunities fully.

What opportunity do you hope to embrace fully in 2018?

 

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