What Rachael Ray Is Most Proud Of In Her Career - Exclusive

Rachael Ray has been teaching America how to make quick and easy meals at home for more than two decades, arguably launching Food Network into the mainstream media platform that it is today. Since then, she's written more than 20 cookbooks, launched a foundation, and hosted a number of food and travel shows, becoming an icon of food media without ever going to culinary school. Ray is the first to admit she's not a trained chef, but she is an incredibly hard worker with effortless charisma and a natural knack for flavors. And despite fending off a lot of criticism throughout her career, Ray has continued to do what she does best: share her love of cooking with the world.

"I love my life. I earned my life," she proudly declared to Tasting Table. While catching up recently at the Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival, Ray opened up about the ups and downs of her career in the spotlight and her philosophy for success. 

"We have to be thoughtful about our lives," she said. "When you build a life for yourself, not only do you have to find a niche for yourself or your business or money, you need to find a way to give back. I think the universe only keeps you in balance as long as you are balanced and decide to give as much as you get." During our conversation, Ray described how she's using her platform to give back and shared what she's most proud of in her career.

Rachael Ray says giving back is the highlight of her success

With a résumé as long as Rachael Ray's, it could be difficult to narrow down the peak accomplishments. But as she told us, "If I look back at my life, I'm proud of two things." Ray is referring to her philanthropic efforts and her branded product lines. In reference to the former, she said, "I've been doing this for 20 years."

In 2016, she took her efforts to the next level, creating the Rachael Ray Foundation, which is dedicated to causes that benefit animal welfare and feeding hungry kids and families. "We started our initiatives [by] benefiting school food, feeding the hungry, and improving year-round food security for the young people in America. We expanded from there" to include "rescue animals," said Ray, adding, "We've given away over $80 million."

Additionally, Ray is also a member of the New York City Chefs Council, which works to feed public school children all over the city, a cause she is very passionate about. "I've been working for school food improvements for decades because it's the only fair playground to lower the health care cost of the future, to better the health of young people."

Ray's charitable contributions are made possible by her brands

The other aspect of her career that Rachael Ray takes pride in is her branded product lines, much of the proceeds of which go toward funding her charitable efforts. "I never thought I'd earn that in my entire lifetime, and all of that's generated by product[s] that people need," she said.

Those products include pretty much every essential piece of cookware, dinnerware, and bakeware you could ever need for your kitchen, as well as gourmet pantry staples like chicken stock, oils, and vinegars. She also sells her own line of natural pet food, Nutrish. Ray takes pride in creating and selling items that she herself would and does use at home in her own life. "There's nothing I put my name on [without saying], 'I'm really proud of that,'" she shared.

For the latest from Rachael Ray, follow her on Instagram. Plus, click here to learn more about the annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival Presented by Capital One, and be sure to check out the highlights from this year's event.