A Real Overnight Success

In Allen Salkin's new book, From Scratch: Inside the Food Network, he describes Rachael Ray's rise to TV fame. What I love about his take on her, is that she is the perfect example of the overnight success, that was years in the making. As a TV producer and media consultant, people expect to be an overnight success with very little effort. Yes, there are some folks who come out of no where and do land some fame, but for most of them, they don't have long-lasting staying power.

In a society where becoming a celebrity is actually a profession, I respect and admire someone who works their way to where they arrive.

In our media training workshops, most people think the immediate chemistry is a one-stop-shop, but this moment, as reprinted by Allen Salkin in Emmy magazine, is a perfect example of a lifetime of training:

Rachael Ray: Not An Overnight Success, but Through Hard Knocks, Capitalized on Her Moment

From her first pop on national television, Rachael was gold -- so obviously appealing that you can sense what Lou had heard on the radio simply by reading the transcript from her appearance on Today.

Al Roker: This morning on Today's kitchen, comfort foods of the century. With the kids home from school and a winter that just won't go away -- neither will my friends -- there's nothing better than cuddling up in your flannels with some hot and tasty comfort foods. Rachael Ray, author of Comfort Foods: Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals, is here -- you got very excited when I said that.

Rachael Ray: Yeah, it's cool. Al's saying my name. Groovy.

Roker: She's here to show us how to make one-pot dishes.

Ray: Yeah.

Roker: So, now what's the deal? Why are we so excited about comfort foods these days. Rach?

Ray: Well, because they bring everybody back to their beginnings, you know. Comfort foods are as different as wherever you grew up, you know.

Roker: Right.

Ray: My grandfather is from Sicily, so for my mom, a big pot of escarole and beans is comfort foods. My dad's from own South, so for him, jambalaya is comfort foods. Me, I've always lived in the Northeast, so what we're going to make right now is comfort food for me.

Roker: Chicken and dumplings.

Ray: Chicken and dumplings soup.

Roker: All right. How do we get started?

Ray: Okay, well I know you know how to cook, but can you just pretend you don't for a minute, okay?

Roker: Okay, I have an no idea.

Ray: Quick -- quick chopping lesson.

Roker: Uh-huh.

Ray: If you're not comfortable in the kitchen, first thing to do, get a firm grip about whatever your chopping, curl your fingers under so they don't call you lefty.

Roker: Okay.

Ray: Okay? Get a nice sharp knife...

That my friends, is how it's done. Within two minutes, you've learned about where she comes from, what she's going to make and why she's going to make it. In the process, she has captivated her interviewer, told a joke and taught a lesson. It's not as easy as she made it look, but after a childhood in restaurants and years of work, it was easy for her.

TVGuestpert comments:

Rachael knew how to immediately frame her opening sound-bite that set up her expertise, define the segment, and take assertion of the segment in a charming entertaining way while giving the viewer at home invaluable take away information.

If you have a chance to read Salkin's whole piece on Rachael Ray, it says that she didn't get her way either when the Food Network green-lit her show. She had to concede to the idea that she would only do one meal per show instead of three which became the successful ingredient for her signature show.