Rachael Ray's Recipe for Career Success

You could say that Rachael Ray is an accidental multi-media star. She readily admits to having stumbled upon her superstar status. "I never wanted to be on food television or daytime television," she confesses. "I never thought I'd author a cookbook. I just knew that I wanted to work in food, and the rest of it's sort of a combination of luck and very weird circumstances."

The Emmy-winning TV star almost inadvertently catapulted from hanging out in her mother's kitchen to hosting her own syndicated talk and lifestyle show, starring in three Food Network series, writing cookbooks based on her '30 Minute Meals' concept and launching a magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray.

"I don't think there was any one moment in my life where I decided that food or cooking would necessarily be my job," she says. "Our mom always instilled in us that you can do anything the next person can do, so when the opportunities did arise, I thought, 'Those other people are cooking, and they're on TV, and they're human, so I suppose I can try it.'"

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

Ray says that her career endeavors were "just sort of a really organic thing for me ... I grew up in kitchens -- production kitchens -- and whenever we were home, that's where everybody was -- in the kitchen."

She was raised in Massachusetts and upstate New York, where her family owned and managed multiple restaurants. When she grew up, she moved to New York City, again working in what she knew -- food. One of her first jobs was at the candy counter at Macy's, and she eventually went on to manage the fresh foods departments. She worked in several restaurants and specialty food markets and moved back to upstate New York, where she got her big media break on local television in Albany, doing a '30-Minute Meal' segment once a week on the CBS affiliate.

From there, she started teaching classes, making radio and television appearances, and wrote a cookbook that landed her on the 'Today' show. That led to the Food Network, and the rest is history.

"I think it's really important to not be afraid of where you've come from or the other jobs you've had," she says. "It makes you sort of fearless moving forward because you're not scared about going back to where you were before, if that wasn't so bad ... so why not try something new?"

Her foolproof recipe for success

Rachael believes that one of the reasons her brand has become so successful and keeps growing is the promise she makes to her readers, viewers and customers. There is always "value in everything we associate ourselves with, and there is definitely a 'can do' factor. Everything I touch or anyplace I go, anything I teach -- anybody else could experience that too, young our old, rich or poor. A good quality of life isn't just for the rich, it's for everybody. That's the overall message we try and convey in everything we do," she says. The key is accessibility.

AOL Jobs Asks
Rachael Ray
5 Quick Questions

1. What was your first job? I grew up working in my family's restaurants.

2. What inspires you? Anything and everything around me!

3. What is the most important trait needed to succeed? Passion. You have to love what you do!

4. What is your biggest challenge? All my jobs I got by accident, so this is a hard question. I think that your biggest challenges are the ones you never see coming. When challenges come up, you should stay cool, calm, and learn to grow but stay true to your roots.

5. What is the best career advice you ever received? Work harder than the next person and don't complain about it. Don't take yourself too seriously. Close your eyes and try to envision what your next step is every once in a while.

Regrets? Sure, she's had a few, but she doesn't dwell on them. "I don't really think of anything in my life as being an obstacle, because I like where my life is today, so even the bumps in the road are necessary," she says. "I always try and remain a very forward thinker. I do not try to dwell on a bad day or a bad moment or a bad performance, I look forward, and try and make each day better than the previous day."

Since Ray's life has been very food-centric from the beginning, it isn't surprising that she says her most important career advice involves the stomach. "Stick with the gut," she says. "My gut has always been a real good indicator of what I'm capable of."

Of course there are a few more ingredients in her recipe for success as well: "Work harder than the next person and don't complain about it. Try and find joy in whatever it is you're doing."

Two for taking the plunge

1. Don't take yourself too seriously.

2. Stick with your gut.

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