Growing up in a family steeped in culinary tradition, Rachael was exposed to a wide array of cooking techniques, learning lessons from her maternal grandfather who was raised in the traditions of Louisiana. The Ray family owned several restaurants on Cape Cod, MA., before relocating to upstate New York, where her mother worked as the food supervisor for a restaurant chain. "I was surrounded by all different styles of cooking and worked in the food service industry in just about every capacity you can imagine," Rachael says. By her early twenties, Rachael developed a hankering for city life and moved to New York where she landed at Macy’s, working as the manager of the Fresh Foods Department. She credits her two years there for giving her an education in gourmet foods. After Macy's, Rachael helped open Agata & Valentina, the prestigious New York gourmet marketplace, where she became the store manager and buyer.
Despite the exciting lifestyle in the foodie circles of New York City, Rachael decided to move back to upstate New York and start managing pubs and restaurants at the famed Sagamore Resort on Lake George. From there, she was recruited by Cowan & Lobel, a large gourmet market in Albany, to be their food buyer and eventually their "chef." As a way to increase grocery sales during the holidays, Rachael created a series of cooking classes, including a course promising to teach "30-Minute Mediterranean Meals,” which exploded in popularity. The CBS station in Albany-Schenectady, WRGB- TV, discovered Rachael and signed her on to do a weekly "30-Minute Meals" segment for the evening news. Nominated for two regional Emmys® in its first year, the segment was a major success; a companion cookbook sold 10,000 copies locally during the holidays. With that, a franchise was born!