You're arguably the nation's best-known food expert, a popular weekday show bears your name, and Thanksgiving is coming.
Yummo! Does it get any better?
Not for Rachael Ray. She starts a daily "Friends of Rach Thanksgiving Countdown" on her syndicated program Monday, Nov. 12, and extends it into the following week.
Among the "friends" are Ray's Food Network peers Bobby Flay and Paula Deen, who offer holiday tips of their own. Also returning is "Desperate Housewives" star Teri Hatcher, who helped Ray launch her second season in September.
"I wanted to do this last year," the ever-lively Ray explains. "I tried to get everybody from Food Network to come by, but we'd just started the show and they were already jammed up schedulewise. I said, 'Well, all right. I'll just throw out every trick, every story and every recipe I've got.' Basically, I've had to turn to other people because I used up everything I know about Thanksgiving last year."
Just as Turkey Day signals warm reunions, Ray was glad to welcome Food Network colleagues for the tapings.
"They've always been so supportive of me," she says. "And Paula: what a reception for that woman! She comes out on the set and gets a standing ovation as long as the president would. These aren't just my friends; they're in people's homes, and they build really intimate relationships with them. We knew this would be a great way to please our audience, too."
"We're not an A-list-only stop where you come on and do your three-minute-plug for your new movie," the host says. "Even when we have celebrities on, they talk more about things like their family lives.
"Also, even more this season than last, our viewers are a huge chunk of the program. Now their segments have names, like 'The Human Lab,' where they test things like fashions or exercise equipment."
Ray adds, "We've also got 'So You Think You Can Cook' contests, where someone literally wins a chance to be Rachael Ray. They get a page in the magazine, they do a cooking segment on the show, and we send them to a culinary camp. They actually could end up more talented than I am."
Ray expects her own Thanksgiving to be traditional, spent in upstate New York with family.
"I really do make the same Thanksgiving every single year," she maintains, "and there's only so many times I can reinvent my apple, onion and celery stuffing. This mixes it up. I do a segment on having a Thanksgiving if it's only two or three or four people, so I still have valuable information, but this takes the turkey off my back."