Rachael Ray promotes pet project

DOWNTOWN — Television chef and daytime host Rachael Ray used an appearance Monday at the Americana at Brand to promote more than just Monte Cristo sandwiches and teriyaki noodles.

Ray, a longtime pit bull owner and rescue animal advocate, partnered with Ainsworth Pet Nutrition in 2008 to launch Rachael Ray Nutrish, a pet food line that donates 100% of proceeds to animal shelters across the country. By the end of 2010, roughly $1.4 million had been generated, Ray said.

"I can't believe there are still puppy mills," she said Monday after presenting a $7,500 check to Animal Advocates Alliance, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that brought 10 shelter animals for a "pop-up" pet adoption event concurrent with Ray's book signing for her latest release, "Look + Cook."

Stephanie Levy, the organization's president, said she was grateful to receive both the donation and the publicity for animal adoption at a time when many pet owners have had to give up their animals for economic reasons.

"Municipal shelters right now are at an all-time high," Levy said. "In this economy, we have a problem."

Hundreds of fans jammed the green at the Americana for a chance to meet Ray, who encouraged them to check out the shelter dogs, including a blue-nosed pit bull puppy named Meg, on whom Ray quickly developed a "crush," she said.

La Puente resident Anna Artega, who said she had already successfully tried a few recipes out of "Look + Cook," was clearly excited to see Ray.

"She's been a big influence on my life," Artega said. "She inspired me to start cooking and to follow my dreams."

Ray said the book attempts to push the boundaries of traditional cookbooks by including 600 explanatory pictures in the print edition, while also offering digital versions and companion online videos.

"I'm trying to keep it interesting for people," she said.

Before the book signing, Ray held a question-and-answer session where she shared with fans a few quick tidbits, including what to cook for a loved one just out of the hospital (chicken soup) and her favorite Los Angeles restaurants: Wa Sushi and Bistro and Osteria Mozza.

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