PEOPLE’s Food Faves of 2021

Most people want to forget about 2020. Not Rachel Ray, I wrote a book about it. In her next book, Memoirs of Culinary Encounters, this must be the PlaceThe TV chef, 53, chronicles the ups and downs she experienced during the first year of the pandemic, including her decision to film her self-titled talk show from her home in Lake Lucerne, New York, after production was halted in Manhattan. “Our house was a light switch where we stop work and deal with our lives,” she says of the secluded cabin she helped design and build with her husband, John Cusimano, 54. Then all of a sudden we had to let everyone in.” Doing so became “more medicine for us than a pill to swallow,” Ray says, especially when the audience surrounded her with love after that house burned down last August (as a result of a smoky ember falling on the roof). “All that was left in the ground was a hole,” she says. “The people were so thoughtful, sending everything from food to blankets to memories of what they had gone through. It was very healing.” The food helped, too, and many of the dishes she cooked for healing appeared in the book. “I write recipes every day,” she says. I get up in the middle of the night and do it. John is a musician, and thinks about music. I think about food.” Their house is now rebuilt, but the settlement process continues. Despite everything she has been through, she is grateful. “You get to tunnel vision and think, ‘It’s all about us and our little problems.’ But there are much worse situations that can be in them.” “I am alive. I have a roof over my head. I have a job. There are people all over the food industry who have suffered and don’t know what to do. John and I, we’re like absent-minded Here. We just say, “Stop whining and get out of it!” “

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