Why Gratitude Is a Key Ingredient in Rachael Ray's Recipe for Rebuilding Her Homes

Rachael Ray knows a thing or two about rebuilding. In an exclusive chat with E! News, she looks back at her house fire, apartment flooding and home renovations in Italy and reflects on next chapters.

By Elyse Dupre May 14, 2023 1:00 PMTags
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For Rachael Ray, home is where the heart is. 

And while the idiom may sound cliché, it's truly the case for her and husband John Cusimano after a fire, floods and a global pandemic turned their world upside down.

"It's been a hard three years for us," the celebrity chef told E! News in an exclusive interview. "But we are so blessed that we now have these three beautiful spaces to call home." 

In August 2020—as they were sheltering in place in upstate New York and mourning the loss of their beloved dog Isaboo—Ray and Cusimano lost their home in a fire. The couple moved into their nearby guest house, where she says she resumed working just days later.

"My husband who's a lawyer by day and a rock-n-roller by night learned how to become an entire television crew," the Rachael Ray host recalled of that stretch, "and he's the only person that worked with me directly from my house. I mean, it was just the two of us. He's an amazing human, and he worked extremely hard to help get us through all that."

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Ray and Cusimano also worked extremely hard to rebuild the home so that it resembled her original design. 

"The house is very much the same," the culinary star said of their new abode. "I built my house with a lot of reclaimed barn wood from the western part of New York state. And when it burned down, we rebuilt it the same way. We cleared old wood to put the beam work into the house so that the new house would look like the old house—which looks like an old house but it's not an old house. So, that's cool."

However, this wouldn't be their only big project during their pandemic as their apartment in New York City also experienced flooding. 

"What was very difficult was trying to fix the four floods that happened in our apartment because I couldn't come to New York because of COVID and our work schedule," she continued. "So literally everything here had to be pretty much redone too, and I had to do that only on Zooms." 

Rachael Ray

On top of that, Ray and Cusimano were doing a major renovation of a property in Tuscany that, let's just say, he was initially less-than-thrilled she had purchased.

"The buildings that I turned into what is now our home there, they had nothing," she remembered. "They had mulch, animal carcasses, no running water, no electricity. And my husband's like, 'Couldn't we get somethin' with a toilet?' It was a hard, hard sell on the hubby." 

Because of the pandemic, Ray and Cusimano couldn't visit the Italian property for years, resulting in them again doing a large portion of the renovations on Zoom. However, all the effort seems to have been worth it as she says the home is now "extraordinary" and holds a special place in their hearts (the two wed in Tuscany nearly 18 years ago).

Through it all, Ray has learned to appreciate what they have instead of what they've lost.

"It's overwhelming how grateful we are and how lucky we are," the 54-year-old shared. "I mean, certainly not lucky to have floods and fires. It's kind of biblical. But the idea that we have survived all of that and keep on truckin' is pretty cool." 

And she's not just starting a new chapter at home. After 17 years, Ray's self-titled syndicated daytime show is coming to an end

"I'm just grateful," she noted. "We had a great time, and I'm gonna keep working with a lot of these friends and family. Even before the daytime show, I worked with some of our staffers, our family members, at Food Network. I've been doing television for 30 years, and I'm keepin' on, keepin' on."

Ray keeps on whipping up new dishes, too—like the yellowfin tuna and artichoke pasta she crafted for her paid partnership with Genova Premium Tuna and its Ultimate Al Fresco Experiential Kit Sweepstakes (you can get the recipe here). Although, she noted she uses "tuna all the time. It's the great go-to affordable thing in your pantry for a protein source. And I pair it with beans, or I put it on pizzas."

And as fans wait to see what Ray does next, she's leaving them with a little taste. 

"I have many, many, many projects that I'll tell people about any minute now, and they start up in June," she said. "So, I'm not done by any means." 

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