Ray fans gather to salute their inspiration

When Rachael Ray visited Las Vegas recently, Tom Jones and Stouffer’s spinach souffle were on her mind. And in much the same fashion.

Ray’s visit to Las Vegas last month was in support of her new book, “Rachael Ray: Just in Time,” a compendium of recipes for the quick meals — think 15 to 30 minutes, or 60 for a “slow” meal –for which she has attracted a legion of fans.

For her book signings at Williams-Sonoma in Summerlin and Sur La Table at the Miracle Mile Shops, they stood in long lines — and in cold weather, at the Summerlin stop — for a chance to meet Ray. Still, she says her fans are “not all star-struck.”

So how do they view her?

“For the most part, like your cousin,” Ray said as she signed piles of pre-sale books in a back room at Sur La Table before the signing.

Her popularity, she maintained, is because of the “can-do factor” of her books, magazine and Food Network shows. Fans, she said, are gratified by “their own success,” and the fact that they’re empowered to “live a rich life, whether they’re rich or poor.”

The fame she has acquired has, she said, been an accident. “I didn’t plan any of this. I think life’s always been a wonderful, fun surprise for me.”

“I’m lucky that people like Emeril (Lagasse) and Mario (Batali) and Bobby (Flay) made the Food Network what it is,” she said.

Asked about the slow-food movement, which yearns for a more relaxed standard of living and the enhanced quality and purity of food, Ray responded that “slow food can be made fast,” too, and added that convenience foods have improved in quality as time has gone on and are not only time-stretchers but can be downright tasty. Like that spinach souffle.

As for Tom Jones, Ray said she and her husband periodically visit Las Vegas to see him in concert. Afterward, they dine at Fiamma at the MGM Grand, because chef Michael White “is a fabulous chef.”

Jones was, she said, her “first and biggest crush.” She can recall putting on Jones-inspired shows for her grandfather at the height of the Welsh singer’s heyday.

“He’s all that and a bag of chips,” Ray said.

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0474.

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