Rachael Ray returns to roots, wows local crowd

LAKE GEORGE - Dawn Wagner of Ballston Spa sat in the front row Thursday of the packed Lake George High School auditorium, and clutched a Rachael Ray cookbook to her chest as the celebrity cook and international television sensation launched her annual show to benefit the scholarship association of her mater, Lake George High.

In a question-and-answer session soon after, Wagner asked Rachael Ray how she stayed so perky. Ray answered "caffeine during the daytime and red wine at night," evoking laughs. In the exchange, Ray discovered that Wagner and her friends had camped out overnight on the lawn of the high school weeks ago to assure they could get tickets.

Ray responded with an expression of amazement, and then gave Wagner tickets to her show which is taped in Manhattan, and currently has a waiting list of over 200,000 fans for a mere 2240 seats booked daily in the television studio.

Alternately sitting in a lawn chair or sleeping in her sedan, Wagner said, she'd secured those precious tickets to see Ray.

"I lost a night's sleep, but it was worth it," she said.

Ray offered tips, revelations and advice

This and other casual conversations, which delighted Ray's local fans, were highlights of the show. The event included little-known facts about the celebrity's life, offbeat tips on cooking, and advice on improving family eating habits - a relatively new initiative of Rachael Ray's charity foundation.

Cooking tips Rachael Ray offered included zapping a lime in the microwave for a dozen seconds or so to prompt it to release its juice. Personal information she revealed included being dropped and hitting her head as a Lake George High cheerleader when performing in an acrobatic routine.

Also, she identified her favorite talk-show guests as comedienne Tina Fey, Michael J. Fox, Carol Burnett, and former President Bill Clinton. Her hobbies include running, travel, and photography. She also enjoys watching movies and reading, particularly in her Lake Luzerne hideaway, she said. Also, she loves the aroma of cumin, which she revealed is pumped into casinos to make people lose their inhibitions and spend more money.

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