The perky Food Network host's empire includes a magazine, a talk show and a nonprofit group. Her latest book, Yum-O! The Family Cookbook, comes out April 29. Rachael Ray will now take your questions
What were your favorite foods as a child? Soyeun Yang, Superior, Colo.
My grandfather lived with us and was my caretaker, so I liked everything that old Italian men liked. I liked sardines and squid and eating calamari with your fingers and anything with anchovies, anything with garlic and oil. I still eat much the same way today. I was not a very popular girl when I opened my lunch sack at the lunchroom.
Why do you use extra-virgin olive oil on everything? Katherine Hote, Phoenix
That's how my family cooks. I try to cook a little bit of everything, but when it comes to what I enjoy, it's Mediterranean because that's what I am most familiar with.
You've had a lot of negative comments concerning your personal and professional life. How do you not let it get you down? Amelia Leung, Auckland, New Zealand
People gossip about you no matter what. With regard to the tabloid press, my husband and I have been through the whole gamut of emotions. First we were angry, and then sad, and then back to angry again, and then frustrated, and then we wanted to hire lawyers, and then at the end of the day you're like, Really? I don't have anything better to do? People are pretty divided about Martha [Stewart] and anybody who does this intimate thing where you're not only in people's homes but you're in their kitchens. There is very little [said] that isn't true: I'm not a chef, I don't bake, I am loud, I am goofy, and after a while, my voice is annoying.
If you had the chance, would you punch chef Anthony Bourdain [for the things he's said about you? Be honest.] Dharan Kumar Kalamazoo, Mich.
No, I actually love and appreciate Tony Bourdain's work, and I think everybody has the right to their own opinion.
With all your books and shows and magazines, do you feel you have become overexposed? Drew Pencek, Washington
It would be sort of a waste of energy for me to worry about that because it's not anything I have control over. I do manage it. I don't put my name on things I don't believe in. I love every page of our magazine. I'm extremely proud of it. I work very hard on each cookbook to make it different. I'm extremely proud of [the television show] because it really focuses on the viewers themselves.
Have you ever turned down a product-endorsement deal? Tim Smith, San Diego
Thousands, and some products that I love and use. It's just that there is a finite amount of time in the day.
What is your favorite fast food? Andy S. White, Schodack, N.Y.
There isn't a fast food that I don't like, really. [Laughs].
Any suggestions for cooking in a college dorm room? Allyson Van Buren, Morrison, Ill.
Yes. Get good at a couple of group meals, and sell them off. It's a great way to make a quick living.
If you were stranded on an island but miraculously it had a refrigerator, what 10 ingredients could you absolutely not do without? Matthew LeMay, Philadelphia
I'd have to have olive oil, garlic, pasta, canned fishanchovies if I had to pick just onecheese. If my husband were on the island with me, then I have to have salami. I've got to have some prosecco and some other wine, and you need your roughage, so escaroleand I have to have some beans, so I'd pick white.
There's an old axiom: Never trust a skinny chef. Any comment? John Rhodes, SALT LAKE CITY
Well, if he's trying to say I'm too skinny, thank you. I've never loved clothes enough to give up food, and I never will.