The One Meal Rachael Ray Still Makes From Her First Job

We all know Rachael Ray, her "30 Minute Meals" are simple, hearty, and easy enough for beginner cooks to accomplish. Some might say her easygoing, chatty persona makes her relatable to the average home cook. Although Ray has no professional culinary training, her accessibility has earned her a spot amongst the Food Network's biggest stars.

So it may come as no surprise that Ray's first job was what many of us did after school or over the summer, working in a restaurant. As an Upstate New York native, the cookbook author didn't kick back and relax in Lake George like some other teens, instead, she was scooping ice cream at the local Howard Johnson's (via Daily Gazette).

Howard Johnson's was a casual dining restaurant started in 1925 with locations that eventually spread across the United States. The company no longer exists today, but a fun fact — the location that Ray worked at as a teenager was the very last one to close for good in June 2022. Years after her stint at HoJo's, there is still one thing from the restaurant that Ray still makes in her own kitchen, calling it "serious comfort food" (via "The Rachael Ray Show").

Ray's riff on a diner classic

Every once in a while, the hot turkey sandwich from Howard Johnson's still finds its way to Rachael Ray's table. The New York Times notes that the hot turkey sandwich is all the things you love about roasted turkey and all the fixings. But something tells us that the TV host improved on the HoJo's version of the dish when recreating it at home.

Ray creates a garlic compound butter and puts it under the turkey skin with sage leaves so that it cooks and infuses the meat with garlic and sage. Her sausage stuffing can be made with sweet or spicy breakfast sausage, and she makes a quick roux-based gravy with a touch of Dijon mustard for the top. Layering the toasted bread, stuffing, turkey, and gravy makes this the ultimate comfort food (via "The Rachael Ray Show"). While we're sure that Howard Johnson's version was delicious, perhaps Ray's version tops it.

We know what you're thinking, this recipe might also be the perfect way to use up those precious Thanksgiving leftovers.