The Controversial Origins Of Rachael Ray's Iconic Catchphrase

Rachael Ray can be described in many words. "Philanthropic" and "animated" may come to mind for those familiar with the Food Network icon; Ray has made trips to Ukraine on multiple recent occasions to cook for kids affected by the war with Russia, among other charitable efforts, and the home cook always exudes enthusiasm for her approachable recipes onscreen. "Controversial," on the other hand, is probably one of the least used descriptors for Ray. Known best for her cooking and lifestyle television programs, Ray has spent many years in the culinary spotlight. Throughout those years, she's earned the adoration of millions with her charismatic energy and welcoming approach to sharing her craft with the world.

Surely, then, fans today would be shocked to learn that one of Ray's most famous catchphrases just so happens to be the result of a misstep that once landed her in hot water — some of the hottest she's experienced in her celebrity days. In her episode of "Hot Ones," Ray recalled the origin of the signature line she still uses whenever she tastes her dishes at the end of a show, as well as how that origin almost compromised her career.

The one sentence that stirred up scandal

Reflecting on her career in a 2016 interview with "Hot Ones'" Sean Evans, Ray shared a surprising response when asked, "Can you give me the strangest origin story for one of [your signature] phrases?" She instantly recalled the circumstances that bred her most famous episode-closing tagline, "yum-O." As she explained, when she first hosted a cooking show on the Food Network, she felt she had to say something special after tasting her food. What first came to mind was, "Yum, oh my god, that's good." To her surprise, this seemingly innocent utterance quickly got her flak from viewers, who took offense to her nonchalant use of the word "god" on TV. 

With the volume of criticism Ray received, mostly via hate mail, network executives eventually stepped in and asked her to avoid the g-word from that point on. In the episodes following the incident, she tasted her food and began to say, "Yum, oh my god..." out of habit — but quickly stopped herself mid-sentence. What came out as a result was "yum-O," a line that would stick with her audiences, specifically children, for years to come.

Since its emergence, Ray has taken the catchphrase and run with it. Not only has she attached it to the branding of her cooking products, but she has also used Yum-O! as the name of her children-centered non-profit organization. As it turns out, the saying that has helped define Ray's persona was well worth the controversy that inspired it.