'The Big Tip With Rachael Ray': Food Network darling spreads the wealth

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As well-versed as she clearly is in kitchens, Rachael Ray also knows what it takes to get food to a customer's table.

Heading toward the ninth season of her syndicated weekday show, the popular personality rewards waiters and waitresses in Food Network's "The Big Tip With Rachael Ray" Sunday (June 8).

The projected series of specials fulfills what Ray tells Zap2it was her aim of doing "a show that incorporated food-service professionals. Food Network approached me about doing a show about extraordinary people who happened to wait tables for a living but also were great parents or children or community service providers who have a great tale to tell."

The subjects believe they're involved in a different sort of show that showcases restaurants throughout America, initially scoped out by co-host Rossi Morreale. "Then, unbeknownst to them, I come into town," Ray explains. "I chat with them a bit, then I give away a lot of money. Two people get $1,000, then one person gets $10,000 in cash."

Since her family owned and managed restaurants, Ray is reminded strongly of her own roots by her "Big Tip" experiences.

"I remember, when I was a kid waiting on tables, how much it meant to me when you'd give someone a $3 check and they'd leave you five bucks. Or when a bunch of construction guys would come in and leave you a 20. It was a big deal, not only for your confidence level, but it really made you feel special and valued.

"It's very humbling to work in the service industry in general," notes Ray, "and I've said many times that everyone should have to do that. It teaches you humility and the importance and integrity of physical labor, and it's memory skill, juggling timetables and schedules. It's actually very mentally taxing to be a very good waiter or waitress."
Photo/Video credit: Food Network