And the one boss who inspired her to be a woman she's proud of.

I dislike the word boss. It's a vulgar four-letter word that sounds uncompromising and dispassionate. That said, I work very hard to be a fair, strong, and even boss for the people who choose to work for me. And what I've learned about being a boss is that it's not only your opinion that matters. Effective leaders listen to themselves, to others, and to their audience. My brand and our company and the company I keep stand for certain truths: We believe you don't have to be rich to live a rich life. We deliver the best value in our products, and we value our customer, reader, and viewer more than anything. Our work is not about impressing; it's about delivering. I don't compromise on my gut instincts.

I learned how it's done from one awesome boss: my mom. At the height of her career, she was a single mom of three kids and ran nine restaurants. I remember following her around kitchens with a milk crate for her to stand on so she could look everyone in the eye as she gave directions. (I guess I got my height from her, too.) She was tough and fair, willing to work harder than anyone, male or female, and always grateful for the opportunity. It took me a long time to become my mother's daughter and a woman I am proud of.

I'm inspired by the women in the food and service industries, and I'm especially moved by the talents and strengths of the women featured in this issue and contributing to it. Women make great leaders because we can think in circles and keep seven plates spinning at once, and like men, we can be strong of back, heart, and mind. It's been a challenging time in my industry and others, and one thing that's become clear is that women and men need to work together, with mutual respect. We truly need each other in order to set the table and the conversation.


Rachael Ray

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Credit: Photography by Peggy Sirota