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Rachael Ray Wakes Up at 3 a.m., Jokes She’s 'Not Really Good with Downtime' (Exclusive)

Ray formed a partnership with A&E Networks to make new shows: "It's a huge exciting time in my life"

<p>Jeff Lipsky</p> Rachael Ray Says She’s ‘Not Really Good with Downtime’ as She Lands New Deal with A&E

Jeff Lipsky

Rachael Ray Says She’s ‘Not Really Good with Downtime’ as She Lands New Deal with A&E

Rachael Ray has been cooking up something big.

Ray’s production company, Free Food Studios, formed a partnership with A&E Networks. The deal will bring “in the kitchen” content and various new shows from both Ray and other talent over the next two years.

The project means Ray, 55, is having a hard time finding a moment to relax — but she’s just fine with that.

“I'm not really good with downtime. I love to work. I love it. I love to have my brain very active, and if I'm not writing shows, I'm drawing ‘foodles’ I call them — recipes on paper — and writing books and things,” the iconic television cook tells PEOPLE. “I don't like being idle. I've never been good at it.”

Related: WATCH: Rachael Ray's Tragic House Fire Inspired Her New Series — Her First Since Ending Talk Show (Exclusive)

She even jokes that she wrote “120 pages” of one of her cookbooks on her honeymoon. “I really am bad at doing nothing!” she says proudly.

Ray says her day starts as early as 3 a.m.

“I can't sleep. I wake up at three or four in the morning, and I just start working because I can't stop thinking about it,” she says. “I'm not very good at sleep. I never have been. Even when I was a little girl. My nickname was Little Hoot because I was a night owl.”

Related: Rachael Ray Reflects on Her Trip to Ukraine: 'With Heart and Soul, Anyone Can Change the World'

Her husband of over 20 years, John Cusimano, prefers a little more R and R. “He loves to sleep. Unfortunately, once I get up and turn all the lights on and start typing and turn the coffee on, he's forced to get up pretty early, too,” Ray quips. “He's usually up between five and six…The other morning he said, ‘You realize it's three o'clock in the morning, right?’”

Jim Spellman/WireImage John Cusimano and Rachael Ray
Jim Spellman/WireImage John Cusimano and Rachael Ray

Another main reason Ray likes to stay hyperactive is that she’s always curious about trying out new things and taking on reimagined business ventures.

“I'm always game for anything, and I'm a person who's over 50 years old. I'm trying to still remain relevant, which is an honor,” she says. “It's cool to be over 50 and get new opportunities that keep getting thrown at me."

Ray bid farewell to her syndicated daytime talk show, The Rachael Ray Show, in May. She says it’s connecting with real people like the inspiring guests on the show that really “give me chills,” so she plans to bring that same level of authenticity to A&E.

“At heart I think I'm a waitress, whether I'm serving furniture or a pot or a pan or a plate of food. I want to give people something clever and useful and accessible. I like people to feel included,” she says.

The partnership will bring Ray back to her roots, metaphorically and physically. The lineup of upcoming content includes Rachael Ray’s Meals in Minutes — a new spin on on Ray's beloved Food Network show 30 Minute Meals. She'll also cook out of her home in Italy (Ray is Italian on her mother's side) for Rachael Ray’s Tuscany, which is a working title.

“People will see more of what they came to enjoy about my work during the pandemic when John and I were working alone for more than two years. I think that folks like that, really feeling like they're at the kitchen counter with you or in your home with you,” she says. “That's the vibe I want people to have with my work in Italy.”

This new course of her enduring career is by far her most challenging yet, but in true Ray fashion, she’s up for any task.

“We're going to be working on so many different things," she says. "I have to set a higher bar, so I want to rise to the occasion and just make sure every day I do my absolute best."

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