The surprises and love just kept on coming during our Season 13 premiere in honor of Rachael's 50th birthday in 2018! And we're looking back on them as we gear up for our Season 15 premiere on September 14, 2020.
Not only did we want to treat our girl — and we did, with well wishes from her celeb friends and a parade of 50 puppies! — but we also wanted to move her, as she's moved so many of us with her acts of generosity through the years.
Especially when it comes to children.
"You know, what you love most is really inspiring kids," said Rach's good friend Emeril, on-hand to celebrate with the birthday girl.
And what better way to toast Rach than for her to see the fruits of her labor?
That's why we invited four of the many children whose lives she's touched throughout the years.
Two scholarship students, two "Rachael Ray's Kids Cook-Off" contestants — including one pediatric cancer patient who wrote a cookbook to help raise money for other sick children and got an extra boost from Rach — all came to share what an impact she's had on their lives.
"I just want to thank you so much for being a role model to me," says "Cook-Off" contestant Alessandra, who's currently studying business at Fordham University, "for being someone to look up to and someone to strive to be." Rach has no doubt she'll have her own culinary business soon enough!
Meanwhile, with the help of a donation from Rach, Jack, who told us he was 7 years cancer-free, said he got an investor and was launching his own company that year. (Way to go, Jack!)
Christian, who received a $5,000 culinary scholarship through Yum-O, was proud to tell Rach he was working at the No. 1 country club in America. Amazing!
And Nicholas, who won Season 12's Cook Your Way to Culinary School contest, said that with his $25,000 scholarship, he was attending the top culinary school in the country, The Culinary Institute of America.
We couldn't be more proud — and neither could Rach, as evidenced by her tears!
Watch all of the kids' sincere thank yous to Rach in the video above — they truly had the sweetest things to say.