Behind The Scenes With A Rachael Ray Producer: At Home & On Set

Swoon Talent Blog - Rachael Ray, Emeril Lagasse & Sr. Supervising Producer Joanna Sims

Rachael Ray’s Senior Supervising Producer is Joanna Sims, a long-time friend of mine. We’ve known each other for 18 years and first met when she was fresh out of college. I was super lucky to work side by side with her as my Associate Producer on an NBC national talk show. So, when I asked Joanna if I could write a blog about her for Swoon Talent she said,

“Anything for you DB”. She says that a lot and has been a big supporter of Swoon. Now that’s loyalty!

Swoon Talent Blog - Rachael Ray with Producer Joanna Sims

Two decades of friendship and personal lives that are remarkably parallel. It starts with our tedious and difficult commutes to our TV jobs. I traveled 80 hours a month to New York; Joanna’s commute to Rachael Ray is an ungodly 120 hours a month. She has me beat on that one!

Rachael Ray's Senior Supervising Producer Joanna Sims with Donna Benner at Rachael Ray show, founder of Swoon Talent

And, we’re both blessed with twins. Joanna’s son and daughter, Nico and Anya turned 2 in September. My girls Chloe and Alex ALSO have birthdays in September. They just turned 25. And, we both married amazing husbands and fathers who helped us forget about working mommy guilt.

Swoon Talent Blog - Baby Twins of Rachael Ray's Producer Joanna Sims

Anya and Nico

Swoon Talent Blog - Behind the Scenes with a Rachael Ray Show Producer. Donna Benner's twin daughters.

Alex and Chloe

Summertime is always a great time to do catch up with my friends who work on national talk shows. Production stops in late spring and staffers go on hiatus. For Joanna, her vacation is a whopping 3 months and is an important time for her to focus on being a full time mom, wife and home cook a la Rachael Ray!

Rachael Ray's Producer Joanna Sims with her Twins

Swoon Talent Blog - Up Close & Personal with Rachael Ray Producer Joanna Sims Seen Here with Her Family

So, what would you do with 3 months off? For Joanna, it’s about family, home and good food. I talked with this hard working mom about what she did during her summer vacay, and of course I couldn’t help but ask some behind the scenes Rachael Ray questions. After all, Swoon Talent specializes in on-camera lifestyle experts. We covered what Rachael taught her about cooking, tips for being a great guest, how to cook on TV and Joanna’s favorite Rachael Ray show recipes.

Donna: Summer at the Sims’ Home?

Joanna: We just bought a new house, a three-story dramatic Mid-century built in 1956. So, we’re decorating. We’re going after the rustic look, natural wood cabinets, distressed tables, and neutral tones.

Swoon Talent Blog - Mid-Century Home of Rachael Ray's Producer Joanna Sims

My sister Andria was able to take a few days off from her job as Executive Producer for Viacom, so we took our first girl’s trip with our mom Franny. It was Andria’s 35th birthday and we went to Hilton Head, South Carolina to celebrate. We literally ate our way through the island. I curse the person who invented Hushpuppies.

Swoon Talent Blog on Rachael Ray Producer Joanna Sims with her Mom & Sister During Summer Vacay

I also traveled to Cape Fear, North Carolina with my hubby Joshua and the twins for a family reunion. There were 27 of us from all over the country. We stayed in a beautiful place overlooking a canal, just steps from the beach.

Swoon Talent Blog on How Rachael Ray's Producer Joanna Sims Spends her Time Off - Cape Fear, North Carolina -

Swoon Talent Blog on Rachael Ray's Producer Joanna Sims - Seen Here at Family Reunion

And of course, a lot of time spent in Southampton, Long Island where my parents live. We keep it simple…beach, pool, BBQ, repeat!

swoon Talent Blog - Joanna Sims of Rachael Ray show During Summer Vacation

Donna: What Has Rachael Ray Taught You About Cooking?

Joanna: I love to cook. I try to cook a few times a week, even when we’re in production. I’m inspired from what Rach is cooking in our “What’s for Dinner Tonight?” segments. My husband handles the grill and I’m tackling the sides and salads.

Swoon Talent Blog - Rachael Ray's Producer Joanna Sims with Husband Joshua in Their Kitchen Where they Love to Cook

Here are five things Rach has taught me…

  1. Season your food! Salt and pepper are our friends. If you’re breading chicken cutlets, season your breadcrumbs with spices. It makes such a difference for the finished dish. Your taste buds will thank you!
  2. I’ve been cutting cherry tomatoes all wrong! If you place them between two deli lids you can slice them all at the same time! Rachael learned this trick from a Food Network intern.
  1. Use your pantry! You don’t need a recipe to whip up a delicious dish. Check out what you already have in house. Maybe there’s a can of chickpeas in the cabinet, or a red onion and tomato. All these ingredients make a yummy salad. Or, toss with pasta with lemon and a veggie. Think outside the box and relax in the kitchen.
  2. Bacon makes everything better! And so does CHEESE!
  3. Make your own salad dressing! It just tastes better, is easy and is usually less calories. My favorite is EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), fresh garlic, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt, pepper and a little vinegar.

Donna: Favorite 3 Rachael Ray Show Recipes? (food pictures courtesy:

Joanna: Spinach and Ricotta Pie – I’m half Greek and half Italian and this is the perfect mix of a Spanakopita Pie. It’s easier than making individual pieces and I love that ricotta is used instead of feta. It comes out crispy, light and creamy. I made this right after watching Rach!

Swoon Talent Blog - Rachael Ray's Spanakopita Pie - A fav of Rach's Producer Joanna Sims

Deviled Eggs – I don’t know how she comes up with so many ways to make deviled eggs, but she does. And they’re all delicious. I made them so much that it was a running joke in my family. My sister would always crack up when she saw me with a tray. I got a little carried away. I even submitted my “Screamin Demon Deviled Eggs” in our potluck competition at work and came in 4th place.

Swoon Talent Blog - Rachael Ray's Pesto Deviled Eggs - A fav of Producer Joanna Sims

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic Ricotta Cream Sauce – I made this for company and everyone loved it! The dish looks super fancy and it’s really easy to make. It smells so yummy when it’s roasting with garlic and melted cheese. It’s AH-MAZING.

Swoon Talent Blog - Rachael Ray's Roasted Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic Ricotta Cream Sauce, A Fav of Producer Joanna Sims

Donna: Your Signature Dish?

Joanna: Rigatoni Bolognese! It’s a family recipe that’s really authentic and time consuming to make. It’s all about the sauce. I made five pots for a family reunion and everyone said they could smell it two blocks away. I’m told it smells like “Brooklyn on a Sunday”. Fresh ingredients are key. Fresh tomatoes, garlic, lots of onions, veal, beef and pork. Then I pour over rigatoni and top with ricotta cheese. My twins Nico and Anya love it! They only eat their mama’s macaroni.

Swoon Talent Blog - Rachael Ray's Producer Joanna Sims' Rigatoni Bolognese

Donna: Five Pointers for Lifestyle Experts Who Want to Be Guests on Rachael Ray!

  1. Takeaway, takeaway, takeaway: If you don’t have tips and tricks to show us that are demonstrative, then there’s no reason for you to be on TV. We need to be learning something we’ve never seen in a simple, easy way.
  2. Personality: Don’t hold back! We want someone who’s outgoing and fun…an expert that’s entertaining and who can hold the attention of our audience. And speak up! The mic is for clarity not volume.
  3. Accessibility: We want to want to watch you. Rach would never be cooking in an evening gown, so if you’re a DIY expert you should look like one. It’s ok to be in overalls and a tee if you’re showing me the latest way to makeover my bathroom for $100 or less.
  4. Hook: What’s your hook? What are you promising the audience? It’s important you show the steps on how you’re going to make it happen. Whether it’s dinner in ten minutes or less, or how to shop like a stylist without spending like one.
  5. Do your homework: Come prepared and know your demos. You shouldn’t be practicing your recipe, DIY project, or tips for the first time on our show.

Donna: Top On-Camera Performance Tips for Chefs Cooking on TV?

Joanna: Here are my five!

  1. Make sure your recipe has simple easy steps that aren’t too complicated for the home audience to follow.
  2. Don’t just talk, DO! There’s nothing worse than a talking head. If you’re there to cook, get right to it! Start your steps right away!
  3. Look up and interact with the audience.
  4. You don’t have to measure. It’s not baking, it’s cooking! Saying, A dash of this or a pinch of that is perfect!
  5. Have fun! If you take yourself too seriously you will come across as boring or uptight.

Donna: Favorite Rachael Ray Celerity Guest?

Joanna: EMERIL LAGASSE! He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He grabs the audience’s attention from the minute he hits the set. His energy is contagious. He’s a total sweetheart and he taught me how to make the BEST fried chicken wings in the world. I love this man! BAM!

Swoon Talent Blog - Rachael Ray's Producer Joanna Sims with Emeril Lagasse

Swoon Talent Blog - Rachael Ray's Producer Joanna Sims & What She Loves to Cook at Home - Emeril Lagasse's Fried Chicken Wings

Donna: Dream Kitchen?

Joanna: Four ovens, counter space for days and a brick oven for homemade pizza.

Donna Benner

Founder, Swoon Talent


I’m a former national daytime talk show producer who’s been in TV for over 25 years.
I’ve booked thousands of lifestyle experts & celebrities on television.
I parlayed my producing skills and experience in lifestyle TV into entrepreneurship and launched Swoon Talent three years ago.
Swoon Talent is a management agency for on-camera health, food & lifestyle experts.

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