Rachael Ray and her husband John Cusimano have been have been happily married for over 12 years now—and it all started with one very late night.
“We were out until 4 a.m.!,” Ray tells PEOPLE on set of The Rachael Ray Show as she recalls the night they met at a mutual friend’s party. “He told me what he had made himself for dinner the night before, and I assumed that if you’re not a chef and you made what he told me he made, that he was gay. So I was going to set him up with a friend of mine—another handsome Italian man—and he said, ‘Oh, I’m not gay!’ So we stayed out until 4 in the morning that really was our first date.”
Nowadays, of course, it’s Ray who does most of the cooking, while Cusimano—the lead singer of the band The Cringe who has taken up mixology as a hobby—handles the cocktails.
And when it comes to Valentine’s Day plans, they’ve had the same tradition for a decade. “He makes me a playlist every year and I make him his favorite meal which is pasta carbonara,” she says. “And I give him a bouquet of salamis from around the world (pictured below), because he just loves pork—what are you gonna do?”
Even as a pork-loving couple with frequent houseguests, Ray says it takes them “seven to eight months” to get through all of the cured meat each year. “There’s so much salt in hard salami that as long as you keep it cold it’s not going to go bad, it’ll just keep drying out and aging.”
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And though the 49-year-old Food Network star admits that “Valentine’s Day sucked for a lot of my years on the planet because I was dateless and everyone was going out,” she now sees it as a time to show affection for everyone she cares about in her life. “You don’t have to have a partner to appreciate —I’ve thrown many Valentine’s Day parties for my mom and for friends,” she says. “I think its great day to be mindful of those you’re supposed to love year round.”