Rachael Ray: 'I Sat Alone' in the Cafeteria

The TV chef says smelly lunches made her "very unpopular"

Rachael Ray welcomes the world into her kitchen every day. But finding eating companions wasn’t always so easy. For years, she says, she was a lunchtime pariah.

“I had the lunchbox that cleared the cafeteria,” the Rachael Ray Show host told PEOPLE in NYC Thursday, at a party for Food for New York and The Lunchbox Fund. “I was very unpopular in the early grades.”

Just what was spooking her classmates? “Because I hung out with my grandfather, I started to bring my lunchbox with sardine sandwiches and calamari that I would eat off my fingers like rings,” Ray, 39, explained. “I was also always reeking of garlic.”

Forgoing the standard PB&J for exotic Italian foods may not have won many friends, but Ray insists she wasn’t lonely. “I sat alone, but that’s okay,” she said. “I sat alone with good food!”

Ray and her husband, John Cusimano, are among a handful of celebrities who’ve designed lunchboxes that are now being auctioned off for hunger relief. (Other stars include Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and Maggie Gyllenhaal.)

For the record, Ray didn’t even bother with a lunchbox during her school days. “It was a brown paper sack,” she said. “Pretty basic, but with grease stains all over it!”

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