Oprah Winfrey‘s talk show apprentice and TV cook Rachael Ray is hiding a broken childhood scarred by violence and adultery, The National Enquirer can reveal.

Rachael, who has sold four million cook books and is the Food Network’s biggest star, will begin a new career next year as host of a national talk show. Oprah is expected to make Rachael millions of dollars, as she did for Dr. Phil when she gave him his own syndicated show.

But while Rachael has brushed over her private life in published interviews, her father Jim Ray has now spoken out in a frank, exclusive interview with The National Enquirer about his daughter’s troubled early years. Now it can be revealed how:

  • HE threatened to shoot himself in front of her when she was nine
  • RACHAEL was lonely at school
  • SHE went hungry at home
  • SHE was attacked twice and feared she would be raped
  • Speaking at his home in Saratoga Springs, NY, close to Rachael’s birthplace in Glens Falls, Jim revealed that family life fell apart when the Rays returned to the area after buying, and then selling, three restaurants in Cape Cod.

    He said: “Elsa was a great mother, but I was under a great deal of stress. My wife had even told me to see a psychiatrist. She was on Valium and I was on Lithium, but I gave it up because it made me shake.

    “For some time my wife and I had not been sleeping together. Things got to a point when I had had enough. We had a handgun in the house and I took it and went into Elsa’s bedroom. She woke with me pointing the gun at my head, asking her: ‘Is this what you want me to do?’ Elsa was screaming, the children were crying, including Rachael, and I was in a terrible state.”

    Jim was a publisher when he married restaurant manager Elsa Scuderi close to her home in Lake George. Elsa already had a daughter Maria from a previous relationship. Rachael was born in 1968 and her brother Emmanuel in 1974.

    Elsa filed for divorce soon after the gun incident in 1979, Jim says. He moved out but gave money for his ex-wife to have a nanny while she was at work managing restaurants.

    Jim claims: “Elsa kept maintaining there was nobody else in her life. But it turned out I was the only one who didn’t know there was a man in her life before she divorced me.

    “His ex-wife even came to me and told me and I refused to believe it. It turned out that the children had known about Elsa’s ‘friend’, but Rachael had been told not to tell me.”

    For more on Rachael’s childhood, pick up this week’s issue of The National Enquirer.