Blogging duo crafts their way onto ‘Rachael Ray Show’

Jan 4, 2016 by and

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HARRISONBURG, Va. — What is the secret to a superb apple pie, worthy of featuring on The Rachael Ray Show? Two tablespoons of French apple brandy, homemade caramel sauce and a blog enterprise run by two Eastern Mennonite University accounting alumni.

Kaleb Wyse, center, with Rachael Ray and Regis Philbin on the set of The Rachael Ray Show. Wyse co-hosted an episode with Ray after winning a competition by making a video with business partner Joel Kratzer. — The Rachael Ray Show

Kaleb Wyse, center, with Rachael Ray and Regis Philbin on the set of The Rachael Ray Show. Wyse co-hosted an episode with Ray after winning a competition by making a video with business partner Joel Kratzer. — The Rachael Ray Show

The Internet brainchild of 2010 graduates Kaleb Wyse and Joel Kratzer, The Gray Boxwood is an amalgamation of culinary, decorating, building and gardening tutorials. Above all else, the blog strives to portray beautiful and timeless ways to live and entertain — such as an apple pie made by Wyse and showcased in film by Kratzer.

That 60-second video, created for Rachael Ray’s “Dreamjobbing” competition, earned Wyse a one-day co-hosting gig on The Rachael Ray Show.

Wyse was featured on the Nov. 30 episode, simmering made-from-scratch caramel, cracking jokes with the talk show hostess and learning trade secrets from Regis Philbin about how to be a television host.

“The day was a whirlwind,” Wyse said. “The staff and producers were unbelievable, so kind and friendly. It was amazing seeing behind the scenes, what goes into a show and how it is created.”

Winning creativity

The Gray Boxwood’s creators have been a high-achieving team since their college days, when they teamed up with another student to present the winning business plan at the Mennonite Economic Development Associates annual business simulation competition in 2008.

Both Kratzer and Wyse went on to accounting careers after graduation — Kratzer in Los Angeles and Wyse in Iowa. Neither found the corporate workplace fulfilling.

“While I so appreciated the education I received and value the accounting classes I took, I knew that I was not created to be an accountant,” Wyse said. “I think EMU helped me come to that realization. Classes and professors, especially Leah Kratz and Ron Stolzfus, focused not only on core curriculum but also on being passionate about God and finding the place he created for us in this world.”

Seeking that passion led Wyse back to skills and values of his rural Iowa childhood.

“Growing up, I learned to value the land and value food,” he said. “We always grew most of our food, preserved through canning, freezing and fermenting anything we could and eating the preserved goods throughout the winter.”

Where his parents saw family resources, Wyse saw opportunities for experimentation. He and Kratzer decided to start a blog together — and in the face of distance and an unclear vision, The Gray Boxwood was born in 2012.

‘Creative outlet’

The Gray Boxwood features cooking, baking and indoor and outdoor crafts.

When posts about cheese plates and end-of-summer parties were not “getting across what either of us wanted or hoped to convey,” Wyse said, “we saw the push for YouTube and felt compelled to make videos.”

Kratzer eventually left Los Angeles for Iowa, where he continues to work as a CPA in addition to being site designer, videographer and editor to Wyse’s home-and-hearth content. He learned cinematography and editing through trial and error.

Several jars of canned green beans, seasoned-themed play­lists, Easter centerpieces and monkey-bread recipes later, the duo is still “tweaking how we create, format and design,” Wyse said. He also gets real-time practice in freelancing his interior design, wedding planning, catering and landscape skills to local clients.

“I love the challenge of discovering what works and what doesn’t,” Kratzer said. “I get my energy through our evolution.”

Beyond the modest goal of increasing their audience, the two have dreams of cookbooks and television programs. For both creators, though, the blog continues to be an exploratory, creative outlet and a reflection of their natural talents.

“I have felt closest to God through my work with The Gray Boxwood [and] also have felt my largest struggles learning to trust and let things be in his timing,” Wyse said. “I am still learning that.”

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