08/31/2009 at 06:00 AM EDT
has taken the crown traditionally worn by Ellen DeGeneres
: the TV chef won the Emmy for best talk show, an honor that for the three previous years has gone to DeGeneres.
"I'm just thankful to have a job in the recession and be working," Ray said after her win at Sunday's 36th annual Daytime Emmy Awards, held at downtown Los Angeles's historic Orpheum Theater and aired on the CW network.
On the red carpet before her victory, Ray told PEOPLE that she lacked an acceptance speech. "You know, I'm so bad at memorization and our show is completely unscripted, so I'm just going to go up," she said, "and if something nice happens like that then we'll just go with our gut."
"I love daytime television," informative talk-show category winner Tyra Banks
said at the podium. "I learned the birds and the bees from watching [General Hospital
's] Luke and Laura. I learned my ABCs, 1-2-3 from Sesame Street
. This [Emmy] is for the women out there that do not feel beautiful … that do not have time to do their makeup … This is for you guys."
Backstage, Banks said, "I was a little fearful, honestly, that we wouldn't necessarily win this year because last year was so huge – 'Kiss My Fat Ass!' was heard around the world."
's Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck
and Sherri Shepherd were named best talk-show hosts, over such formidable competition as Ray, DeGeneres and Live!
stars Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa
Other winners included Who Wants to be a Millionaire
emcee Meredith Vieira, for best game-show host, and the often-overlooked The Bold and the Beautiful
, for best daytime drama.
While Ugly Betty
's Vanessa Williams
hosted the show (and stopped it with an opening musical number), the best line of the night came from a familiar, if not very attractive, face. After a lifetime achievement award was presented to Sesame Street
, which will soon turn 40, Cookie Monster said: "It's not only a great honor, but it's delicious … Wow, that tastes even better than a Latin Grammy."
Reporting by MICHELLE WARD