Passion, Lights, Camera, Food!
In a world where nepotism is prevalent, Giada De Laurentiis, wanted to do it her way. Granddaughter of famed director Dino De Laurentiis, she lives her life with as much gusto, but celebrates it with creating sumptuous cuisine rather than blockbusters.
Giada attests that as she grew up in an Italian household, whose focus was the family feast. It was the combo of taste, aroma and touch that formed the seduction of family togetherness, teamwork and Italian home cooking…
Born in Rome, Giada is one of the Food Network’s most popular chefs. Her work ethic started young; she was influenced by grandpa’s pasta store in Naples. Nonno (as she affectionately calls him) sold his family’s spaghetti door to door. “I think that’s why Italians have a lot of kids. So they can put them to work,” she jokes.
Many agree that Giada could have easily pursued an acting career, but she was not fond of being photographed. When Food Network came along, she had to painstakingly get used to the camera. Even with her flawless ivory complexion, beautiful eyes, angelic face and killer smile; she suffered from pangs of insecurity. She hadn’t realized she had inherited her grandmother, actress Silvana Mangano, and mother Veronica’s good looks.
After graduating UCLA with a degree in anthropology, she trained at Paris’ Cordon Bleu and wandered through the French markets on her day off. Returning to Los Angeles, she landed gigs at the Ritz-Carlton and Spago before starting her own catering company, GDL Foods.
When the chef joined the Food Network, Mario Batali was the only chef hosting an Italian cooking show. “It was high end, gourmet type [food].” Giada was courted to teach how to do more simple, as well as mouth-watering recipes. “You didn’t need fancy ingredients for a great meal.”
Some stars require champagne, others roses. But producers just have to supply Nutella on the set, as it is her favorite. “I admit, I’m a chocoholic!”
Symbiotic with the Italian way, birthdays were always primo in the family’s household. New in L.A. at seven, “I did not speak much English because my parents spoke Italian at home,” she reveals. “They sent me to public school on a bus; I don’t know why. The kids picked on me; I had no friends. They threw cereal at me because I was different, looked ethnic and had a name that could not be pronounced very easily. I sat alone in a corner and ate lunch alone. All I ever wanted to be was a Mary or a Sue.”
“For special occasions, we borrowed my grandfather’s screening room in his Beverly Hills office. I know kids these days do it all the time and it’s no big deal. But at that time, it was major.
“Birthdays/aging is something we should celebrate, not fear. I watched my whole family get older. We seem to get better with age. It’s exciting because you learn a lot. I enjoy life much more now. I was so insecure and uncomfortable of who I was when I was young.”
The chef and husband, Todd Thompson, a fashion designer, are parents of daughter, Jade (English counterpart for Giada). If she has her way, the De Lorentiis heritage of food will be passed on to another generation.
Giada just signed with Target for a kitchen line and pasta.
Sue Facter writes about all things A-list. Her credits include USA Today, People, Los Angeles Times, TV Guide and publications worldwide.