One of the Food Network’s shining star chefs, Giada De Laurentiis has faced her fair share of hardships in recent years when it comes to her personal life, but things seem to have turned around for her. The queen of Everyday Italian has always had a love of food, but her passion for cooking was not initially a clear career choice, and actually, Giada thought her life would look completely different when she was just starting out. The Italian born, American bred Giada was initially expected to go into the family business and get involved in film, but fate had other ideas. So after few intense hurdles in her personal life and her career and a constant battle against the rumor mill, What does Giada have to say to all the naysayers?
After 11 years of marriage, Giada De Laurentiis and fashion designer Todd Thompson officially announced they had called it quits on December 29, 2014 and formally separated in September 3, 2015. The news sparked lots of speculations and theories and attracted lots of attention in the headlines, especially because the pair seemed really happy and shared an only daughter, Jade.
While fans and naysayers had their versions as to why the couple ended things, Giada preferred to deal with things professionally, much like her approach to all the hurdles in her career. In fact, several things that have happened to her over the years and during her career hold many of the answers.
If you’d asked a high school aged Giada De Laurentiis what she wanted to be when she grew up, she wouldn’t have said a chef, and certainly she wouldn’t have said an on-camera personality. Who can really say at age seventeen that they’re certain of their future?
Her parents told her, “You can’t possibly know what you want to do so why don’t you buy yourself some time?” And so, Giada bucked with tradition, and instead of going into the family business, she enrolled at UCLA. After graduating with a degree in Social Anthropology in 1996, she’d again find herself questioning her future. Would her family understand her sudden change of heart, and where would it take her?
Born in Rome, Giada’s mother is Italian actress Veronica De Laurentiis and her father is actor and producer Alex De Benedetti. That foreign film pedigree is pretty impressive all on its own, but if that’s not enough, Giada had even more ties to acting, making it an expected career choice.
Giada’s maternal grandfather is none other than famous film producer, Dino De Laurentiis, who helped popularize Italian cinema internationally in the United States. So, you’d think she’d go into the family business and pursue a career in film, right? Well, Giada would build her career on defying everyone’s expectation, especially those that think they know her best.
Having spent her early years in Italy, a young Giada De Laurentiis was uprooted along with her siblings after her parents’ divorce, and moved to Southern California in the 1970s. The experience would be pretty memorable for the impressionable young girl, who left behind everything she knew.
As a new immigrant Giada didn’t speak any English, and kids being kids, she was bullied for it. Giada was also nicknamed “Jabba the Hutt” because in typical child humor, “Jabba” and “Giada” sound similar. Seeking a safe space to hide out, Giada’s favorite place was in her grandfather’s restaurant, DDL Foodshow. It was there that things would begin to change.
Despite developing a passion for cooking while growing up in her grandfather’s restaurant, Giada De Laurentiis still wasn’t sure if she was a match for culinary school. She thought that her love of food was more of a hobby than a possible career prospect.
And so her family encouraged her to go to college – the first in her family to do so. Giada paid for her own schooling, but still, she didn’t feel like social anthropology was the right fit. After all of her earlier hesitation, she decided she needed to break with her family’s expectations, and nervously, Giada presented to her parents a new plan for her future.
Having completed her studies at UCLA, Giada told her family she wanted to go to culinary school, and at last, they agreed that it was the right path. Always ambitious, she applied for a highly covetable and competitive slot at Le Cordon Bleu.
To her delight, and simultaneous terror, she was accepted. Never having been much of a risk taker, Giada was determined to see her dreams of culinary school become a reality. She prepared to leave behind everything she knew yet again, only this time, to study in Paris. From the moment she arrive at Le Cordon Bleu, her experience wouldn’t be like anything she imagined.
Landing in Paris to study at Le Cordon Bleu, it wasn’t long before Giada nearly had a change of heart. “I don’t know what I was thinking. The whole time. What was I thinking in this life because I am not that person.”
At 5’1″ the already petite star lost 10 pounds from stress and lack of sleep. It seemed as though history was repeating itself, and again, Giada was living in a country where she couldn’t speak the language. The only thing that kept her from quitting was an innate call to cooking. Looking back on the experience now though, it changed her life.
Giada completed her culinary studies at Le Cordon Bleu, and was more than ready to move back to Los Angeles and dive right into the culinary scene. Looking to prove to not only herself, but everyone who had doubted her resolve, Giada found work in a few restaurants.
Quickly earning a positive reputation around all the top restaurants, Giada was hired as a chef at Spago, a restaurant owned by world famous celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Working in a Wolfgang Puck establishment, Giada earned her stripes as an up-and-coming chef. And yet, she still wasn’t sure it was right for her, and had another career change.
Giada transitioned surprisingly seamlessly into a career as a food stylist for food magazines, ultimately finding a steady job working for Food & Wine Magazine. But fate had one more curve ball in store for her, and quite suddenly, her life would never be the same.
In 2002, while working as a food stylist, Giada caught the attention of a Food Network executive, who insisted she tape an on-camera demo. Soon after, a series starring Giada, called Everyday Italian was greenlit by the network. But the beginning was rough, “I think I just wasn’t open enough; I wasn’t secure enough.” But just as fast as she’d found herself in the spotlight, that would change too.
As soon as Everyday Italian began airing, everyone seemed to have a comment about the new celebrity chef. People thought that the network had brought in a model or actress, instead of a real qualified chef. Giada would easily prove them all wrong.
Everyday Italian proved to be a success for the Food Network, and Giada rapidly became one of the more sought after chefs in the culinary world. By 2005 she released a cookbook by the same name with the help of a ghostwriter. As her cookbooks were reaching the top of the best seller lists, she was still toiling away, trying to prove herself on camera.
As soon as Everyday Italian really started to register on everyone’s radar, Giada’s career in front of the camera skyrocketed. She’s appeared on Behind the Bash, Pixie Hollow Bake Off and along with fellow Food Network celebrity chef Bobby Flay, competed on Iron Chef America.
Although Giada and Flay are currently close friends and co-hosts on Food Network Star, their time as teammates on Iron Chef America caused some strife. Having given it her all, Giada was disappointed in their loss, while Flay “thought it was funny.” After taking an eight month hiatus from their friendship, the two have since reconciled. After all, Flay can commiserate better than most about the downsides of fame that Giada has recently found.
Giada De Laurentiis has had to learn that with all the success and her status as a celebrity chef, comes a high profile. Being immediately recognizable is good for the Food Network star, but there is a downside to all the fame as well.
Giada has found that through her TV show, fans feels like they know her, and can sometimes forget that in actuality – they don’t. Fans often rush up to gush over their favorite celebrity chef, but Giada doesn’t like all the attention, “I wish I could say no touchy-touchy.” Always a good sport, she still manages to smile through every fan interaction. And there’s a secret behind her mega-watt smile.
Giada has become known for her super big – and super bright smile, but it might be surprising to learn that smiling all the time doesn’t actually come naturally for her. Initially uncomfortable in front of the camera, one of her producers had some crucial advice for the chef.
Looking back now Giada recalls, “In the beginning it was very intimidating,” but producer Irene Wong had some sage advice for the star. She instructed Giada to grin and bear it throughout everything: when she lifts something heavy, when she accidentally burns herself, whatever it may be, just smile through it all. That’s why Giada has a trick to keep her smile perfect.
Giada has a few clever little life hacks to help keep her camera ready at all times, and of course, being a culinary maven, her concoctions can be made out of ordinary foods found in the kitchen (and one special storebought item she stores in the fridge).
Giada mixes baking soda and olive oil into a homemade face mask to fight blemishes and moisturize skin at the same time. And as for that smile? Tooth whitener and lots of it. To keep it fresh for as long as possible, she stores her tooth whitener in the fridge – where she’s got a few more food secrets.
They say the camera adds ten pounds, and when you’re already a little nervous to step in front of the lens like Giada is, fitness is a big part of your life. To stay fit Giada watches what she eats, taking care to avoid fattening foods. Working on so many cooking shows, that all sounds pretty challenging.
Giada reportedly eats salad on set, and keeps dark chocolate in her fridge, and in every one of her handbags at all times to cure any cravings for something sweet. Actually, she rarely eats the type of food she makes on her show, which begs the question, who does the taste tests you see on camera?
Contrary to the way in which the show is edited to appear, Giada doesn’t actually eat any of the food she cooks on her show. According to a spokesperson for the Food Network star, Giada “Never eats. Never…They have a dump bucket that is brought out the second they cut.”
Her spokesperson goes on to explain that because she makes so many meals throughout the day, she couldn’t possibly eat them all. Sources say there’s also something sneaky (and pretty smart) happening on set during close up shots of the star taking a bite, that doesn’t show up on our TV screens at home.
In order to stick to her fitness goals and maintain a healthy diet, the Italian chef can’t honestly eat all that pasta, as they say, too much of anything can be bad for you. So, Giada and her show’s producers have come up with a pretty brilliant plan to take care of all those taste tests.
Giada has other staff from the set stand in as substitutes for her during any take of food tasting, and that’s why they’re done as close up shots – on the screen at home, no one can tell the difference. Still, the dump bucket gets used occasionally, and sometimes, it’s not just Giada that’s doing a spittake.
Appearing on an episode of Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show alongside Nicole Kidman, Giada was tasked with teaching the two how to make focaccia. Only Nicole had a hard time swallowing. Ellen and Nicole each took a bite out of some of the focaccia Giada had premade, and while Ellen jokingly over-exaggerated her chewing, Nicole reacted differently.
Ms. Kidman gracefully spit her bite back out. Giada explained that the focaccia had been sitting out for hours prior to the taping, and the three had a laugh over the whole thing. Giada took it in stride because in fact, the celebrity chef has confessed that that wasn’t the first time her food was spit back out.
Earlier in her career as a TV chef, Giada was invited to cook for Al Roker on the Today Show. As a former food stylist, she knows how to make a dish look good on camera, which in this instance involved keeping the chicken a little raw. Only Al Roker didn’t know that it was all for show.
As Al Roker went in to take a bite, Giada recalls, “I just froze, my entire body and mind froze. It’s those terrifying moments that end up being the things that can chance your career.” Luckily, Al understood the situation, and Giada would go on to redeem herself after the mishap.
Giada could finally accept that she had nothing to be nervous about on camera when she won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lifestyle Host in 2008. You’d think it would be the shining crown of her career, but for the chef, another moment stands high above the rest.
Giada cooked for Prince William and Kate Middleton when they came to California. After hearing that Prince William had tried to make lasagna for his wife Kate, and the dish came out all wrong, Giada made the dish for the couple – who loved it! But even the future King and Queen of England can’t hold a candle to the star’s true pride and joy.
Giada married Todd Thompson in 2003, and the couple share one daughter, named Jade, after the chef herself, since “Giada” means “jade” in Italian. The busy chef and on-screen personality feels secure in her decision to have only one child, and cherishes her time with her daughter.
While Giada admits she said yes to every opportunity early in her career, since having Jade she’s careful to schedule any travelling around the time she spends with her daughter. Since the dissolution of their marriage, Giada and Todd share custody of Jade, and Giada’s top priority is no longer work first. And still, through it all, she’s always smiling.
Once the news of her conscious uncoupling hit the press, rumors started flying that Giada had an affair prior to parting ways from her then-husband – claims she has vehemently denied. Luckily, one of her producers, Shane Farley, was going through a divorce as well, and the two were able to be there for one another.
It wasn’t long before Giada and Shane’s friendship turned into something more. When Giada separated from Todd Thompson she emphasized that she had not given up on love, telling several sources “I’m never going to say never” and depending on who proposes to her, she might say yes. Ultimately, the experience has helped her remember that family always comes first. “…I still work a lot, but I’m a lot pickier than I used to be. And simply because I want to be with Jade.” Maybe Jade will be inspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps?
Just as Giada spent time at her family’s restaurant as a young girl, Jade can spend her free time falling in love with food in the kitchen of Giada’s new restaurant. A true role model for female chefs everywhere, Giada opened up a restaurant in Las Vegas, making her the first woman to open a restaurant on the strip.
And yet, there was some criticism after the grand opening of her eponymous eatery, which she’s had to take in stride. “I spent two days bawling my eyes out,” but after so many years in the culinary world and as an on-camera personality, she’s learned how to overcome others’ negativity.
After initially taking the criticism of her new restaurant to heart, Giada remembered to be confident in her cooking capabilities. “We open ourselves up to those critics. I feel like I have my iconic dishes, my restaurant does really well, I do my best to deliver great service and great food and that is the job that I have.”
Giada rose above the criticism, something she’s been faced with before. In fact, she wants everyone who’s made fun of her to know that she’s aware there are those that say she over-pronounces Italian words (a trait that’s become a trademark) – but, it turns out everyone else is actually pronouncing them wrong!
Often mocked for the way she says “spaghetti” (turns out it’s supposed to be pronounced spi-GHE-tee, who knew?) and other Italian words, Giada wants everyone to know that she’s not the one making the mistake. The mispronunciation of the words she’s accused of over-annunciation is actually a pet peeve of hers.
But sometimes, when the star chef starts to doubt herself, she simply has to look over at all the accolades that prove that she’s been doing it right all along — in 2012 Giada was inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame. So what does a world famous chef eat when she’s craving a little comfort food?
Even though she’s always concerned with keeping her figure fit, and as we now know, she doesn’t eat any of the food she serves up on TV, she still has a soft spot for her childhood favorite, and it’s certainly an interesting combination of flavors.
The star’s love of chocolate runs deep, and even though it might sound strange, her favorite food growing up was spaghetti with melted chocolate “Once in a blue moon, I’ll still have it.” Before you question the seemingly mismatched ingredients, don’t yuck anyone’s yum. If award-winning celebrity chef Giada says it’s good, we’re ready to take a bite.
Sources: people.com, foodnetwork.com, Instagram