You’ve been mesmerized by her incredible beauty and seduced by her Culinary delights on the Food Network, but Giada De Laurentiis is actually in Toronto to draw focus to an important cause close to all of our hearts. The Italian-born American Goddess is here to host Chef’s Challenge: The Ultimate Battle for a Cure at the Toronto Congress Centre, the Event supporting a $4.5 million pledge to Mount Sinai Hospital with an emphasis on Women’s Health and Cancers research.
Although her Itinerary was filled to the brim, the Los Angeles Native was kind to take a few moments out of her day to chat. I was guided into her Dressing Room, where she was relaxing on a white Barcelona Couch, inviting me to have a seat. Exuding absolute confidence yet still managing to be extremely personable, it was evident within seconds why she is adored dearly by so many Men and Women alike.
I’ll be honest with you – my schedule doesn’t allow for much TV Watching, hence I never found much of a need to add the Food Network to my Cable Package. It was a few months ago that I was home watching Late Night with Jimmy Fallon – my usual comforting background noise – as I finished-up some Blogging before bedtime. I couldn’t help but notice De Laurentiis – bubbly, effervescent and outright hilarious as she tried getting Fallon to drink a healthy Smoothie with Gin in it. He tried it begrudgingly and even though he didn’t love it, I for one was won over. I rummaged through YouTube for Clips of her Cooking, a search rendering a litany of Fan-uploaded Clips of her Recipes like Lemon & Lavender Cookies, Pork with Sweet Onion Marmellata, Butternut Squash Tortellini made with Wonton Wrappers – all sumptuous, relatively easy to make and yummy. “Jimmy is such a lovely Human Being. He makes you feel so comfortable as if it’s just the two of you” she reveals to me, “I’ve done a lot of Talk Shows – trust me – it’s so intimidating.”.
De Laurentiis walks me through her experience of immigrating with her Family from Italy to America as an eight-year-old, a decision made after the Patriarch of her Family, her Grandfather, encountered lucrative opportunities stateside, taking them to New York for a couple years before relocating ultimately to California. On her first introduction to American Cuisine she says, “The first thing I remember was going to a Friend’s house and having a TV Dinner. I remember thinking to myself ‘Is this Dog Food? What is this exactly?'”. Needless to say, her discerning Tastebuds were not impressed with the frozen and then reheated offering. Her first pleasurable experience with American Food though came a bit later when she encountered French Fries and Burgers. To this day she remains a Fan of Regional Fast Food Chain, In-N-Out Burger.
I ask her for a bit of advice on where to dine in Los Angeles, since I’ll be visiting for the first time later this month. The options are plentiful, I learned. “We truly have some of the best Mexican food, because we’re so close” she says, “Pettycash Taqueria is really, really, yummy and super, super casual.”. She also gives Tex-Mex Hotspot Border Grill from fellow Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger a glowing review, but for Italian she names Capo (Italian for “Captain”) as her Favourite. The City she tells me, is obsessed with Korean Food, a movement fronted by Korean-American Chef Roy Choi, which is seeing Locals warm-up in droves to Korean Barbeques and Tacos. “It’s a huge culture in L.A. for us”.
I ask about when it was that she realized her Career would take a turn for the Culinary after majoring in Social Anthropology at U.C.L.A., which made her one of the first in her Family to partake in post-secondary studies. “I realized at the beginning of College, but my Parents insisted I finish”, says the eventual Graduate of ultra-prestigious Le Cordon Bleu. “I wanted to be a Pastry Chef, so what better place than Paris?”.
Finding work as a Pastry Chef wasn’t easy, especially returning home from France to one of the most health-conscious cities in the World. She soon found herself working with Celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck and his Pastry In-Charge, Sherry Yard. From there she became THE Ron Howard‘s Personal Chef, flying back-and-forth from Los Angeles to Connecticut, before branching into Food Styling, catching the eye of Food & Wine Magazine during a trying post-9/11. That golden opportunity for exposure led her to sudden stardom when the Food Network took notice of her potential and she certainly hasn’t looked back since with a booming Catalogue of Books, Products and TV Series, the latter garnering her a Daytime Emmy.
Two defining flavours have become synonymous with De Laurentiis’ Cooking are sweet and citrus. Naturally she has a pronounced Sweet Tooth in being a self-admitted Chocoholic. She touts highly one of her latest Creations, Bonbon-esque Chocolate Fig Bites, found in her latest Book, Giada’s Feel Good Food. “I get it – kids are sick, people don’t feel good and people need to be eating better”, she says about the inspiration behind the New Release. “It’s been fun to change things up and try to find ways to make really great Treats to help make people feel better.”.
Being a Mother with a flourishing Career, she understands the need for Go-To Meals and short preparation times. “I’ve always wanted to find ways to inspire people to get into the Kitchen to make Italian that looks and tastes fantastic”, states the petite Powerhouse. “There’s a time and place for making things like Bolognese and all of these things to take a bit longer – but there’s also a time and place to take 15 minutes out of your day to make yourself a Meal.”. She swears by Oatmeal with Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper – her quickest and most often-consumed Breakfast, while her Chia Seed Pudding has proven itself to be a massive Hit, as are her Fennel, Lettuce & Pea Soup and Lemon Spaghetti (note: the proper pronunciation is “Spig-it-tee“) Recipes.
A side of De Laurentiis we often don’t get to see is the Fan side. Many would be surprised just how eclectic her Musical tastes are, in addition to her tastes for Food. “Celebrities were never a big deal to me because I grew-up in L.A.” she admits, “I like out-of-the-box people and people who are real; they don’t always have to be big Movie Stars.”. She does however, tell me her favourite Acts include the likes of Foo Fighters, Lady Gaga, MGMT, Lorde, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Billy Joel, Julio Iglesias, Gipsy Kings – although the latter two she probably never would’ve admitted to enjoying in her youth. “Now that I’m older, I kinda like it because it brings me back to those days!”. Songs like Harlem (New Politics) and Who You Love (John Mayer ft. Katy Perry) currently are on high-rotation for her.
For those who don’t speak Italian, the name Giada means “Jade”, which decidedly is the name of her Daughter. On how De Laurentiis manages to balance her highly-successful Career with Family Life, she leaves us with one bit of advice. “I do it one day at a time. I have a great Husband (former Skier Todd Thompson) who helps me a lot, a great Family and two great Ladies who’ve been with me since the very beginning”, she imparts. “You have to be okay as a Woman to feel like you know when to ask for help and be okay with asking for help, realizing you can’t do everything.”.
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