Interview with Celebrity Chef Giada De Laurentiis

One of the best parts about living in America’s Finest City is the access we have to a wide range of cultures scattered throughout various neighborhoods, each with its own regional food. No area makes this more apparent than Little Italy. When we caught up with Giada De Laurentiis at the San Diego Sicilain Food Festival in Little Italy she explained, “Little Italy is so special because Italian people are so warm and inviting. There’s nothing better.”

Giada De Laurentiis is a household name, making various television appearances from her numerous Food Network shows, Today Show appearances, as a spokesperson for Bella Sera Wines, and most recently as chef to the royal couple during their visit to California. Despite her celebrity status, she is surprisingly like every other California mom – stretched between work, numerous projects, and her family. In our conversation she explained how she balances it all and where she’s going next.

On Her Past, Present and Future

The Food Network star’s career began with her first show, “Everyday Italian.” Giada would put her culinary expertise to work showing easy techniques to integrate Italian cooking into the lives of Americans. Her passion for food was apparent early on, and continues to shine today.

In the beginning, filming the show was a challenge. She explains, “I was having problems shooting ‘Everyday Italian’ because I felt like I was stuck; I couldn’t move in the homes we were using. It’s also a little weird when you rent a house because the people have to move and you’re in their things. I really wanted to cook like I was at home and be able to go to the pantry and grab something. So we ended up building a set.”

The set of “Giada at Home” is a replica of the kitchen in her home in Malibu; everything from the ocean view to the countertops is just like it would be in her home. “I felt that if we could recreate my house, we would have more stability.”

Stability was surely needed as she and her husband Todd welcomed a beautiful baby girl in 2009. When she got pregnant she realized like many mothers that she had to set her priorities. “I decided I couldn’t add more. I had to keep the projects I had going to see where the new world as a mom would take me.”

Looking down the road, you may see Giada working on projects including children’s programming or animated shows involving cooking. She also wants to begin her travel show again. “This time I’d like to do specials where I can bring my daughter and husband with me to be part of the exploration. At this point, I’m just going to dabble in different areas and see where it takes me.”

One of the natural places that her career has taken her is as a spokesperson for Bella Sera Wines. Not only does Italian food involve cooking with quality wines, but the Italian culture is centered on wine, food and family.

“I got involved with Bella Sera because Stephanie Galo of the Galo family is a good friend of mine. We have a lot in common. Both our families came to this country to start a new life; we have a very similar story and cultural background.”

Giada understands that it is hard to find a good quality Italian wine that is affordable for everyday. “Bella Sera is not too expensive. You can not only cook with it, but actually drink it too. The grapes are all from Italy, so it’s truly an Italian wine.” The wine is also very easy to find says Giada, “They can be found in most grocery stores.”

The combination of Bella Sera and Giada’s food is delicious. Something special happens when you add wine to a recipe. “I feel like it really brings the Italian culture together. It’s about the Italian experience, and that’s truly what I try to sell. It’s what they try to sell too. We teamed up to sell the whole package.”

On Balancing Family

Giada is always working on one project or another; when we spoke to her she had just published her most recent cookbook “Giada at Home” and was in the middle of filming her TV show by the same name. She feels the constant demand of work and family and tries her best to spend time with her 3 year old daughter Jade as much as she can.

“Work can be a bit hectic, but we make it work. During the week I leave the house before 6 a.m. and I get home when Jade is already asleep, so I barely get to see her. When I’m away on weekends I try to get home in time to see my daughter so I can put her to bed.”

Not only does Giada make time for her family, but in the age of processed foods and growing obesity in children, she is paving the way for healthy eating for kids. Giada shows first hand how children can be introduced to healthy eating from an early age.

“We underestimate what children really like. If you start feeding a kid something when they’re really young, it doesn’t take long for them to get used to it. There are people working night and day to make sure those fast food burgers taste a certain way. There’s a sugar/salt component that they put in there that drives your taste buds insane and you get addicted to it. But if you start kids on fresh foods, the other stuff they eat it doesn’t taste as good.”

Although her daughter Jade enjoys many foods that kids her age may have never tried, that doesn’t stop her from being picky from time to time. “Sometimes she will look at broccoli and say, ‘I don’t want that.’ Or her tastes change, so I adapt with her.”

Favorite Foods to Eat and Cook

Giada’s favorite foods include Neopolitan pizza, the flavors of fresh pasta, fresh tomatoes, and olive oil. “I like lighter food,” she says. Giada is both Roman and Neopolitan, which explains her love of fresher flavors. She explains that “Northern Italian food is very influenced by Germany and France, so the food is heavier and based in tomato sauces, soft cheeses, and lots of meat. Central Italy does a lot with stuffed pastas. The coasts do a lot with fish.”

“There’s a lot of lemon in my food, with is the California influence. I like light, clean, visually stimulating food that’s vibrant rather than heavier cream sauces cooked for a long time.”

One way to add some fresh flavor to food is by cooking with wine.  “While Pino Gricio is one wine I use the most for cooking, Bella Sera has a chianti that’s very good. My favorite is actually the Moscato, especially in the summer time because it tastes like peaches and apricot. It makes me think of Capri in the summer. It brings back all the memories from growing up. That’s something I want to share with people.”

When it comes to cooking this summer, Giada likes to incorporate what’s fresh for the season. For the summer you can look forward to fresh tomatoes and basil along with fresh fruit like peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apricots.

“All of these fresh fruits also go so well with the Moscato wine from Bella Sera. It hs so many flavors of the season that it makes a perfect summer wine. Really perfect.”

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