Giada De Laurentiis, a Food Network darling and first timer to the grub match of “Iron Chef America,” is visibly flustered mere minutes into the televised competition. She can’t get a blender off of its base.
“It’s not coming off,” she squeals, jumping up and down and shaking her hands.
The scene might not sound all that surprising, given the intense pressure of the match, but the normally cool-as-a-cucumber De Laurentiis had never let cameras capture her off-balance until then. On her weekly program “Everyday Italian,” she smoothly demonstrates dishes in a serene kitchen with lighting that even Barbra Streisand would approve. And yet it’s the imperfect side of herself the 36-year-old chef is eager to show more of, starting with her new show, “Giada’s Weekend Getaways.”
The series follows De Laurentiis, granddaughter of prolific film producer Dino De Laurentiis, on her three-day adventures cross country as she samples each city’s cuisine along the way.
Seeking new food is within De Laurentiis’ comfort zone. But her travels have forced her to stretch her limits. For instance, when producers suggested she play tennis in Newport, R.I., De Laurentiis, no tennis pro, was wary. “I look retarded,” she admits of the scene in which she giggles her way through a backhand. “I think people are so used to seeing me in a perfect environment because ‘Everyday Italian’ is so controlled that now they see a glimpse of the real me, who’s not always so glamorous.”
The idea that De Laurentiis is “not always so glamorous” could be a bit misleading. For one thing, she was born in Rome into a family of big-time film producers and actors. She attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and later worked at Spago before starting her own catering company, with clients like Ron Howard. After appearing in a magazine article about her famous clan, she was contacted by a Food Network executive and offered her own show.
Fashion also runs through her veins. As a young girl, De Laurentiis attended couture shows with her grandmother, the late actress Silvana Mangano. Her mother owned a clothing line, and now De Laurentiis is married to a designer for Anthropologie. On the show, she’s known for wearing tight, low-cut tops.
This story first appeared in the January 22, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
As for fitting into those shirts, the unfairly thin chef, whose third cookbook, “Everyday Pasta” (or “carbohydrate city” as she dubs it), will come out this spring, offers two tips: When eating out, ask for the main course in an appetizer portion, and skip the bread basket. “If they bring it, you’ll eat the whole thing,” she says. “I know. I’ve done it.”