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Meeting Giada De Laurentiis

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Dreams do come true. Last week, after standing around a Barnes & Noble for two hours, I finally met the chef, the legend, the obsession. Ladies and gentlemen, I met Giada De Laurentiis.

The star of Food Network’s addictively sexy Everyday Italian and author of a cookbook sharing the same name, Miss De Laurentiis is making the rounds promoting her latest tome, Giada’s Family Dinners. I was on track to make every single recipe from Everyday Italian, her first best-selling cookbook, before real life and, you know, lack of funds got in the way. (All that freshly grated parmesan can really put a dent in your wallet).

Joined by my mom, who also bought Giada’s latest book, and my sweetie, I was armed with copies of both her books as I paced around the B&N, too distracted to actually read anything I was flipping through. We had been given numbered tickets and were told that we would be called in groups of 50 so as to avoid super-long lines. Velvet ropes had been erected in front of the table where she would sign, so anyone wanting to take a picture would have to gather there instead of posing with her behind the table.

As the starting time of 7:30 pm neared, we all gathered around the table. A two-story store, many people were lined up against the railing of the second floor, peering over the open space below for an unobstructed view of their cooking idol.

Giada entered to applause and cheering. Arms with digital and cell phone cameras immediately shot up over the crowd and locked into extended position like members of a cult praising their leader. Giada, dressed in her usual form-fitting Anthropologie top, open button-down sweater, jeans and a necklace, looked as radiant as always. She seemed genuinely surprised to notice all the people on the second floor, pointing and waving and being a good sport to the calls of “Giada! Over here!” and “One more time! Look up one more time!”

She sat in a stool as her assistant and the B&N employees got the book-signing production into gear. Already lined up, the first 50 made their way down the stairs and handed over their books. Giada was warm and friendly, with her enormous smile of endless sparkling teeth (most adults have, what, 20? Giada has about 300, give or take). She cooed at the babies plopped on the table in front of her and even hugged one man. (Sir, if you are reading this, whatever magic words you used to make that happen — “birthday,” “cancer,” etc. — please email them to me for the next time Giada visits Chicago.)

The line moved along quickly and before I knew it, my mom and I finally made our way up (we were a few numbers apart, but I thought it would be cute if an Italian mother and her son approached together). I have to say, I was nervous. What do you say? Do you just dole out the usual “I’m a fan” sentiment and be on your way? Do you try to be memorable? Is that even possible when hundreds of people are flashing before her eyes?

My mom immediately extends her hand for shaking, introduces herself, and asks Giada what her name means. Giada explains that it’s Italian for “jade,” like the stone. My mom and I both comment on how beautiful it is.

Then I mention that I’ve gotten my Italian family to watch her show (which is only a slight stretch of the truth; I’ve gotten some of my family to watch). She literally stops signing and looks up at me with the cutest pout/smile, as if to say “Aw, that is so sweet of you.” Then I tell her that her Chocolate Ameretti Cake is fantastic, and she again stops signing and practically jumps out of her chair, her hand flittering in excitement. Let me break down the rest of the conversation:

Giada: I know! Isn’t that the best? It’s so easy.
Me: Oh my God, it’s so good.

Giada: I know. It’s one of my favorites.
Me: Me, too. I’m converting everyone into fans of it. (again, erring on the side of “truthiness,” but still pretty accurate)
Giada: Next you should try my Raspberry Tiramisu. (in her new book)
Me: But I haven’t made your Chocolate Tiramisu yet (from her first book) and that’s next on my list.
Giada: Well, once you get tired of that…
Me: Is that even possible? (could I be more charming?)
Giada: Well, if by some chance you get tired of it…
Me: Then I’ll make the Raspberry Tiramisu. (charming AND cooperative)
Giada: You’ll love it.

And now we’re best friends. Or something.

My mom thanked her for coming to Chicago on her book tour and that was it. We walked out into the surprisingly warm April night, books in tow, and we were on our way. I like to think that we walked the line between generic compliments and the entitled, overly-familiar, overly-intimate attitude that some people took with her.

I now have my next culinary assignment, given to me by none other than Giada herself. While it’s not quite raspberry season, if Giada tells me to try it, who am I to refuse?

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About Don Baiocchi

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    I loved this, Don! What a story! She is absolutely adorable. I don’t think there’s anyone on this earth who wouldn ‘t find her irresistibly charming–and you had a nice little convo going with her to boot. You go!

  • http://chantalstone.blogspot.com chantal stone

    This is so awesome Don! And yes, wayyy charming, you little rascal. Let me know when you have the Raspberry Tiramisu ready, I’ll be right over. 😉

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Not to be drearily serious, but what I find most charming about her is that she could have sat back and lived off her enormously wealthy family or taken a job with the family business like most of her siblings, but instead she struck out and learned a real skill and developed her performance ability and created an entirely different career for herself. Doing that when she had no real need to do so and faced no economic pressure to work for a living sets a very positive example.

    Dave

  • http://giadafan.blogspot.com adam

    Awesome story. I am truly jealous. Orders from the angel herself ….. . God, I can’t wait ’till she comes south.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    dave has a point. until i’d seen some of the chef bios on the food network, i never realized how much work there was to putting together a show. i mean, she has to do each recipe twice to get the camera angles down. ouch.

  • http://donbaiocchi.blogspot.com/ Don Baiocchi

    Thanks to everyone with the kind words. Dave, that raises a really good point. A lot of people dismiss her as just a pretty face (you know the adage: “never trust a skinny chef”), but she has had to work for where she is. And she clearly loves and is passionate about what she does.

    Chantal, I actually plan on making it for Mother’s Day. Stop on by!

  • Amita

    I actually like Giada (don’t get me started on her nemesis Ray-shill Ray)but honestly, you guys are gushing just a bit – as in – it is so “hard” to do a TV cooking show? Oh please.

    I imagine actually in her first career – it was “hard” to be a caterer, but to do a cooking show? Be real.

    Next thing you’ll be saying is it’s really hard to write a cookbook!

  • http://donbaiocchi.blogspot.com/ Don Baiocchi

    Amita, I used to think the same thing. But the more I see behind-the-scenes shows on putting together a cooking show, the more I realize how much work goes into it. I could explain how it all gets put together, but I’ll spare you the details. In short, they have a very limited amount of time to film an entire season worth of shows. They don’t have time for anything to go wrong and mess up a take.

    As for cookbooks, again, not so easy. They don’t just throw a bunch of ingredients together, write down what they did and move on to the next recipe. They have to test each dish over and over to experiment with tons of different variations to make sure all the proportions, times, and ingredients are just right. That takes a lot of time, money, thoughtfulness and creativity.

    One thing I’ve learned: if someone makes something look easy, it’s because they’ve worked really, really hard to get to that point.

  • B

    I cannot stand this woman. Not to be a gloomy gus, but she’s a big phoney. That ‘smile’ is not a smile. She just bares her teeth – top and bottom – like an animal. She constantly bares her bottom teeth as she talks – it’s gross and unattractive and a little creepy. Oh, and I just love how she shows off her cleavage with those low cut shirts in every episode I’ve ever seen. It’s obvious she focuses more on looking pretty than on her personality, although both come off as very phoney.
    And the way she pronounces mozarella like ‘mootsarelly’ actually makes me laugh. She speaks perfect English, but does an over-the-top Italian accent for the Italian words – like she’s trying to prove she’s really Italian or something. And she’s always saying what she’s cooked is ‘perfect,’ which seems a bit pretentious. Couldn’t she just use words like ‘delicious,’ ‘just right,’ etc? Ech. I just can’t stand this woman.

  • neil wood

    I think there is lot more behind that smile, I found a site with incredible information-www.igordelaurentiis.741.com

  • http://www.myspace.com/paperbecky Becky

    I like how you mentioned how amazed you were by the one guy who managed to get a hug. :) When I saw Giada yesterday I got a hug from her and now I feel especially special, hehehe. 😀 I’ll be posting video/pictures soon, but I have to hit Best Buy after work today and then I’ll have something up on my myspace.

  • http://donbaiocchi.blogspot.com Don Baiocchi

    You took video and pics of Giada? Wow, you’re very comprehensive. But the URL attached to your name here didn’t work for me.

    And you got a hug! What were your magic words?

  • http://www.myspace.com/paperbecky Becky

    Oh sorry, here’s the url to my site under my name.

    My magic words? I’m not sure. See, the first guy in line brought her a bouqet of roses but she didn’t seem very happy about that and I was like 21st in line, so when I saw that I was expecting the same reaction because I only got her one rose. Right when I got up there she was just looking down at the book, but I said “Hi” and then “this is for you” and gave her the rose. Once she saw me with the rose she opened up her arms to hug.

    Oh, and have you noticed how on her shows she will have one of her close friends come on and she’ll call them “sweetie”? Well, she was calling me sweetie too! We really clicked, I was up there with her for about 50 seconds according to the video, which I think is longer than anyone else. I felt special. :)

    Anyway, I got the video to work but I’m not sure if I should post it online because I’d hate to make Giada feel exploited or something. She’s such a sweetie, I wouldnt want to do anything she wouldn’t want.

  • Becky

    By the way, I did decide to at least put up a couple pics of us on my site. So, you can go ahead and check that out.

  • CHERYL

    My comment is in response to the person “B” who posted a comment on Sep 18, 2006, starting with “I can’t stand this woman”. What a cruel world we live in. No it’s true you can’t please everybody. But the never ending comments on ripping her to pieces basically, is so unneccessary. You don’t like the way she says her recipes are “perfect” or how she pronounces Mozzarella, or how she bares her teeth. So what, get over it, don’t you have something better to do, like criticize all your flaws? Giada is a cutie, and no one is perfect dear, take a look at yourself. Put yourself on TV in front of millions and see if you get PERFECT feedback. Humans are so mean sometimes. Chill out.

  • http://(none The One

    giada i like your show but you need to not let your clevage show

  • Rhonda

    I enjoy her show and some of the things she makes but what is up with the breasts. Why does she have to cook with your breasts showing everytime. Should be about cooking instead of how big your chest is.

  • Dani

    I love giada she us my inspiration!

  • cantstand giada

    this woman seems like a phony. i had no idea who she was until her big head popped up on the today show, grinning like a fiend, and having no clue how to act in front of the camera. i get tired of how our society rewards people for the wrong reasons (skin color, sex appeal, etc.) rather than merit and hard work. why is this woman on television? could it be that she comes from a wealthy, well-known family? she’s annoying to watch. never stops that grimace she calls ‘smiling’. get a real journalist on the today show to fill that spot that giada now has.

  • David

    I’m perplexed by those who find Giada annoying because she pronounces Italian foods with an Italian accent. Let’s see here–she’s an Italian, born in Italy as an Italian citizen and from an Italian family and she properly pronounces Italian words like the Italian she is. Wow, morons, that’s really annoying!

  • Ray

    She was raised in the USA and knows she is not pronouncing the words right. She’s pronouncing them like an accented Italian would and is making fun of them by doing so regardless if she is Italian or not. Pan-Cheat-Ta or Ree-Coat-Ta… When she says these she might as well be making fun of an Indian person when they say Curry as Curl-Ree … It’s hurtful to me as an Italian who tries to pronounce words properly.

  • http://donbaiocchi.blogspot.com Don Baiocchi

    I just don’t get some of these comments.

    Ray, I’m Italian, too, and not for one second did it ever occur to me that she’s making fun of the Italian language. That is a rather strange conclusion to jump to.

    And what’s with all the criticisms about her smile and her cleavage? People can’t help how they smile. Ever tried permanently changing your smile? It’s probably not that easy. She can’t help it. Get over it. It’s not phoney, it’s just the way she smiles.

    And it’s interesting that people have said that she should focus on cooking instead of being pretty. Why can’t she do both? It’s not like putting on a low-cut top takes any longer than putting on another shirt. Why can’t people accept the fact that some women can be sexy AND talented, instead of one or the other? Ridiculous.

  • CajunBoy

    The negative comments smack of sour grapes. So her grandfather’s a famous film producer. She purposely stayed out of the family business and did her stint at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, and then she worked the line at Spago and the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey, and then she started a home catering company and worked on the side as a food stylist.

    I’d say those qualify as cooking bona fides.

    As far as the snipes against her physical appearance: Get over yourselves. She’s cute, TV is a visual medium. The fact that no one wants to see your gnarly mug on the TV isn’t her fault.

    And as to the accent: She’s Italian. She’s from Rome. She has a bit of pride in her heritage. And why not pronounce Italian words properly, the way native speakers do? Say, “bruschetta”, which non-Italians murder regularly? You want to hear Italian words spoken “the right way us ‘Mericans say ’em”, go to your local goddamn Olive Garden.

    Grow up, people. Just because someone is famous in the mass media doesn’t mean it’s your sworn duty to tear them down. Maybe– just maybe– they’ve earned their fame. And MAYBE they do something better than you do. Get over it.

  • Don Baiocchi

    Nicely put, CajunBoy.

  • james ramses

    i love watching them titties, shit’s bugayze.

  • Lol

    CajunBoy,

    If she wanted to stay out of the family business, she would have kept herself off tv, no?

    It’s just annoying when she’s speaking and says “Then you put the tomatoes and the MOZZARELLA on the top” Not only does she pronounce it properly [I can see why people might get annoyed with this], but she says it louder and more drawn out than any other word, as if she’s shoving the pronunciation in your face. I find THAT annoying and I’m not sure of the intention behind it, but I think she should just say the pronunciation but say it in the sentence like normal word. I get annoyed with the way Martha Stewart pronounces “herbs” but she doesn’t shove it out there, like Giada.

    To each their own, though. Whategver.

  • david

    B your mad for sure because you don’t have a rack like that

  • Dusty

    I’m so glad someone else hears that terrible accent. I’ve hated that about her from day one. I don’t mind her show, but I do agree with the overbearing cleavage, I have much more boobage then her and I never have them hanging out like that, I especially wouldn’t if I were on tv on a COOKING show.

    But really, the words she pronounces, are terrible. I know she was born in Italy whatever, but she speaks PERFECT English. I could understand if she had an Italian accent all the time, but she speaks English like any other american and then all of the sudden throws out these ridiculous sounding Italian words. I’ve noticed Rachel Ray is starting to do it as well. This really bothers me about Giada.

  • Lulu

    CanjunBoy, you said it PERFECTly

  • Lulu

    Dusty, denying her her heritage is wrong. She pronounces it correctly and you hate her for that? Good for her that she can speaks 2 languages perfectly. She has nice boobs and is skinny and is not afraid to show it, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t like her then don’t watch her show.

  • anonymous

    give me a f***in break that girl doesn’t even eat!! and her craving for “sweets” ha! is about as fake as her italian accent she uses on the show.. she’s the biggest liar i’ve EVER met!!!! she eats like a fruit a day thats how she looks soooo skinny. a bobble head with tits. she only wears those tops so that show gets viewed other than that she should go off the air and focus on taking care of her child! (since she has two nannies.) she might be surprisingly good at than cooking. i’ve tasted her food and it taste like sh**

  • Don Baiocchi

    I can’t believe that people are STILL criticizing her accented words and fashion choices. She has been on TV for 6 years and people still bring these things up like they’re the first ones to notice. Old news, people.

    The criticisms about her cleavage are ridiculous. What, all women on TV have to be Martha, Oprah or Paula Deen, buttoned up to the neck? God forbid a woman be both a successful TV host of her own cooking show AND possess one iota of sensuality.

    And I love how people believe she lies about eating her food because she’s skinny. It’s called moderation, exercise and genetics.

    Anonymous, you’ve tasted her food and it was bad? That must be her fault. It can’t be the fault of you or whoever made it, right? I’ve literally made over 100 of her recipes and while they’re not all perfect some are pretty great.

    And LOL, she’s not involved in her family business. Her grandfather was a movie producer. She’s not in movies. She got a TV show based on her own work. Her grandfather has nothing to do with the Food Network.

  • nichole

    I find her obnoxious and fake. She looks as if she’d be a sweet person when you first see her but eventually, her personality begins to ware on your nerves. I agree that she comes off as rather pretentious ( along with most chefs on tv. I can’t stand the unwarranted worship the students in my culinary program give to these people ) and she appears to be trying far too hard. It’s one thing to be eloquent. It’s another to beat a dead horse. She needs to drop the cheesy accented bits and be real for once.

  • June

    Some of you are a little bit obsessed. Stalk-much?

  • Maxwell Deaton

    Yall are nuts, if you don’t like Giada wait half an hour for Rachael Ray. Personally Giada, I think you’re doing a great job. Keep the good work up and the shirts riding low.

  • Maxwell Deaton
  • Maxwell Deaton

    my bad, wrong one..yall ‘ll probably find that funny too, but i meant to put this one…

  • Antonio

    “Phoney”-Being born in one country doesn’t mean anything when you are raised in another. She is mispronouncing the words. Deal with. While I think she’s pretty she is the biggest “PHONEY” in the world. The DiLaurentis name came from her maternal grandfather. That is not her name. Not only does she use the name but she is also married which changes her name further. To add more she has given the DiLaurentis surname to her daughter which is far from who she is. Is clear she is capitalizing on the name and wants to keep that going. If she had so much pride in her heritage why didn”t she marry and Italian man?

  • rex

    cajunboy, you like her. thats cool. you have the right to do so.

    and i have the right to not like her.

    im sure there are some famous people that you dont like.

  • Mary

    Even though I have wondered why she wore her blouses so low as if that’s really important to us, and is already so pretty and warm, saying you can’t stand someone is so evil..seems like you are the one that is insecure or it wouldn’t bother you THAT much. I think her culture probably encourages the lower tops and that company may provide all of them free, but maybe she will think more about it now that she has a child…..tell her, but tell her nicely….otherwise keep your mouth closed….

  • Susannah

    I completely agree with the comment regarding Giada’s phony smile. I disagree with the person who stated this was a “mean comment”. Giada exudes phoniness and the way she clenches her teeth with that cheshire cat smile of hers is repulsive. I mean really, how many people do you know that smile this way and that are sincere?

  • Mr Putter

    I want to bang the shit outta Giada

  • Beth

    What really bothers me is that especially lately, Giada has lost some credibility as a chef. She spends too much time “squealing” talking with a loaded mouth of food and making all these “cute little “moves” it has become a distraction from what I thought the show was supposed to be about, cooking instruction!

  • Beth

    Okay, so I have given way to the dark side for a moment, please forgive my rant but… I watched hher “Lite and Delicious episode last night and it was ridiculous!! So, now, Salsa Verde is an “italian word pronounced, “saalzaa vierdi”!! While again with a stuffed mouth and a thumbs up she raves “right on!” Then multiple times in an operatic voice we hear her chant “GORGEOUS!!!” This after the limited vocabulary of describing her food items as, lemony, divine, crunchy and “SHO GOOD!!!”

  • Beth

    See, it drives me so nut’s I forgot to check my spelling and grammar!!! hahahaha!

  • GINO PHILLIPS

    i LIVED IN ITALY FOR 9 YEARS AND HER USING CURRY IN ITALIAN COOKING IS OBSURD. SHE IS ABOUT AS SHALLOW AS THOSE ACTORS THAT YOU SEE OPN ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT.

  • Chelvyy

    you seem annoying especially the way you conversed with Giada…. lol you’re lucky though!