Giada De Laurentiis: The Sweet Life
If Giada De Laurentiis had listened to her famous grandfather, she would never have become a famous chef. "My grandfather felt that cooking was a man's job," she says, referring to film producer Dino De Laurentiis, known for such classics as Serpico and King Kong. "He'd say, 'You're too petite to be a chef. Get married, have kids, and bake cookies on the side.' But I wasn't interested in that life."
Instead, De Laurentiis was intent on chasing her dream. After graduating from UCLA in 1996, she moved to Paris and trained at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school before heading back to California, where she worked for Wolfgang Puck.
Taking bold leaps is part of her heritage. She was born in Rome, but her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 8 to be closer to her grandfather, who had settled in Hollywood the year before. "At the time I didn't speak English," she says. "The kids at school ridiculed me for looking different and having a strange name." She found comfort in the kitchen, cooking alongside her food-loving grandmother and bonding with her grandfather [who died in 2010 at the age of 92] over quirky dishes like fresh ricotta cheese topped with sugar and cocoa powder. "We were the only two at the table who would touch it," she says.
Now married and mother to a 4-year-old daughter named Jade, De Laurentiis, 41, has built her own branded empire that includes several Food Network shows, a line of cookware at Target, and six cookbooks. The latest, Weeknights with Giada, focuses on simple recipes that are perfect for cozy family evenings. Smart and surprisingly open, De Laurentiis talked to Ladies' Home Journal about how she found the courage to follow her bliss.