Giada De Laurentiis: The Sweet Life
Finding Her Own Way
How difficult was it to go against your grandfather's wishes?
It was very hard. I was the oldest grandchild. My grandfather was the patriarch of the family and everybody did what he said.
What made you stand firm and say, "This is what I want"?
I grew up in a traditional Italian family where my dad controlled everything and my mom wasn't happy. She wanted to be an actress, and instead, she had four children. She always regretted it, and I didn't want that for myself. I admired my Aunt Raffy, my mother's sister, who made movies and was independent, traveling the world, having fun. She didn't have any children and early on she said to me, "Don't worry what everybody tells you -- pursue whatever it is you want." Women tend to give up their own dreams for their husbands or children. But if you do, you will wake up one day and feel trapped. We should take a lesson from men because in general -- they're a lot more selfish than we are. My grandfather lived a long, fabulous life, but I don't think he spent one minute doing something for someone else that he didn't want to do.
When did you know that you'd found your passion?
I got lucky because I figured it out early, but not everybody does. Some of us follow what our parents tell us to do and then realize later, "That's not what I want." When I got out of culinary school, I came back to Los Angeles and worked in restaurants and I was disillusioned. The environment in restaurant kitchens is pretty gnarly: You work 14- or 15-hour days and you don't get paid anything. At one point I was making $5.50 an hour and I said to my boyfriend [now her husband, clothing designer Todd Thompson], "I'm working like an animal and I can't afford to pay rent." So I started my own catering company. Around that time I did an article in Food & Wine about my family. That's when the Food Network called. It took me six months to even send them a tape because I had to convince myself I had nothing to lose. What if they wrote back and said, "You suck"? But you're only here once. You need to live with no regrets because you don't know how long your time is.