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Why Giada De Laurentiis’ Vegas Success Is So Important to Her

The Food Network star, restaurateur, and cookbook author opens up on Eater’s podcast

Giada De Laurentiis

This week on the Eater Upsell podcast, we talk to restaurateur, Food Network star, and cookbook author — most recently of Giada’s Italy — Giada De Laurentiis about her rise to fame, commercial success in Las Vegas, dreams to take her personal brand global, and why she believes she’s spent her whole career fighting against stereotypes.

Listen on Apple Podcasts and subscribe.

Listen to the interview in full in the audio player above. Below, we’ve provided a lightly edited complete transcript of our conversation.


Amanda Kludt: You’re here to promote your cookbook Giada’s Italy.

Giada De Laurentiis: Yes.

AK: But first we wanted to get into your background for the audience members who might not know your whole story. They probably know you from TV, or from your cookbooks, but they might not know everything about you.

GDL: Well, should we just keep it that way?

AK: Instead of having you do it, because you’ve been on a long book tour, Dan’s going to give it a shot.

GDL: Oh great, I’m going to take a nap.

AK: Yeah, Dan’s going to give it a shot, and you’re going to correct him when he screws up.

GDL: Oh, wow, okay.

Daniel Geneen: No notes. Ready for this?

GDL: Let’s go.

DG: Giada De Laurentiis was born in Italy, moved to America when she was seven years old. Graduated USC Anthropology.

GDL: UCLA.

DG: UCLA.

GDL: I’m definitely a Bruin, and not a Trojan.

AK: UCLA. Ding.

GDL: My peeps would be upset about that, but that’s so close. You live in New York, you probably don’t know the difference, but when you live in Los Angeles, for us it’s huge.

DG: Then in ‘97-

GDL: Oh, wow you’re actually doing dates.

DG: Yeah, yeah. Hittin’ some dates. ‘97 went off to the Cordon Bleu to culinary school in Paris, lived on your own for the first time.

GDL: Ever.

DG: Ever.

GDL: Away from my lovely family.

DG: Yeah. Really funny story about that, you’d never, I feel for you on this, you’d never done your own laundry and then you had to-

GDL: Well as a nice Jewish boy you’ve probably never done your own laundry either. Is that true?

AK: Is that true?

DG: I have done my own laundry.

AK: How many times?

GDL: I have a feeling Dan has not done his own laundry very often.

AK: You send it out now, now that you’re living by yourself?

DG: Well I live in a building with the thing downstairs.

GDL: So you understand me?

DG: So, I went to culinary school.

GDL: When, where?

DG: Here at the French Culinary Institute.

GDL: Oh, yeah, like Bobby Flay?

DG: Like me and Bobby, yeah.

GDL: Okay.

DG: But the idea of having to ... When you said you had to iron your own whites, I was like fuck, I couldn’t do that.

GDL: Because I was in Paris and they expected it, and you have to remember I went to school six days a week, I had Sundays off-

DG: It was six days a week?

GDL: Six freaking days a week. All day, every day.

DG: Were you required to go to church on Sunday or something?

GDL: No church, but guess what my church was? The laundromat because there was nothing in my apartment and I would lug all my sacks of stinky, dirty chef clothes that reeked and reeked.

DG: And they’re gross, lobster.

GDL: They’re gross, there’s stuff all over them, and I would just sit there, and at times I’d go get a glass of wine with one of my friends ... because we would all to it together, but they required that things were pressed in those days. So I had to iron my clothes, I burned shirts. I did so many bad things.

DG: Honestly, I knew culinary school was kind of falling apart because I would show up, crazy wrinkly and stuff, and they’d be like, “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

GDL: Yeah for you but in Paris they would just kick you out and then you would fall behind, and they would ridicule you to no end, like ridicule you so badly that you’re in tears, so you’re like, “I’m going to do it because I don’t want to go through this.”

DG: But that first couple of times you were ironing yourself that must have been shitty.

GDL: I lost, you already know I’m a little person, I lost 10 pounds.

AK: The stress?

GDL: The stress. I couldn’t eat, sleep, I was so ... I didn’t speak French, the classes were in French ... I don’t know what I was thinking. The whole time. What was I thinking in this life because I am not that person. I don’t take those kind of risks, but I always wanted to go to culinary school. My parents ... and I’m the first in my family to go to college, and my parents were like, “You can’t possibly know what you want to do so why don’t you buy yourself some time?” I paid for my own college. I paid to go to UCLA, probably why I went to UCLA and not USC, and then I said I want to go to culinary school, and they finally were like, okay fine.

AK: Did they not care about you going to college?

GDL: No. No, because I’m a girl. I come from a large Italian family, they only care about boys. Girls are supposed to get married and have children, they’re not ... But you have to remember this was awhile ago. My family’s very classic and traditional Italian. It is not something that’s a bad thing, it’s just the way our culture was. It has definitely changed since then.

Go ahead Dan.

DG: After Paris, you came back, you worked at Spago and the Ritz?

GDL: I worked at the Ritz for a French chef, yes.

DG: How long? I don’t know these things.

GDL: Two and a half years.

DG: Two and a half years at the Ritz?

GDL: Yeah of cutting, basically cutting my fingers open from opening lobsters, ‘cause I was doing the amuse-bouche every ... Then I wanted to do pastries, which is originally why I ever got into this field in the first place because I love them. So I did that and then I went to work for Spago, for Wolfgang Puck because I really wanted to work in pastry, and Sherry Yard was his longtime pastry chef, famous, famous, famous for so many things, on top of the Oscars.

So I did that for a while and that was tough.

AK: How long were you there?

GDL: I was there for, not long, a year, and change.

DG: That’s still something though.

AK: Oh, my God, yeah.

GDL: Well, this is the thing guys-

DG: Even two and a half years at the Ritz and then a year and a half at-

GDL: The problem is, is there’s no money.

DG: Of course.

GDL: And my family was like, “Okay, you’re making five dollars an hour, you’re working seven days a week, fifteen hours a day.”

DG: Right.

GDL: “You need to start making money.” Because at this point, I’m knocking close to my thirties, and my parents were like, “We’re not doing this anymore, you need to get a life, and you need to start supporting yourself.”

DG: Okay, but I have a question. So, a lot of the time, you always talk about how you catch shit for being a TV chef and everything. But almost four years, in real deal kitchens, that’s a lot. Why aren’t you like, “I worked four years in real kitchens.” Why isn’t that the first thing?

GDL: But you have to remember, people only knew me from television first.

DG: Of course. But that’s still like a legitimate culinary training.

GDL: It is, but look at me. I’ve been fighting this look, my entire career.

DG: Right.

GDL: Because I don’t look the part, and they don’t believe that I’ve done it, even though I’ve said I’ve done it. I’ve stopped forcing it down everybody’s throat, and decided that, the best route in this life, was to just continue doing what I do, continue delivering great recipes, continue delivering the kind of shows I want to make, and hopefully there’s an audience for it. And trying to break down those stereotypes. Will I spend the rest of my career doing it? Absolutely. But, that’s the goal ... That’s my journey. It’s not everybody’s but it’s mine. First, I was bitter about it and angry about it. I mean, how many times have you heard someone say, or they say to me all the time, “You can’t really trust a skinny chef, can you?”

So, I stopped trying to fight it and just say, “Okay, fair enough, try my recipes. See if you like them. If they work for you, and you feel good doing them, and you fall in love with them, then let’s have a bigger conversation.” And over time, and I mean, it’s taken me fifteen years.

AK: Was this from the media, the public or the chef community? Or you think it’s a mixture?

GDL: All of it. Everybody. There were certain people who didn’t do that to me, but for the majority of them, yes. And people kept saying to me, my friends, my chef friends would say, “Who cares what people think?” And I’m like, “Well, my whole career is based on it, so, I kinda care.” And finding my own niche, not trying to be Mario Batali, who was the big, Italian chef at the time, and a mentor for me for a long time, and trying to find my own path. How do I find my own path, that makes sense for me.

DG: We’re gonna continue the bio-

GDL: Go ahead, ‘cause this is great.

DG: You started doing some catering-

GDL: ’Cause I had to make money. I did catering, and I also did food styling.

DG: Catering, food styling, the famous Food & Wine article, about the food your family eats. I don’t even remember ... What was is about? It was food your-

GDL: So this is the deal, I was doing ... Yes. I was doing catering, private cheffing, which is huge in L.A., and actually a big money maker. And I was also doing some food styling. And I had a friend, who I was assisting at the time, and I would do Martha Stewart shoots, Craft, all sorts of stuff, and I really liked it, I thought, “This is very creative, it’s very artistic, the way I loved going to culinary school in Paris.” ‘Cause it wasn’t breaking down lobster’s every day.

AK: And you’re still working in food-

GDL: Because you have to remember, in private cheffing, you’re doing the same stuff every day. So anyhow ... 9/11, which is a huge turning point for my career, which every time I bring it up, people look at me, like, “oh no.” Yes, 9/11 happened. And that was September, obviously, and then in January, Food & Wine magazine said, “We want to do basically, an issue on chefs and their family food.” ‘Cause everybody started to realize, everybody wants to stay home. So how do we get from chef, to cooking at home?

AK: Okay.

GDL: So, Food & Wine asked me. And I had just made friends, you’re on those sets. But also, my grandfather, being a legendary movie producer was getting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars that year. So I was like, “Oh my god, I hit the jackpot, this is gonna be amazing.” So, we did it. I got my family together, I wrote some recipes, very simple, just the traditional. And it came out. And that is where Food Network comes in.

DG: Okay, was it, so the story is, was it Bob Tuschman?

GDL: It was Bob Tuschman.

DG: Bob Tuschman called you, and it took him a year of convincing you to get on the Food Network.

GDL: It took a year to convince me to put myself on tape. I didn’t just go from that to Food Network, you have to do a tape.

AK: So you didn’t even want to audition or do anything?

GDL: No, because I come from a movie family. I was like, “What is Food Network?” First of all, Food Network wasn’t what it is today. There were like three people on it, Emeril being one, Bobby maybe being the other, and I can’t remember her name.

AK: Sara Moulton?

GDL: Yes, very good, Sara Moulton. Three people. I mean, there were more, but ... And so I was like, “No, this has gotta be a prank, I’m not doing this, this is ridiculous, I’m not doing this.”

DG: Yeah, so you were a little embarrassed, you didn’t want your family to-

GDL: Yes, no, it was embarrassing, I didn’t want to do it.

DG: Took him about a year, finally-

AK: How did he convince you?

GDL: He just called, just about every other day.

AK: Oh my god.

GDL: And would not let it go.

DG: And your brother-

GDL: And then I talked to my brother, who was in the business, and he was like, “I’ll just shoot it, we’ll make it really easy, I’ll have my friend edit it.” Because obviously, being in that business, we have a lot of friends. He’s like, “Nobody needs to know.” And Bob Tuschman kept saying, “Nobody needs to know.” Just send it in, and we’ll go from there.

DG: That was his big line.

GDL: But my brother too was like, “Nobody needs to know, let’s just get this thing over with. It’s bothering you, he’s harassing you, like just do it.” So we did it.

DG: Yep. 2003, Everyday Italian came out-

AK: So you nailed the tape, and he convinced you-

DG: Nailed the tape, but she didn’t like the first season.

GDL: I nailed the tape, because I made a professional tape. I had music, I had an open, I had it all, like there was a whole open scene of me in the farmer’s market, it was all choreographed. And I think for him, he was like, Bob was like, “Holy cow, I’ve never gotten anything like this, ever.” The show was already alive.

DG: Yeah, so, first season comes out, she didn’t love it.

GDL: Hated it.

DG: Yeah.

GDL: I cooked like this, with my back to the camera-

DG: Sideways cooking.

GDL: I’m like, “I’m not telling you anything about myself, why should I share my family with you?” Yes, it was very difficult, I hated the first season. Hated it.

AK: And what changed?

GDL: The second and the third season, when they made me do it.

DG: But her brother followed her around, and just recorded everything.

GDL: Everything. Like you know how reality T.V. is now? The Kardashians and all that, that’s what my brother did, everywhere. But people would say, “you can’t come in here like that, you can’t do that.” But that’s what he did. He’s like, “I’m gonna follow you around for a month, in the summer, and we’re going to practice, and you’re gonna look at me and you’re gonna talk about every single thought that comes to your mind, I’m not gonna let that camera off of your face.” I was so irritated, we fought like crazy. But in the end, I got comfortable, and it worked.

DG: Everywhere? Malls? Restaurants?

GDL: Everywhere that they would let us shoot, and even if they wouldn’t let us shoot, my brother. Anyways, yes go on, Dan. Then what happens.

DG: And then all the shows, nine books, the ninth being, ‘Giada’s Italy.’ ’Giada Entertains,’ ‘Giada at Home,’ ‘Giada in Italy,’-

AK: Cooking shows, travel shows, your latest show is about Italy.

GDL: Sort of yeah. I have my Giada in Italy shows, I have my Giada Entertains, Giada’s Holiday Handbook, there’s been a million shows over the years. And then Food Network Star, I do a lot of stuff. I do a lot of stuff. But the stuff that sticks, the Italy shows really hit home with a lot of people. On this tour, I’ve had lot of people say to me, “When are you gonna do those again?” I said, “Soon as I can convince Food Network it’s a good idea to send me back there.”

AK: Send me back there.

DG: It costs a lot more to make, I’m assuming, right?

GDL: No.

DG: No?

GDL: We actually charge them the same amount as doing the regular shows. My shows aren’t cheap, I’m not gonna lie. They’re expensive, but I think they’re worth it.

DG: Good investment.

GDL: And I think when you have a TV channel, you need to have a variety of different programming. And that means shooting them differently, and they’re all gonna cost a little different.

DG: Oh, of course. 2014, Las Vegas.

GDL: Yes. So I have Giada Vegas at the Cromwell, which is fine dining Italian. I just opened about a month ago...

DG: Baltimore.

GDL: Nope.

DG: Oh, in Caesars Palace.

GDL: Caesars Palace, yes. Boy, that was just like, “Oh.” Yes, Pronto by Giada, which is a quick serve. But Caesars Palace for me, I know you’re not that excited about it, but you have to understand, there are no men at Caesars Palace. I am the first female in that space.

DG: I’m thrilled about Caesars Palace.

AK: And on the Strip in general, are there that many women?

GDL: On the Strip in general, there are three of us.

DG: Border Grill.

GDL: Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken, and those ladies have been there for a while. In all fairness, they have been there for longer than I have been there. The thing is, there’s this photo when you get into Vegas that they’ve always run, and it’s all the men of Caesars Palace. The girls aren’t in it, because they’re in the mall part, so technically, that is a sublet. They don’t put them as part of the faces.

I used to say to myself, “I’m gonna crack that. They’re gonna stick my face right in the middle of that.” And now we will just do that.

AK: And they did.

GDL: In a couple of weeks, we will do that shot.

AK: I love that.

GDL: And I thought, that’s really what I wanted. I just wanted to crack that, just have some women represented in that town.

AK: You should.

GDL: There are 50 or more chefs in that town, which 99.9% of them are all men. It’s time.

AK: Why did you pick Vegas for your first restaurant?

GDL: I always say that I didn’t pick Vegas; Vegas picked me.

AK: Fair.

GDL: The space was phenomenal. To have my name on the Strip in the most popular corner in Las Vegas, probably in the world, the most trafficked, and having it next to the iconic Flamingo, because it’s Giada and the Flamingo right next to each other in lights, it was a two-floor parking garage, so I got to build out a 275-seat restaurant from scratch. It is unheard of in Las Vegas.

DG: No one else has windows.

GDL: And seven windows that open onto the Strip, with the Bellagio fountains as your view. Thank you, Steve Wynn, for the free view. I say it all the time. I’ve said it to him. It’s unheard of. It’s an opportunity in this life that, if I had passed it up, I probably would never have forgiven myself. There were a lot of us in the running. It’s a boutique hotel, 188 rooms. There are less rooms than there are seats in the restaurant.

And I thought it really works within my brand, and truly, Las Vegas is the only place I thought I could start a restaurant business, because I’m on television. Where else am I going to be taken seriously? Not New York, not in L.A., right? It’s entertainment and food, but that’s what I do. That’s how everybody knows me, entertainment and food, and that’s my family history. So I thought no better place than Las Vegas. If I can make it in Las Vegas, I have a chance in other places. If I fail in Las Vegas, then I know that part is not for me.

AK: And you do crazy business there.

GDL: Yeah. Especially for an Italian restaurant, which usually doesn’t do crazy business.

AK: Right. Do you think now that you’ve proven yourself in that way, you could go to somewhere like L.A.?

GDL: No. I’d rather do Baltimore first.

DG: We’re excited. We’re gonna take the train. It’s gonna be great.

AK: It is close.

GDL: So Baltimore opens, we soft open May 1st, but the real opening is May 16th.

DG: But you said that you didn’t really feel respected until Vegas started hitting. Not when it opened, ‘cause when it opened, did it stumble out of the gate?

GDL: No, it was great out of the gate. I think when I signed a deal is when a lot of the chefs there were like, “What is going on?” Especially ‘cause I never had a restaurant before, ever. Most of these chefs were like, “How is it possible that she goes from television to a humongous space on the Strip, and she’s on the Strip, meaning she’s not in the casino somewhere. She’s right there.” I think everybody thought, “She’s gonna for sure fail.” Not everybody, but a majority of the people. I think that when I signed that deal...

AK: Did they say that to your face, or you just heard rumors?

GDL: No. Well, maybe some of them said it to my face.

DG:

Like, “Are you sure?”

GDL: Yes. Are you sure this is the right move?

AK: Are you nervous?

DG: Isn’t there a food court?

GDL: But even people not in the field would ask other friends of mine, “Is she really making the right choice?” But sink or swim. At some point, you gotta jump. And then when I started doing crazy business, then I was legitimized across the board. But you also have to remember, Las Vegas is an international city in a way that ... I mean, New York is, too, but not in that concentrated way. They go to a concentrated area. New York is spread out. We have people from all over the world. Some of them didn’t know who I was, and now they do. For me, it launches my business on a bigger platform, and that’s important. I would like to grow, now, outside the U.S.

AK: With restaurants or other...?

GDL: I think that probably restaurants would be first. Food Network is in 90 countries, but they’re not real strong. I think now that we’ve been bought by Discovery, that’s gonna all change, and we will grow outside the U.S. a lot. I think my whole business is based now on getting bigger outside the U.S., because I can still do what I’m doing now, but I’ve hit the ceiling a bit.

DG: How did you know? Was there a call from Caesars where they were like, “Your restaurant’s killing it.” How did that look?

GDL: Yes. There’s one man at Caesars Palace who had been after me for a long time. His name is Tom Jenkins. He runs Caesars Entertainment. Liked by some and not by others.

DG: Really?

GDL: He came after me for years, and he kept saying, “I know you can do it here.” And I kept thinking, “Have you done your research, because I just don’t know. There are no women.”

DG: No one has to know.

GDL: He’s like the Bob Tuschman. He’s like the Bob Tuschman of Food Network. There have been people in my life that come out from nowhere, who have this unbelievable faith in my abilities that I do not have, and there are a lot of times ... not within my own family. They’re outside forces. It’s really weird, but it is what it is. And he was the Bob Tuschman, but of Caesars Palace. I say all the time, I owe it to him, because he came after me long and hard, and was persistent like Bob Tuschman was until he cracked me. He gave me the best spot I could possibly ever want, and he has helped me build an empire after that. Baltimore is still Caesars Palace, believe it or not. They own the Horseshoe Casino. That’s how this is working. I owe it to him the way I owe it to Bob Tuschman.

DG: When it opened, were you talking to him the first couple of days every day?

GDL: Yeah. I spent a year and a half...

DG: Just there.

GDL: Glued to everybody there. At the time, my now ex-husband, he was helping me do all the design, because he was a clothing designer. He was helping me set all that up. We were in constant contact with everybody. It’s been a long journey, trust me. It has not been necessarily an easy journey. I had a lot to learn that I didn’t know before, but it has been a really incredible experience that I wouldn’t, even if it ended tomorrow, I would not change it for anything.

AK: Here in New York and L.A., you have restaurant critics who are going to restaurants as soon as they open. In Vegas, is there a similar situation? How is the press?

GDL: Well, I had the New York Times.

AK: Pete Wells went.

GDL: Yeah. That was not pretty. I spent two days bawling my eyes out.

AK: Oh my god.

GDL: He went a month after I opened, and of course he ripped it to shreds.

DG: It’s also his only Las Vegas mention.

GDL: Yes, it is. Which is why, you understand, I don’t open a restaurant anywhere other than in this casino, because I am not ready for that. I was so traumatic.

AK: Do you think he saw you as a target?

GDL: Of course. And I don’t blame him.

DG: He was like, “Guy Fieri, huge traffic, 2012.”

AK: No, it did well for him. Why not?

GDL: They’re after us. It’s fine. It is what it is. It’s part of who we are. We open ourselves up to those critics. I feel like I have my iconic dishes, my restaurant does really well, I do my best to deliver great service and great food, and that is the job that I have. I will tell you that I was immensely upset. It really killed me for a while.

AK: What about the local press? Did they...?

GDL: The local press is great. They’re fantastic.

AK: They’re great. They’re fans. They love it.

GDL: Yeah, but they also have a story to tell, that’s different from other stories. We’re always looking for a different story, are we not? Any time you guys interview someone, you wanna know something that that person hasn’t told anyone else. I think, for me, the story is this little Italian girl who was able to conquer the Strip, and she’s one of the first females to be able to do it in such a big splash and a big way. I think for them, it’s a great Las Vegas story. It just is. They’re good to me.

AK: Were your Food Network friends supportive? I don’t know if the Food Network crew is actually a team.

GDL: You mean like chef friends?

AK: Yeah.

GDL: Yeah. I think one of the people that helped me the most, especially to get through the negotiations with Caesars was Bobby Flay, who had already had a restaurant there for, at the time, 10 years. He knew the ins and outs, and he helped me a lot. He told me what to avoid, he told me what to look for that were stumbling blocks, and the contract, he told me all of that stuff. He helped me immensely. And Mario Batali.

AK: He was helpful?

GDL: Yeah, he was.

AK: You mentioned that he was a mentor to you. Has it been hard over the last few months?

GDL: Yeah. I keep saying to people, it’s time but it’s also really sad. I did not have those exact experiences with him, but it doesn’t come as a huge shock. Anybody who’s ever hung out with Mario knows he’s a very charismatic person. We drink too much and sometimes ... I’m not legitimizing it by any means. I know I’ve been through my own issues in this business. I think any woman in any business goes through stuff. It’s just sad, you know? It’s time, but it’s also sad. It’s a combo, and I think we all feel both. But I think we, as women, need to help each other more, and we need to stick up for ourselves, and I think that we need to change our culture, and the children need to learn to respect human beings, no matter what you look like, who you are, male or female. We just need to be respectful. Someone says they don’t wanna do something, they don’t wanna do it, period. Let’s just be nice to each other.

AK: Do you think your success on the Strip will pave the way for more women entrepreneurs there?

GDL: I sure hope so. I can’t remember her name. She does ... Garcia? What’s her first name? Anyway, she opened about a year ago in the Venetian, and I think she’s doing okay.

DG: Lorena Garcia?

GDL: Lorena Garcia, yeah. She opened about a year ago, so I feel like it’s gonna slowly move in that way. But if you ask the people who run these big casinos, they’re like, “But who has a big enough name and brand? Who will actually draw people in off the Strip? Who is it? If you know somebody, tell us.” And that is the other thing, is that there aren’t many women who have been able to break through that.

AK: And they’re afraid to take risks on women, because they just assume that they’re not gonna bring in the clientele.

GDL: Yeah, it’s true.

DG: I can’t wait for your plaque hanging ceremony.

AK: With that photo? Me too. We gotta send somebody.

GDL: It’s fun.

DG: Are you ever hanging out with the other successful Vegas restaurateurs, and you just have some big smirk like, “Yeah, my place is killing it?”

GDL: I went to Paris for school, so when Guy Savoy comes into my restaurant and tells me how much he enjoys my pasta, I’m drooling. I feel like the first time he came in and told me how fantastic my food was, as well as Thomas Keller, I just thought, “That’s it. I can die now. My job on this planet has been done. I have completely been fulfilled.” That doesn’t work for everybody, but for someone like myself, it legitimizes me. The fact that they recognize me and they actually enjoy my food, and they come into my restaurant, which they don’t do very often, it’s fantastic. You feel like you’ve really made a mark.

DG: Are you still sending people in undercover?

GDL: Yes, all the time. I go undercover.

DG: Really?

GDL: Yes.

AK: Do you wear a disguise? Mystery shopping?

GDL: I do. And I send my friends, and I don’t tell anyone. I reimburse them later. All the time. It is the only way to keep that the way that it should be.

AK: Especially with such a big restaurant.

GDL: And so many people. It’s my job, basically. It is what I do, and I have to make sure that what I promise the people going in there, my fans, is what gets delivered. Of course, with a restaurant, you’re never there all the time, so things happen that you can’t control. But for the most part, yeah. I feel like those surprise visits keep them on their toes.

AK: Yeah, they need to know that’s gonna happen.

DG: And they know they’re coming.

GDL: Oh, yeah. I just know it, just from the look on people’s faces when I walk through the door, and they’re like...

AK: Like, “Fuck.”

GDL: Exactly. I go straight for the walk ins, to see what they’ve got in there.

AK: It’s like when the health inspector comes. They’re fixing everything.

GDL: ’Cause ingredient swapping is something that happens a lot. Giada likes expensive ingredients, and the folks do not because of food cost. It is what it is.

AK: And what about the book? What’s your favorite recipe?

GDL: It’s like telling me to pick my favorite baby.

DG: She did bean dip on Ellen.

GDL: I did bean dip, because Ellen’s a vegan, so I have to only do things that have nothing in them.

AK: What about a favorite dessert, since it looks like you’ve got some good ones?

GDL: The brownies. The affogato’s pretty great, too. It’s a Chianti affogato, so if you like red wine.

DG: Oh, the Colbert.

GDL: Did you see that? He cut himself, he’s bleeding everywhere.

AK: Do you get nervous when you go on those shows, because it’s a little different than doing your show?

GDL: Yes. I especially get nervous when it’s a comedian, ‘cause you don’t know what they’re gonna say.

AK: Right.

GDL: Ellen, she threw pizza dough in my face. I couldn’t possibly have known that was coming. And it’s just the shock, and hopefully I don’t curse or say whatever comes to mind when someone throws something like pizza dough at your face and you’re not ready for it. I get a little nervous, ‘cause I don’t know what to expect. So that makes me a little nervous. But I think, over the years, I’ve just learned it’s not about the food or the recipes. Just laugh and have a good time.

AK: Right, just be chill.

GDL: You are the butt of their joke. Get over it, or don’t do the show.

AK: Right. Just smile and move on.

GDL: Yeah.

DG: You’ve said you have a desire to be a full personality, and I remember I heard once, someone was saying people love you and cook your food. Therefore, you’re not just a TV personality. But you were like, “No, I’m still a food personality.” Do you think, with the restaurants and with expanding the restaurants, are you doing things that you wanna do now? Are you growing in a way you wanna grow?

GDL: Yeah. I think that for me, I’ve always thought, “Why can’t a food person break out of just doing food? Why can’t we do what DGcers, what musicians do? What actors do?” Look at Gwyneth Paltrow. She writes cookbooks. Why can’t we do something that’s outside of our lane a little bit? Not totally off the beaten path, but a little outside our lane. I think that’s what growing a business and making it something that is more than just you, you have to do.

In the past, I’ve done deals with Clairol, so I feel like it’s a slow process, ‘cause it’s still hard, but a lot of it has to do with the international power. Someone like Gwyneth Paltrow can do all these things, ‘cause she’s known internationally, the feeling of, you go beyond just the borders of the U.S. I think that’s why I have to grow my business outside the U.S., so that I can become more a global brand rather than just an American ... and it’s not that this isn’t enough. Of course, it’s great. This is exactly what my grandfather came to this country to do, so I’m doing it. I would just like to keep growing, if I’m gonna continue to work this hard. I’m almost 50, so I would like to know that there’s something for my daughter beyond...

DG: Is the international expansion something that you are in talks with the Food Network, like, “Hey, guys, we need to grow internationally?”

GDL: Discovery, David Zaslav, who now runs all of that, he knows. That’s what he’s been doing at Discovery forever. It’s just that scripts was a different type of business. It was a newspaper business, originally, so the mind frame is different. I think that he will take it all to another level. I truly believe it. Whether it happens with me or someone else, and whether it takes five years or less, that I don’t know. But I think it will happen. It may not be me, but it will happen.

AK: What does going beyond food mean for you? Do you wanna get into the lifestyle space and things like that? Beauty?

GDL: Yes. All of it.

DG: Would you be in a movie?

GDL: I’ve been in a movie when I was younger.

DG: Of course, right.

GDL: If it makes sense, yeah. Why not?

DG: You and Gwyneth, maybe?

GDL: Not me and Gwyneth. She’s an Academy Award-winning actress. I don’t wanna do that to myself.

DG: You have her on your show, she’ll have you on a movie. I think it’s a fair trade.

GDL: Fair enough. I don’t know, but I think that’s what makes it exciting. I think that you can put anything out there, you see where it takes you, and that’s what’s fun about this life. It’s the adventure. There’s gonna be ups, there’s gonna be downs. Hopefully there are more ups than downs. But life is fun. It’s a fun journey. As long as you feel healthy and you can get up every day, and you feel good, there’s a lot to do.