Whether you consider yourself a casual cook or you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, chances are, you’re familiar with Giada De Laurentiis. De Laurentiis is often referred to as the Queen of Italian Cuisine — and it’s easy to see why. Since first appearing on the scene with her own Food Network series, Everyday Italian, in 2003, the cooking maverick has produced a range of best-selling cookbooks along with several other cooking series. She’s also worked as a co-host for the Today show, released a line of kitchenware, and opened several restaurants. In short, she’s built herself an Italian cooking empire (via Biography).
In fact, it’s hard to imagine a time when De Laurentiis wasn’t a household name. However, it turns out, the star comes from pretty humble beginnings in Italy. Want to find out how this Italian girl managed to become the cooking personality and legend we know and love today? Here is the transformation of Giada De Laurentiis.
Giada De Laurentiis spent her childhood in Italy before moving to America at the age of 7
Giada De Laurentiis is the real deal when it comes to Italian cooking. Not only does the TV star come from a family of Italians, she actually grew up in Italy, too. On the Eater Upsell podcast, she revealed that she was just seven years old when she moved to America. As De Laurentiis explained to Insider, the move to the States didn’t necessarily mean that her upbringing was any less Italian. "My family takes their culture very seriously, so even when we moved to the U.S., we still lived very Italian lives," she recalled. She added, "We spoke Italian at home, we only ate Italian food."
While her Italian heritage gives her a solid understanding of the country’s cuisine and culture, it wasn’t always easy for the ambitious young cook. As De Laurentiis explained to Architectural Digest, "My grandfather, who’s from Naples, is especially Old World: When women get married, they have children, they don’t work." She added, "And if they do work, they don’t work in a professional kitchen." It sounds like De Laurentiis would have had to really fight to forge her own path in the early days of her career!
Giada De Laurentiis was bullied in school for not speaking English
As a young Italian girl, Giada De Laurentiis initially struggled to acclimatize to life in America. As she told Insider, her family continued to speak Italian at home, so it took her a while to understand and speak English. De Laurentiis explained to Redbook that this led to quite a lot of bullying. "The kids at school tormented me," she recalled. "Truly, it was horrifying the names they called me, and the teachers never really did a thing to stop it."
Luckily, De Laurentiis managed to take a few positives from the painful childhood experience. In fact, her experience of bullying is what initially got her interested in cooking. "It helped me build my ego and even start to get acceptance at school," she explained. She went on to recall that she’d bring in food she’d made at home. "My classmates were like, ‘Wow. This is amazing, and that girl with the funny name cooked it!’" It’s easy to see how cooking became an early defining characteristic for De Laurentiis.
Giada De Laurentiis became interested in cooking as a child
So, how did Giada De Laurentiis get into cooking in the first place? It turns out, her passion for cooking came pretty early on. As she told Time in 2006, "Food was always a big part of my life. My grandfather was one of 14 kids, and his parents had a pasta factory, so as a kid, he and his siblings would sell pasta door to door." He later became a movie producer but also opened De Laurentiis Food Stores in America. "It was a gourmet grocery store that also had a kitchen and served food," De Laurentiis said.
She went on to explain that she frequently spent time in the store’s kitchen after school. "I loved being in the kitchen," she remembered fondly. Sadly, her grandfather closed the store — however, as De Laurentiis put it, "for me, they left an imprint."
Giada De Laurentiis studied anthropology at UCLA
After graduating from high school, Giada De Laurentiis decided not to pursue her passion of cooking initially. As De Laurentiis explained to Eater, she was the first of her family to go to college. At the time, her parents didn’t really care if she went to college or not — as De Laurentiis said, "[Italian families] only care about boys … it’s just the way our culture was." So, she paid her own way through school. In 1996, she graduated with a degree in anthropology (via Biography).
In 2009, De Laurentiis spoke to the Department of Anthropology at Commencement. As she explained to the graduating students, "I know that this university has definitely given you the tools to go out into the world and make a success of yourself." Even though she eventually pursued a cooking career, it’s clear that De Laurentiis got a lot from her four years at UCLA.
Giada De Laurentiis met her husband-to-be when she was just 19
It was during her time at UCLA that Giada De Laurentiis first met Todd Thompson, the man who would become her husband. Unsurprisingly, food was a big part of their relationship. She explained to Redbook, "I didn’t have any money because I was in college." So, instead of buying him presents or meals out, she would cook for him.
Apparently, De Laurentiis also won him over by treating him like a king. "All men want to be treated like kings in a relationship, and I think if women don’t indulge that sometimes, their men are likely to stray and look for someone who can give that to them," she said. While her approach to relationships may sound a little archaic to some, it’s clear that at the time, the dynamic worked for the couple. After all, their relationship ended up lasting for two decades!
Giada De Laurentiis studied at Cordon Bleu in Paris and lived alone for the first time
After graduating from UCLA, Giada De Laurentiis took a step that shocked her family — she moved to Paris to study at the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. Her time in Paris proved to be a bit of a shock. For one thing, it was her first time living alone. Apparently, she’d never even done her own laundry before. Her intensive program took up six days a week, and on Sundays, she would head to the laundromat. As she recalled to Eater, "I would lug all my sacks of stinky, dirty chef clothes that reeked and reeked."
As De Laurentiis went on to explain, it was a super stressful course. She even lost ten pounds from the stress. "I couldn’t eat, sleep, I was so … I didn’t speak French, the classes were in French," she explained. At the time, she worried that she’d made the wrong decision. "I don’t know what I was thinking," she said. Luckily, we know that things eventually worked out for her!
Giada De Laurentiis got her big break in 2003 while helping a friend who was a food stylist
After finishing up at the Cordon Bleu, Giada De Laurentiis returned to the States. For several years, she worked for various chefs in restaurant kitchens. As she told Eater, these first years were pretty difficult. "My family was like, ‘Okay, you’re making five dollars an hour, you’re working seven days a week, fifteen hours a day,’" she explained. When her big break finally came, it wasn’t what she’d expected. As she told Food & Wine, "I wasn’t looking to get into TV."
Apparently, it had all happened by chance. She had been helping a friend style food for a photoshoot when the magazine asked to do a story on the De Laurentiis family. She provided recipes for the piece. By chance, a producer from the Food Network saw the article and asked De Laurentiis for a demo tape. "Nine months later I did it, and Everyday Italian was born," she recalled. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
Giada De Laurentiis gave birth to her daughter Jade in 2005
Shortly after her cooking show began, Giada De Laurentiis and her then-husband Todd Thompson welcomed a new baby girl into their family. As she explained to Redbook, it wasn’t exactly planned. Apparently, the couple had decided against having children — "But then Jade came along, and I was very afraid, and so was Todd," she recalled. She was worried that their life of freedom would have to change. Luckily, she’s managed to maintain most of her freedom to travel while gaining a daughter.
And not only did she gain a daughter — as she told Today, she also gained a "partner in the kitchen." Apparently, Jade has been hanging out with her mom while she cooks since she was born. "It warms [my] heart like nothing else," De Laurentiis said.
For many people, having children is pretty life changing — and for De Laurentiis, it was no different. "When you don’t have kids," she explained, "you live for yourself." Since having Jade, she’s been living for her daughter, too.
Giada De Laurentiis and her husband built a brand-new house for themselves
Nothing says "fresh start" like a new home — and for Giada De Laurentiis and her husband-at-the-time Todd Thompson, this was exactly what they needed in 2005. When De Laurentiis began to consider redesigning her kitchen, she realized that a full renovation would take the same amount of time. "So we said, ‘Let’s just tear it down and do what we really want to do," Thompson explained to Architectural Digest. They chose an architect neighbor, Peter Cohen, to redesign their home with a clean, modern look.
Eventually, they created a stunning new home that featured African teak, stucco, and glass, with few interior walls to maximize the space and light. Of course, even though the home was designed to be modern and bright, the couple included some personal touches, including old movie posters from De Laurentiis’ grandfather. The home was completed just in time for the birth of their daughter, Jade.
It took Giada De Laurentiis a while to become comfortable with her sexuality
It’s hard to discuss Giada De Laurentiis without mentioning her sexuality. For her, cooking and sexual appeal have always been intertwined with her success. And while she freely admits that now, it wasn’t always easy for her to accept her sexuality as a public personality. As she explained to Redbook in 2011, "I developed breasts when I was nine years old, and I was the only one in my class." She went on to recall sitting "hunched over" to hide her body. According to De Laurentiis, that feeling of embarrassment never completely went away.
Plus, she wanted to be known for her cooking, not her looks. As she put it, "I didn’t want to be known as the sexy cook." However, in around 2006, she began to embrace her sexuality. As she explained, the change came from growing older. "I felt like I had to show Jade that her mom is proud of who she is."
While she may be embracing that side of her personality for her daughter’s sake, we absolutely love the body positive message she’s putting out for children all over the country!
Giada De Laurentiis and her husband divorced in 2014
After a two-decade-long relationship with Todd Thompson, the pair called it quits in 2014. The news of their divorce was released on Giada De Laurentiis’ Facebook page. "After an amicable separation since July, Todd and I have decided to end our marriage," De Laurentiis wrote. She went on to explain that though it was sad news, the couple remained committed to their daughter.
While De Laurentiis said the split was amicable, she did open up about the divorce in an interview with DR. OZ The Good Life (via HuffPost). "We had been together since I was 19; I’m now 45. That’s a lifetime with someone," the star explained. It goes without saying that it must have been hard to part ways. She simply said, "I don’t have the answers; I’m figuring them out as I go."
She went on to say that she had to make a range of adjustments after her split with Thompson. For instance, she had to learn about things like hooking up a TV and turning off house alarms. "I can do those things now," she confirmed. In fact, she added that these new challenges of living independently had made her stronger. "That’s what it’s about: believing in yourself," she summed up.
Giada De Laurentiis opened a new restaurant in 2014 to put a feminine stamp on the Vegas strip
In 2014, Giada De Laurentiis opened her first restaurant, GIADA, in Las Vegas. As she told Ask Men, owning her own restaurant had always been a dream of hers.
In an interview with Elle, De Laurentiis was asked about being the first woman to have a restaurant with her own name on the marquee. "It’s so funny because, for the longest time, I never saw myself as a female chef versus a male chef," she said. "I just saw myself like everybody else."
However, she explained that, over the years, she began to notice that there was a gender gap in the industry. "I’ve started to think about it a little bit more and realize that if I’m going to actually make a difference and I’m going to put my own stamp on things, I have to kind of fall back a little bit on my femininity." She went to explain that she’s learned to appreciate that her femininity actually means she has something different to offer "that men don’t have." Wow, we love the powerful way De Laurentiis embraced her womanhood for this business venture!
Giada De Laurentiis found new love after her long marriage
In 2018, Giada De Laurentiis confirmed that she had found love for a second time after her difficult divorce. As she told People, she and TV producer Shane Farley had been in a relationship for two and a half years. De Laurentiis opened up about the trajectory of their relationship. "After I got divorced, I spent about a year and a half alone, not dating, just figuring things out," she said. Because she’d been with Todd Thompson for so long, she needed time to adjust to life alone. However, when she was ready, she "reconnected" with Farley, an old acquaintance, and romance quickly blossomed. "I felt like a kid again," the TV star confessed.
By the sound of things, the whole family has an incredibly healthy relationship. Apparently, Thompson and De Laurentiis remain close, while their daughter Jade has positive relationships with both of them. For Farley, this means he can "be a part of her life without any pressure." We are so impressed with how mature De Laurentiis has been in figuring out her love life while watching out for her daughter.
Giada De Laurentiis seems to be happier than ever
As of 2020, things seem to be going better than ever for the cooking star. According to She Knows, Giada De Laurentiis and her daughter Jade have made a splash on the social media platform Tik Tok, with videos of the mother-daughter duo dancing and getting their nails done. How adorable!
She also announced a new series called Bobby and Giada in Italy would be coming to Discovery+ in early 2021. The show will see De Laurentiis and old friend Bobby Flay, as they "cook and eat their way through De Laurentiis’ home country" (via People).
Even the 2020 lockdown couldn’t get the star down. In an appearance on TMZ Live, she explained that while cooking had changed during the pandemic, she had been creating delicious recipes for canned foods. Plus, it seems as though she and her partner Shane Farley are still going strong, as they’ve been spotted walking their dog in L.A. (via Daily Mail). By all accounts, things are looking up for this cooking sensation — and we can’t wait to see what she serves up next!