Cooking Up Controversy: The Rise of Star Chef Giada De Laurentiis

Thu Jul 15 2021

This article was originally published on Popular Everything and has been republished on For What It’s Earth with permission.

Food Network goddess Giada De Laurentiis is celebrated for her expertise in Italian cuisine. With a growing list of shows like Everyday Italian, Giada Entertains, and Giada at Home, all TV hours seem to include her smile and skill. She’s built a net worth of around $30 million. But behind the camera, does she really lead that picture-perfect life?

Truthfully, a few scandals have confused the public in recent years. This chef does try to focus on her signature dishes. But the tabloids have tried to tarnish more than just her silverware, and questions need answers. In love and business, Giada has done more than most. It’s time to take a look at the cook, starting now!

Born in Rome, Pasta and Prosciutto Was in Her Blood

It’s no surprise to learn that Giada De Laurentiis spent her early childhood in the mother country. Her family had plenty of tasty history in Italy, starting with her great-grandparents, who owned a pasta factory. After moving to California at seven, the culinary journey continued working at her grandfather’s restaurant. Giada pondered making it a full-blown career. Delizioso!

But a dream is just a wish your heart makes if you do nothing about it. In her twenties, Giada decided to go big with a post-college program. After getting a BA in social anthropology at UCLA, she was accepted to a competitive culinary school: Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Frankly, she was surprised to make it!

A Favorite of Celebrities Today, Giada Has an Impressive Resume

It’s no secret that celebs love Giada and savor the chance to collaborate. The fancy foodie class first got to know her as a chef at a local Wolfgang Puck restaurant and a food stylist in LA. Her reputation led her to the honor of cooking for Prince William and Kate Middleton when they visited the city. She made lasagna, of course — but fit for royalty!

But that was just the beginning, obviously. In 2002, Gi was scouted by a rep from the Food Network. She made a short demo, and executives were impressed enough to launch a show called Everyday Italian. The Giada TV empire was about to go up, up, up! But it was also about to be filled with drama.

What Happened in Vegas Couldn’t Stay in Vegas

Giada was confident enough to try a new venture with a growing base of fans: She became the first woman on the Las Vegas Strip to open her own chef restaurant. With striking views and modern Italian eats, it did well enough to open the second one in Sin City. The pandemic of 2020 shut both down. But so what, said Giada.

Without missing a beat, she began a Scottsdale, Arizona double restaurant transition for 2021. The Southwest would be a great new audience for her Roman and Mediterranean pizza pies. Where did she get such guts? Perhaps it was her rough start: If fans of Kitchen Nightmares thought Gordon Ramsay was putting it on for the cameras, they would be wrong. How did Giada actually gain her expertise?

Chef School Was Pretty Savage, Back in the Day

Before all these early ventures, getting through culinary school was no walk in the Parco. According to Giada: “I’m going to be honest — it was brutal…The chefs threw pans and rolling pins, I had burns all up and down my arms, and it was intense, laborious work…I was one of very few women in the class.” As a recent UCLA grad, this was a very different vibe.

Her family actually did not support the career move, so Giada had to pay for school herself. And with the harsh environment at Le Cordon Bleu, she quickly learned the industry was an intense commitment. Amazingly, she managed to do it all without even knowing French!

Nicole Kidman Spit Out Her Cooking on Live TV

Everyone has their fans and critics. When Giada, Ellen, and Nicole Kidman were cooking together on The Ellen Show, audience members noticed that one person wasn’t enjoying everything. Giada was there to teach them how to make proper focaccia. But after each bite, Nicole spit it out!

Apparently, the premade bread for the demo had been sitting out for hours. It wasn’t her normal level of service. Giada was pretty good-humored about the whole thing. But it wouldn’t be the last time she had an oopsie outside of her own show’s comfort zone. Could it really get worse than this? Unfortunately, it could.

She Froze on The Today Show, in Front of Millions

It was an incident no one can forget, least of all Giada. The chef was once asked to cook for anchor Al Roker on The Today Show. Her own food stylist believed the best idea for live TV would be slightly raw chicken, for reasons only food stylists know. Did Al know about this plan? Of course not.

She recalled her terror: “I made a grilled chicken with three different pestos, but it was actually the stylist who cooked the food…We get to the point where Al says, ‘Let’s taste it’ and cuts into the chicken, and it was raw inside!” Giada panicked and looked at Al blankly. He invited her back, though this could have ended her career. Rare steak, sure. Rare chicken? Not so much — not at all!

Married a Man of Taste, a Designer for Anthropologie

Some may wonder who Giada loved during her rise to fame. Who supported her through all the bumps in the road? Turns out it was none other than Todd Thompson, a fellow UCLA grad. They met during college, and both wound up in lucrative careers. Giada may have studied social anthropology, but Todd ended up being a designer for the company Anthropologie. Not exactly the same, but very stylish!

Over the years, Giada showed her love through cooking for her husband and daughter Jade. Todd appreciated what she brought to the table — literally and figuratively. She shared: “My husband was used to opening cans — Chef Boyardee, frozen food, whatever. He didn’t know much about cooking, bless his soul.” And while it seemed as though they balanced each other out perfectly, the reality was very different.

Shockingly, It Didn’t Last Forever

It was a surprise that rocked the culinary world. Giada announced on social media: “After an amicable separation since July, Todd and I have decided to end our marriage…Todd and I share a beautiful daughter and a lifetime of great memories that we both treasure more than anything. We are so thankful for our friends and family, and really appreciate the support in this time of change.” A time of change?

Fans were surprised and disappointed, having long admired her image of stability. What was behind the carefully crafted PR statement? Experts say couples argue most often about money. But with plenty of money between them, that couldn’t have been a source of acrimony. Readers decided to analyze her previous interviews for clues.

Speculations Grew About the Sudden Split

Giada once explained: “I think it can be hard for any man to sometimes be upstaged by his wife. So when I’m home, I work very hard to be Todd’s wife and Jade’s mother…I try to be Giada, the young girl that he met 20 years ago and fell in love with. 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.”

TV marriages can be a challenge for some. It sounded like efforts were made to create normalcy and romance at home. This had to be something else: Was there someone in the relationship who had strayed, as she once alluded? A few sleuths online had theories about that, too. Rumors began, and they were juicy!

Was There an Affair With Chef Bobby Flay?

Once news of the divorce hit the media, gossip began about an affair. But it wasn’t an allegation of indiscretion on Todd’s part. Observers seemed to think that Giada had been a little too close to a number of males. For example, fellow celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Were they really just buddies?

Some noticed they had traveled together to make the show Bobby and Giada in Italy. And Italy is a romantic place! They had been friends for years and were often together exploring similar interests. Even if there was no formal affair, experts warn that having a work spouse can still put a strain on a relationship. Giada adamantly denied that Bobby had anything to do with the breakup of her marriage, in any way. Was there someone else?

Was Singer John Mayer a Lover on the Low Down?

In the press, singer and lover John Mayer was linked to several beautiful women. From Jennifer Aniston to Jessica Simpson, it seemed his reach was far and wide. Giada was one name mentioned in the crowded field. Was there any truth to this hearsay?

According to Giada: “I have never, ever been romantically involved with John Mayer…I met him twice at least 5 or 6 years ago at public events along with hundreds of other people…I have not seen or even heard from him since.” But this denial did not put the other rumors to bed. Was someone else in her bed?

Was Matt Lauer More Than Just a Friend?

Jumping over to journalism, former Today host Matt Lauer was linked to Giada when both were spotted in Barbados. Why were they vacationing together? And besides that, they were seen at dinner together. Matt himself had a lot to say about the matter when pressed.

He explained: “From the horse’s mouth we have been friends for 10 years, and more importantly, I feel bad for what she has been going through.” It was all business, according to both of them. She was often a guest on his show! Were they not allowed to plan segments and taste tests? These rumors were out of control.

Finally a Free Woman, But She Had to Pay Out

It couldn’t have been easy for Giada De Laurentiis to get divorced. The endless speculation about infidelity was cruel, and there appeared to be no truth about any of it in the end. She tried to focus on the proceedings, which turned out to be expensive. What did she have to give her ex?

In terms of her companies, Giada got to keep the rights to Linguine Productions and GDL Foods, Inc. She was ordered by the court to give Todd half of the advances of her upcoming cookbooks. He got their big, beautiful mansion. He also got $300,000 in art and decor. And finally, she had to pay him child support of $9,000 a month. Every month!

Finding New Love, That’s Amore

Overall, the divorce was called amicable. And just a few months after it was finalized, Giada already found a new man. Shane Farley was a well-known producer in the daytime world. He had even worked with Rachel Ray, another celebrity chef. But when they first met, both were married to other people. Intriguing!

Whatever the case may be, Todd hasn’t had a bad word to say about it. Now together for more than five years, Shane is a big part of her personal and professional life. He and Jade seem to get along, and all three like to make good TV. He produced the pandemic-inspired Giada at Home 2.0 on the Food Network, and Jade helped in the kitchen. However, Giada’s life might not be as perfect as it seems.

An Unplanned Pregnancy That Changed Everything For Her

The truth is, Giada De Laurentiis and Todd Thompson never planned on having kids. They had actually been a couple for 18 years when a positive test came their way. Giada recalled: “It was a complete surprise — not planned at all. It was never that we didn’t want children; it was more like, ‘If we have them someday, great. If not, that’s fine too.'”

No one ever expected that Giada would be expecting, even though she was clearly in a loving relationship. She had told others she might stay childless long ago. While it’s not that common, people often have their reasons. What was her thought process?

Thankfully, Giada Loves Her Lil’ Meatball

It’s sad, but Giada suffered a personal tragedy in her life in 2003. Her brother died of cancer, and it turned her whole life upside down. She explains: “When my brother died, I was so close to him that I became very vulnerable and I was afraid to open my heart up again. I didn’t want to experience that kind of loss and pain any more in my life, and it took me a while to really think about a child.”

But when Jade was born, everything changed. DIY masks, movie nights, and all kinds of activities have become a part of this chef’s schedule. Giada shared: “I know I’m her mother, but she’s become my best friend…We have so much fun together. I never realized I could have so much fun with a 5-year-old! I didn’t think it was possible, but we laugh so much, and she’s so inquisitive.” Does that curiosity extend to the kitchen, too?

Like Mother, Like Daughter in the Kitchen

As a kid, Jade has plenty of activities to keep her occupied. But watching mom roll balls of dough was a lot more interesting than Play-Doh. Giada’s daughter began participating without much prompting from the age of three. At ten, she independently made her dad pastries for his birthday.

Gi shared: “I think children learning to cook can be such a wonderful thing. It can help build confidence, make them feel good about themselves. It helped me build my ego and even start to get acceptance at school. I’d bring things to class that I’d cooked at home.” It’s quite charming to see them together in the kitchen, perfect for social media. But while Giada’s life with her daughter seems perfect, her life in the public eye is anything but.

That Time She Filed a Restraining Order on a Fan

Sometimes, posting on social media has negative consequences. For all the fans Giada gained by having a public presence, there are always a few crazies. Out of the blue, she received a message from a stranger claiming to be the father of Jade. He once wrote: “It would mean a lot to me to see her again, and I think she feels the same way. So, if you want to make G happy, let us see each other and talk.”

Giada was terrified. A restraining order was the only option. When it was all over, she explained: “His statements placed me in fear for myself and my family and caused me to suffer substantial emotional distress.” Remaining a super mom and a top TV chef must require stress management, especially with these hiccups. What is her plan for that?

Keeping Her Sanity, Even When Tested By Crazies

Perhaps her strategy is multifold. Giada shared tips: “I count on chiropractic sessions to keep my body aligned. Standing for hours can impact my posture, and that can throw the rest of my body out of whack. Acupuncture helps me relax and release stress. I’m also very into massage to help release tension in my back, neck, and shoulders.”

It’s hard to pinpoint one method that works for everyone, no doubt. But there is one more way that chef Giada always likes to relax. The answer lies in her longtime love of animals. What sort of pets keeps the De Laurentiis family company after a long day?

Snuggling With Furry Friends Helps, Too

So far, there are three small animals that regularly offer cuddles. Bella and Luna are the cats, and Bruno is the resident dog. The animals’ shared Instagram account is becoming popular these days, boasting more than 13,000 followers. Maybe they are most interested in the fanciest of the bunch: Luna is the Bengal breed.

These exotic-looking housecats are not a wild breed, despite the appearance of their coat. They run a pretty penny to purchase, sometimes thousands of dollars. It’s the rarest breed in the world at the moment. But when you’re a TV chef with a net worth of $30 million-plus, that’s really no big deal.

Fit at 50, Despite All the Pasta

Shane obviously noticed her beauty on set. How could he not? Fans noticed it too: The naturally slender chef confidently shared photos in one-pieces, bikinis, and short shorts. Giada once explained: “I’m comfortable in my own skin. I know I’m not going to ever be Cindy Crawford or Elle MacPherson.” With the body she had at age 50, that couldn’t be much of a challenge!

Being locked down and eating carbs all day was a real temptation in 2020. But that was nothing truly new for Giada De Laurentiis. She was always pictured with bread and spaghetti and never seemed to struggle. Fans really wanted to know her secret! What was her personal approach?

The Key is Moderation, or Maybe Just Being Giada

Giada once explained: “I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything. Everything in moderation. I know that’s really hard for people to understand, but I grew up in an Italian family where we didn’t overdo anything. We ate pasta, yes, but not a lot of it.”

She has emphasized to fans that pasta doesn’t make you fat. It’s how much pasta, that’s the issue! Giada was a great ambassador with all the bad press Italian classics seemed to be getting in the diet columns. But that couldn’t be the whole story. What else did she do to stay so trim?

Fans Learned the Secret of Her Enviable Physique

Giada shared her fitness favorite online: “Yoga has trimmed my body in a way that the gym never could. I used to be a gym rat, but I switched to yoga and am now almost 10 pounds lighter. One important thing I’ve gotten from yoga is breathing. When I’m cooking, the top part of my body collapses down. It cuts off my diaphragm.”

Her pictures made it all seem so easy breezy. Could anyone really be that balanced and bubbly all the time? Minimal pasta and a lot of yoga. There had to more to this story, especially for a woman who worked professionally in food. And indeed, for those who followed her online, there was more out in the open.

For a Foodie, Nothing is Truly Off Limits

Giada clearly takes pride in the way she maintains her body. But does that mean she totally avoids greasy goodness? No way! The full spectrum of food is part of her job, and she does love to indulge from time to time. Plus, she cooks for growing, hungry Jade.

What does she prepare as mama Giada? She shared: “It’s whatever my daughter wants for lunch! We have a lot of pasta and quesadillas.” Sounds heavy for someone trying to stay lean. Does she snack in between and still keep her figure? The answer is, si!

Sneaking a Snack Never Hurt Anyone, Either

Giada does know how to make good Cannoli. But that’s not what she eats day to day. According to the chef: “I travel with snacks, always. I don’t eat on planes. Trail mix. Walnuts, almonds, Marcona almonds, chocolate chips, cranberries. I take little bags of that with me. It really helps.” None of that truly sounds diet-ending. It’s actually pretty healthy, considering the on-the-go options out in town.

Plus, she drinks a lot of water throughout the day. To keep things interesting, she likes to infuse her h2o with lemon or cucumber. She loves her wine in the evenings. And overall, she doesn’t binge on the scrumptious dishes she makes others. Not all chefs manage to resist!

What Doesn’t Thrill Her Makes Her Stronger

Over the years, Giada De Laurentiis has had a real transformation in front of the world. Being with someone for more than two decades means a lot of your identity is linked to another person. Giada admitted that was a situation she found herself in, and she had to grow in a new way when she found herself newly divorced.

It seems like she’s made it through at this point. And she has shared that she even gained single gal tricks: “I never knew how to hook up a TV; I had alarms going off in the night that I never had to deal with because my ex-husband would handle all that stuff. I can do those things now.” What is her latest venture as a totally independent woman?

The Woman’s Got Guts, in More Ways Than One

Check out Giada’s new cookbook: Eat Better, Feel Better. In recent years, there has been more and more news on the effect the gut has on human health. Giada recalls her own gut detox: “I remember how 10 years ago, I was finally attaining professional success, but a lot of the time, I was too depleted to enjoy it…I relied on sugar and caffeine to keep my energy up when all I really wanted was the world’s longest nap…It all starts with food!”

The Food Network chef wanted to create a tasty guide for those seeking gut-healing meals. She hopes people can truly enjoy their options at home without feeling the need to find a drive-through. With the right recipes, those cravings might even go away!

Jade the Jetsetter is a Part of the Biz Now

Jade may be too young to have an account of her own, but she is behind the scenes on her mom’s TikTok page. She loves to post little dances and videos of pancake day in the kitchen. For fans of the daytime shows, it’s a whole new way to experience ‘at home’ with Giada.

Jade has been a guest on recent travels all around the world. Whether it’s Capri, Florence, or Costa Rica, the chef has a tasting partner as she explores cuisines and cultures. And ultimately, Giada values having family close in her life. Where did that all start?

Giada Has Some Competition, But Who?

In Italian, there is a saying: “La famiglia e tutto.” That translates to “Family is everything.” For many generations, the De Laurentiis clan has been bonding over food. That hasn’t stopped, of course. Today, Giada is not the only member who boasts skills with a skillet.

She explains: “My family truly believes they are better cooks than I am. They see me as Giada, not as a celebrity chef. To them, I’m just me — their granddaughter, niece, etc., and they’re older and wiser. I like that because it keeps you grounded.” So far, only one is on TV. But next season, anything can happen!

Where Did Her Passion Come From?

Giada’s Italian heritage is obviously extremely important to her and makes up a large part of her identity. But she actually went to culinary school in Paris. Still, it wasn’t where she discovered her passion for cooking for the first time. She realized her love for making great food while working at her grandfather’s restaurant.

She wasn’t even sure whether or not she would she would pursue cooking professionally for a while. It was her family who told her to go and study before making her mind up. And once she finally got to the French culinary school, she paid her own way through education.

Giada’s Former Battle With Sugar Addiction

Most people don’t realize that the star chef actually battled with an addiction to sugar in her past. She admitted to not having a healthy relationship with food once upon a time, admitting that “Sugar was a crutch to get my energy up,” she said. “Sometimes it would be as basic as taking a sugar cube, dipping it in espresso and eating that directly. I ate jam directly from a container…”

“It’s like a drug,” she added. Her health started to decline drastically, and it wasn’t until she began having digestive issues that she decided to do something about it. “I started feeling tired, really tired, really foggy. Interrupted sleep, where I couldn’t sleep for hours in a row, lots of bloating and sinus infections.” Even a culinary goddess can fall victim to sugar cravings!

An Unplanned Pregnancy Lead to the Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to Her

Looking at her Instagram, it’s clear that Giada and her daughter Jade truly are the best of friends. They do everything together – literally. But her look-a-like daughter almost never came to be, as Giada never actually intended on getting pregnant!

“It was a complete surprise — not planned at all. It was never that we didn’t want children; it was more like, ‘If we have them someday, great. If not, that’s fine too,'” Giada explained in an interview. The real reason she was apprehensive about bringing a child into the world was because of the death of her beloved younger brother.

Her Brother’s Death Taught Her An Extremely Important Lesson

Giada’s relationship with her brother Dino was extremely important to her, which is why his passing was especially hard for her to recover from. “He was the person I turned to for everything. When something great happened in my life, when something bad happened — I would talk to him two to three times per day.”

But when she could find herself healing from the family tragedy, she began to think about how she should appreciate the relationships she does have in her life and the ones that could come to be in the future. “I stopped thinking of just my own mortality; I started thinking about the life we’re leaving for someone else.”

Maintaining a Good Relationship With Her Baby Daddy

Even though Giada and Todd divorced back in 2014, they make sure to have a good relationship for the sake of their beloved daughter. Jade was only young when her parents decided to part ways, and Giada was still aware that difficulties that could arise. “Her dad and I got divorced when she was five. Although she doesn’t remember a lot, and she does pretty well, there’s still a lot of stress that builds up over time.”

While being interviewed by People in 2017, Giada spoke about the measures that she and Todd have taken to impact Jade as little as possible: “We live a stone’s throw away from each other, like five minutes, which has really helped keep Jade stable and just keep her environment as similar as possible at both places. Getting along with my ex-husband really helps as well. We’re supportive of each other and, in turn, supportive of Jade.”

Why Giada’s Daughter Is Unlikely To Follow In Her Footsteps

Despite the fact that you can find Jade in a bunch of her mom’s cooking videos, Giada sees she’s not as passionate about it. “Jade loves baking over cooking — it’s more mixing and measuring and cracking eggs than slicing and dicing (which can be BOR-ing for a nine-year-old!) — and brownies are high up on our list of treats to make together.” Giada calls Jade her little sous chef, but she has doubts about whether she’ll follow in her footsteps.

“I will probably end up with a child who not only doesn’t care about food but doesn’t ever want to set foot in a kitchen!” she said in an interview. Luckily for her, that’s not the case and Jade loves helping her mom out. But for now, she’s got her sights set on a myriad of other professions. What Jade wants to be “changes everyday. Cooking is never on that list.”

Giada and Jade Are Two Peas In a Pod

Jade may not join the culinary career when she’s older, but she’ll always have the same name as her mom. Yep, Giada and Jade are basically the same names. The only difference is that Giada is the Italian word for the green ornamental mineral. Clearly, Giada wanted her daughter to be her mini-me!

And that’s exactly what she got. The pair are quite literally inseparable, look incredibly alike, and have the same name. But Jade is not the De Laurentiis woman who’s twinning with Giada. As you’ll soon come to see, the celebrity chef got a lot of her good looks from somebody else…

Giada and Her Mom Veronica Look Like Sisters

Giada’s amazing relationship with her little girl gets us thinking about what her relationship is like with her own mother, Veronica De Laurentiis. Looking at this photo, we can see where Giada gets her stunning looks from for a start. Veronica’s now in her early seventies, but you’d never guess it.

The De Laurentiis have an amazing relationship, too. They’re close, and they hang out all the time. From what we can tell, Giada inherited her flair for showbusiness from Veronica, too. That’s because Veronica had a glamorous career way before Giada was even born.

Showbusiness Runs In Her Blood

Veronica De Laurentiis was an Italian-American actress with a fair amount of success. She herself was the daughter of a glamorous silent movie actress and an Italian film producer and was cast in her first film role at only 18 years of age. Once Giada was born in 1970, she decided to retire from the profession altogether.

Her decision to retire was encouraged by her parents, and she ended up regretting it. “I grew up thinking that I could not take care of myself. I always had to please others and do what I was told,” she later admitted. “I grew up as a little girl who was scared… My mom was a perfectionist and my dad told everyone what to do.”

The Esteemed Grandfather Dino De Laurentiis Himself

“When I decided to go back to acting… everyone told me I was crazy, including my father,” Veronica revealed. Pictured is Giada with her grandfather, Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis. He is thought to be one of the producers who introduced Italian cinema to the world after the Second World War ended.

You may remember Dino as having produced classic films like Blue Velvet, La Strada, and Barbarella. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger certainly remembers him from his Conan the Barbarian days in the seventies: “He never feared failure, and this is the only way you can be successful in life. I learned that from Dino.”