When Giada De Laurentiis was first hired at the Food Network in 2002, fans were enraged. They accused the network of hiring an actress to play the role of a chef. She was crushed to find out that her debut into the world of television was getting off to a bad start, but that didn’t deter her. A few years later, De Laurentiis found herself on top of the Food Network charts with Everyday Italian, her popular series that promotes light and healthy recipes using accessible ingredients.
If you’re a fan of Giada De Laurentiis, you’re among good company. Her shows are some of the most popular on the Food Network’s schedule. If you’re not a fan, well, you also happen to be among good company, as De Laurentiis is the butt of more jokes because of her much-discussed bosom, wide smile and other physical features and mannerisms. Even more reasons for the Food Network to keep her around, as De Laurentis’ presence has helped the network’s ratings in the all-important 18-35 category – including guys, who watch her because she’s … well … sexy. And the Food Network knows that there are two types of people who watch their shows – those who cook and those who don’t. (For the most part, the guys don’t cook – they watch for the scenery.)
De Laurentis is the Winner of the 2008 Emmy for Outstanding Lifestyle Host for Everyday Italian. It’s been called “soft porn” by critics, but the petite and perky cooking star doesn’t deny that her show has a certain sensuality to it. “Porn? I’m not doing porn! What the hell are people talking about?” she said indignantly, in a September interview with Page Six Magazine. “Granted, I don’t wear the highest necklines.…”
A recent Giada De Laurentiis Interview
De Laurentis comes from a show business family who also had a passion for food. Her grandfather is movie producer Dino De Laurentis; her grandmother was Italian actress Silvana Mangano. She remembers helping her grandfather create tiramisu, by dipping the cookies in the espresso. “That’s where the cooking spark came from early on,” she said.
But can Giada De Laurentis really cook? Or is she just a pretty face in front of the camera?
Despite De Laurentiis’ rise in celebrity chef circles, she still has a fair number of critics, who don’t consider her a real chef and who question her talents in the kitchen. Although her formal training is impressive – she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, which also trained the likes of Julia Child, fellow Food Network chef Mario Batali and Survivor host Jeff Probst (we won’t go there) – De Laurentis somehow doesn’t always come off as a real cook. To many, she’s been compared to a Barbie doll in an apron. Viewer complaints range from DeLaurentis showing too much cleavage, her seemingly large head on a very tiny body, her too perfect smile, and a laundry list of other problems, which have very little to do with her culinary skills.
World traveler, author and chef, Anthony Bourdain said, “Giada can actually cook … Food Net seems more interested in her enormous head (big head equals big ratings. Really!) and her cleavage – than the fact that she’s likeable, knows what she’s doing in an Italian kitchen – and makes food you’d actually want to eat.”
And that’s the crux of the problem. The issues aren’t necessarily with Giada De Laurentiis – they are with the Food Network, part of the Scripps Howard conglomerate, which exists as an entertainment company. Although it should be producing inspiring, motivational, informative and entertaining programs, the bottom line is … well, the bottom line. The Food Network is out to make a profit, so if capitalizing on De Laurentiis’ assets will rake in the big bucks, that is what they are going to do. It is all about catering to the lowest common denominator of their viewership. De Laurentiis is a commodity and contractually obligated to the Food Network until such time that she feels it’s time to strike out on her own, which could be soon. She has already authored four successful cookbooks, has a line of gourmet food products, is a spokesperson for Barilla pasta, a contributor to the “Today” show and continues to operate a catering business.
So is there a problem with Giada De Laurentiis of Everyday Italian and her other cloned shows? Or is the problem with the Food Network? De Laurentis is a winning brand, and the Food Network knows how to exploit her moneymaking appeal. Dumb down the shows even more to appeal to an even lower common denominator. What might the Food Network have up their sleeves next? Perhaps a line of K-Mart clothes, a restaurant in Vegas … you get the picture. This is where all the big TV celebrity chefs appear to be heading these days. The trend has less and less to do with the food and more with the money.
So the next time you see De Laurentiis in her body-hugging sweater, taking miniscule bites of something she just slaved over, remember it’s all about ratings and not so much the food.
“I want the food to look beautiful, [for the viewer] to get really close to that beet and see the salt and the herbs that have been chopped into it,” she says. “It is a bit…pornographic.”