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Episode 12

The Alton Browncast

Giada De Laurentiis

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The Alton Browncast #12: Giada De Laurentiis

Giada De Laurentiis joins Alton Brown on this week’s podcast. Giada reflects on family, goals, beauty, and how appearing on Iron Chef America affected her — plus. find out what Alton realized about Giada that kept her curious for months. Alton also answers some of your questions and talks meatballs.

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32 comments

  • I was looking for a place to bash Giada, because I come from a family of professional chefs and I know a good cook when I see one work, and she definitely is NOT a good cook. So she went to cooking school in France, big deal. You pay, you go–there is no “acceptance” at that overpriced glory hole of a pretentious school.
    Also, the woman amazingly still has all her fingers. The way she wields her knives is scary. I have seen her on a number of times on TV and more than once, she couldn’t even boil water, no joke! And I am not talking about the time concern with TV, these incidents were edited, and still, she just laughed it off like it happens all the time.
    I certainly would never want to have a meal anywhere she had a hand in, as I would either get salmonella or the food would be underdone.

  • Wow. The previous posts are really vitriolic. Can we not imagine that this woman is answering honestly, to the best of her ability, to spontaneous questions asked? Have any of you walked in her shoes?

  • Maybe I’m the only one, but I find the first 10-15 minutes of each podcast to be the most interesting part, where he listens to callers’ questions and answers them off the cuff, often showing staggering amounts of knowledge and understanding.

    I just went back and transcribed the “spice box” list he made up. This is my first visit to the forum, but it doesn’t look like people commonly transcribe useful reference information from the podcast and post it. Could we start maybe doing this, crowd-sourcing-style?

    Here is the spice box list (I kept the name the caller coined because it makes me smile).

    Alton Brown’s Spicebox:
    Tellicherry black peppers
    Cumin
    Sumac (lemon substitute!)
    Smoked paprika
    Coriander seed
    Whole nutmeg
    Cassia cinnamon
    Cayenne
    Celery seed
    Fenugreek

    The rest of this episode was boring. I had never heard of Giada DeLorentis, and Alton just launched into the interview with the assumption that I knew exactly who this was and wanted to spend the next hour of my life hearing her talk about herself. She sounds nice, but after 20 minutes with nothing interesting coming out of either of their mouths I stopped listening. (Or maybe right after I took the headphones out they started talking about food or science or ANYTHING other than Giada and her family.) Alton, next time you have a “famous” guest, could you please at least start by explaining who this person is, and could you maybe even conduct the interview in a way that it’s relevant to some sort of interest beyond celebrity worship?

    Now I’m off to Wegman’s to buy some sumac.

  • I watched her for the first 4 years or so – she makes a LOT of stuff. You must REALLY hate Sandra Lee. Wow you watched a WEEK and decided how every show is – amazing.

    Just like Lidia and other Italian cooks who moved to he US at young ages (most of them) – they have the ability to learn from their parents AND study in other countries when older. So yes – they can know how the Italians do things just like an American who studied in Italy can know how things are done. Include any other cuisine – French, Thai, Chinese etc… that a American can know about from studying about it.

    Funny thing is – ALL of the above is common sense – which does not surprise me you don’t have any.

  • Bourdain would be a great listen. Also agree with getting Andrew Zimmern on the cast. Either way, I have been here since the beginning and am not going anywhere. Good Eats was great for me in terms of teaching technique and getting past preconceived notions about food I knew little to nothing about. I am an Alton Brown fan. Simple as that. I enjoy what he does.

  • Brian – actually there are plenty of people on The FN and Cooking Channel that can’t cook but for whatever reason they still have shows. But that’s another topic… I have no preconceived notions. Actually I think Dino’s story is quite great and empowering. It’s not about whether she’s Italian or not, it’s about how she’s always portraying her Italian origins as if she lived there a lot longer than she did. It’s misleading, especially her claim that living in Italy has made her an expert on Italian cuisine. Saying things like “In Italy they do it this way” or “Italians do it that way”. How would she know? She came here at what, 5? The only Italians she knows and learned from are her family, yet she’s an “expert” on everyone else… I was born in Romania and lived there until I was 24 years old. I have been cooking since I was 12 and learned from the women in my family until I left my country and I still wouldn’t claim to be an expert on Romanian cuisine or cooking because I think that would be arrogant… I’m a published cook book writer and when I referenced Romanian cooking I gave my family as an example not the whole country because I don’t know how everybody else does it. Because everybody is different. My point is she is not genuine and she’s presenting herself, her past and her roots in an untruthful way. Not to mention that although she went to culinary school in France and she may have culinary chops she just doesn’t show them that much. I’m sorry but I watched a whole week of Everyday Italian once and out of the 5 days her show was aired (there were reruns) in 4 of those she made penne pasta and in the 5th she made a “gourmet dinner” (her words) of store bought frozen ravioli with store bought marinara sauce that she “made her own” (her words) by adding cream and lemon juice. Don’t you think that a TV chef that makes more $$$’s on one show that a regular pers
    on makes in 3 months should cook something else other than what you can find on the back of that frozen package of ravioli?

  • Nate – All the women on the Network and Cooking channel are TV chefs… Amazing how the producers only “play up” Giada’s “look, style and wealth” isn’t it… She is not the only attractive woman on food TV; she is however the only one I have seen on there who capitalizes on her looks and then turns around and says she wants people to see more than what’s on the outside and take her seriously… When she starts taking herself seriously maybe the rest of the people who don’t will. Honestly I think the reason why Batali didn’t choose her as his partner on ICA had nothing to do with her looks or because he wanted to beat her (it’s actually a laugh that she compares her culinary prowess with Batali’s) but because she’s ditzy and affected and, despite her French culinary school training she doesn’t really show that much culinary know-how… She is also obviously a know it all and I’m sure Batali knew she wasn’t going to take any of his advice and he didn’t want to loose. I don’t know if you have watched that particular ICA battle but if you did you may remember how she started jumping up and down like a 2 yr old because the water for her ravioli wasn’t boiling fast enough. Then, that same year, she was a judge on the NFNS and she said Kelsey Nixon should tone down her enthusiasm. She is a fake and full of herself. And BTW, I said I was not trying to be judgmental, I didn’t say I wasn’t…

  • Wow – someone has some issues. Giada had a successful catering business and went to school to do what she does. Her family does have connections but she did those things herself. If she could not cook – she would not have a show or cookbooks – period.

    All of her family around her was Italian – is Lidia Bastianich and her son’s less ‘Italian’? Her parents moved to the US when she was young but her family was Italian and she IS Italian and knows her Italian food.

    Seems to me that you have a preconceived notion due to her family – and you then see everything thru those preconceived notions and only thru those notions.

  • I’m completely boggled by some of these criticisms, and especially the borderline obsessive rants. Giada de Laurentiis is a TV chef, and has been a TV chef for most of her career. Of course she’s concerned with her appearance, and of course her producers play up her looks, her style, and even her wealth … selling that image is what she does for a living. Did she actually ever deny that her family connections helped her, or did she just try to insist that she had actual skills and connections of her own, as well? Did she ever say she wasn’t attractive, or just try to downplay that superficial element of her success and deflect compliments just like anyone else in the same situation would?

    Thanks for the humor, though … my biggest laugh of the day came when Laura claimed she wasn’t being judgemental in her third consecutive post full of nothing but.

  • This wasn’t a problem as much with Giada DeLaurentis. She is free to be whomever she wants to be and focus her career on whatever she wants. I think this podcast is more evidence however, that it is being used as just another promotional tool for the Food Network rather than as a forum for discussing food-related topics in general. I think it’s time for Brown to stop his interviewing a whole bunch of Food Network personalities including his bosses and focusing more on interviewing all sorts or interesting people in the food world. Please take a cue from podcasts like the Spledid Table and broaden your reach. If not, I’ll be removing the podcast from my regular listening list.

  • I think you guys are jumping all over her for no reason. Was her answers a bit unoriginal and trite? Yes. Did she want to talk about herself? Probably not. You forget that this is a two-way conversation and Alton steered the conversation in the direction of her image.

  • Honestly, I was a bit let down by Giada’s interview. She came across as incredibly self absorbed. I couldn’t listen after she brought up her looks for a third time… we get it Giada.

  • Mitch, I do see how you would think I was being judgmental but honestly I was not trying to be – despite some evidence to the contrary… :) I also try to look in the mirror first and I honestly do try not to judge others at all… But sometimes when someone is as obvious as Giada is (but not to herself apparently) I just get irritated by the facade and I just say what I feel and what I believe the truth to be. Now, obviously, I may be completely wrong, she may be a perfectly lovely person… If that was so, I would be happy to admit my wrong… But I’m only going on what I’ve been seeing for a long time and on her own words from this interview. And, according to those sources, she comes across self centered, enamored with herself and her looks, insincere and completely detached from reality. She is saying one thing (especially about her looks and how she wants to be taken seriously) and then doing something in complete opposition with her words, like dressing like a vamp, and having her shows filmed in a boutique style, as if they are Hollywood movies and not cooking shows…

  • Melanie, I believe with all my heart that any woman should be allowed to be pretty and attractive and still be taken seriously at her craft. I know I came across a little harsh (I’m very direct – shocking, I know… :) ) but my beef with Giada is not about the fact that she wants to look good or that she is pretty. It is about the way she presents herself. First it was obvious to me from the interview that she is completely stuck on her own looks and glamour and is also totally detached from reality. If she can’t move away from her own looks how exactly does she expect others to… Second, being pretty and attractive DOES NOT mean you have to show the kind of cleavage she shows on almost all her episodes. It does not mean you have to ware short dresses with plunging neck lines like she does on NFNS… Again, if she wants to be taken seriously and if she truly does want people to move away from her looks why does she have to shove her “looks” in our faces. Personally I think a woman can look beautiful, attractive and even sexy without spilling out of her clothes… That is why I said what I said. The other thing is this whole declaration about wanting to be one of us and make people happy… Right! That is why on the show “Giada in paradise” she stays at $5000 per night resorts and hotels and eats $500 a plate dinners. Google some of the places she showcases on that show and tell me how many “regular people” can afford that… Look, I have no problem with rich people or success… I love to see people become successful because it gives me hope I can also become one. But… Don’t pretend to be “one of the regular people”. Look at Ina Garten for example… She lives a pretty rarefied life but in all the years I’ve been watching her she’s never come across trying to be “one of the people”. She makes no bones about being rich, only associating with certain people, etc. She is who she is, like it or not! In other words, she’s honest and does not try to be anyone else other than who she is. I like that… Own who you are and don’t try to say you are something while portraying something completely different…

  • I was not going to say more but I have been thinking about Laura’s strong reaction and my on response to the issues that she brings up because I am sure that she is not the only one who came to these conclusions. I focused my comments on what Alton was doing because I had mixed feelings about all that was said about Giadia. I would say that I would give Alton the benefit of the doubt as to his statement as he knows the type of people that he compares her to and the context in which he says it. By that same token, if Giadia is the most affected self absorbed person that Laura knows then Laura is blessed with so many high quality people in her life to be associated with to provide context for her statement. I hesitated to mention anything about Giadia’s looks since I am male and it seems awkward for me do so. I admit that her looks stopped me in channel surfing and initially watch the first episode I saw of her, but the way she presented the dishes and how they were made impressed me. Eventually I made the decision that while it was worthwhile for me to keep tuning in, I personally felt that I often had to listen to the program and keep my eyes elsewhere whenever she wore a particularly notable outfit, just so I felt I I was doing my best to respect my wife, daughters and Giadia herself. I do respect that she was willing to share the less attractive things about her (the resentment toward Bobby for 6 months) and I hope that she can each day grow as a person. She has obviously used what she has from her family and become a success with it (and more of an italian culture expert than myself which is enough for me). I have had many times that someone has judged me based on incomplete information and I do not want to do that to Laura or Giadia. While the podcast gave some good insight, I do not feel I have sufficient information to say that I really know anyone on the podcast or on the message boards. I appreciate Laura’s perspective and while I may not share all of it, it has been food for thought.
    One more thought… As far as Mario being resentful of Giadia’s looks goes, I feel that Mario could have just as easily worn low cut shirts like hers and I would have ended up averting my eyes just as much.

  • Laura. I suggest you think about how analytic you are with this, does it really make sense to parse out someone like that? What if someone was doing that to you, would you stand up to their scrutiny. I’m not the type of person who believes people can’t judge other people but you should always take a look in the mirror at those judgement’s good or bad.

  • Laura, I perceived Giada’s comments about not wanting to be judged solely on her looks a little differently; remember, she also said that she was raised to believe that it is alright for a woman to dress nicely and keep themselves pretty all the time (eg. not wearing boxers to sleep)… so, she wants to feel feminine and confident and good about herself…. but she doesn’t want that to be the overriding feature of how she is perceived, above and beyond her mission in life/career, which is to promote her food culture. Can she be allowed to be pretty and NOT be considered somehow arrogant, but merely a woman (like many women) who want to walk through this world with self-assurance, but at the some time not be pigeonholed as shallow because of it? That is what I get from her comments.

  • Oh My goodness. Alton, Andrew zimmern has nothing to do with the food network, but if you could call him up for an interview I would absolutely be floored. The clash of your “southern cooking, traditional nerd, scientific personality, and Andrew Zimmern’s Adventurous palate would be The best podcast listen on the planet! Try to get that guy! He seems like one of the nicest guys on the planet too. You would definitely have interesting chemistry!

  • I have just gotten through first your interview with Justin and now Giadia and I think I will want to keep listening to this because this a good podcast and not just because I miss seeing Good Eats and have not seen any of your stuff in Mental Floss lately. The suggestion of interviewing Mario is great as the meatball stuff (which reminded me of a Babylon 5 quote about how universal meatballs are) I’m enjoying what you are doing so far and learning stuff. I would also suggest that Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern would be excellent guests for this format. Your interviewing style seems closer to Charlie Rose rather than Entertainment Tonight and I am digging it. Keep growing. Cheers!

  • Alton, I just discovered your podcast; Hubby and I really enjoyed listening to you and Giada. We just moved to a rural area and don’t get cable tv here so we really miss watching the Food Network shows, but particularly yours and Giada’s! You two ARE great together :) You are such lovely people and we both really appreciate the love of food you’ve shared with us over the years. We look forward to listening to more of your podcasts! We wanted to come see you on tour but VIP tickets are already sold out in Roanoke and Virginia Beach, VA.
    Cheers!

  • Yeah, This interview was a bit of a let down, Im not sure if it’s me but I like listening to these podcasts to get a slightly more intimate and personal look at the cooks who Alton Interview. Giada seemed so 100% invested in her image, and unable to disconnect her personal ambitions with he “brand” and “Public image”. Her response on “what do you see when you look at yourself?” (good question by the way)…was just so bland, so scripted. Almost as if she was answering the question, “What do you want people to see you as”. It was disappointing. I know I don’t know her personally, but she seems like she’s been caught up in this glamorous silver screen land for so long she just isn’t in touch with herself. She really does seem lonely. I don’t know her personally, but i hope she’s a more genuine, wholesome person than what she came off as here.

  • I am listening to Alton interviewing Giada and I’m sorry but I just don’t buy half the stuff she says… Seriously… Listen between the lines. She’s obviously enamored with herself and her looks. “I’ve always tried to tell people that I may look a certain way on the outside but there is a lot more to me than just that” Oh, really??? Is that why Ms. De Laurentiis shows more cleavage in one 30 minute episode than some actresses do in a 2 hr movie??? “I’ve spent a lot of time in my career playing down the way I look, my looks” And I ask again – REALLY???? Is this why she wears mini dresses with plunging neck lines because she wants to “play down” the way she looks??? Look, people have the right to wear whatever they want to, including Giada but please, don’t try to tell people that you wanna play down your looks! Or has she forgotten the spread she did in Esquire magazine?… http://www.esquire.com/women/women-we-love/delaurentiis0807. I kinda like Alton’s question – “How do you think you look?” And then she says she’s shy… OK, whatever… Not to mention that I’m not sure why Alton said she’s not “affected”… Because she comes across as THE most affected person EVER! Let me just say that being born in Italy but moving to America when you’re under 10 years old does not make you an expert on ANYTHING Italian… “I don’t see all this beauty on the outside that other people see”… WOW!! OMG!!! The whole talk about the Iron Chef battle that she lost to Batali and Ray… She actually said she didn’t talk to Bobby Flay for like 6-8 months because she felt it was HIS fault cause HE didn’t take the battle seriously enough! WOW and OMG again!! So, it was Bobby’s fault they didn’t win that battle… Oh, OK… It couldn’t have been the fact that ALL she actually made in that battle, or at least what I saw her make, was some ravioli… Incredible… You know, I listened to this interview HOPING it would change my mind about this woman. But all it did was cement my opinion that she is one of the most affected, self centered and insincere people EVER!! Not to mention the fact that she is completely detached from reality. Yeah, her grandfather Dino may have come from poverty but she didn’t! Her whole family is super rich and she is completely delusional if she thinks that her “success” or at least the starting point of it has nothing to do with her super rich, super well known family and name. I mean is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that the reason the Food Network came knocking at her door was because she is a De Laurentiis??? Sorry Giada, but I don’t buy your “I’m just one of the regular people and just wanna make people happy” bit… And BTW, saying you wish that women out there would take the time to pamper themselves and ALWAYS look good like you do is a slap in the face of those of us who can barely make ends meet and do not have a team of maids, stylists, trainers, baby sitters, PR people, etc. and an ENDLESS amount of $$$’s at our disposal to be able to “take the time” to look good ALWAYS! You might wanna come back down to planet earth from time to time because you may have forgotten how the 98% live…