We met celebrity chef and author Giada De Laurentiis at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square recently. She has just written two children's books: "Recipe for Adventure: Naples!" and "Recipe for Adventure: Paris!" (Grosset & Dunlap).
Why did you decide to write books for kids?
My 5-year-old daughter, Jade, is one of the inspirations. The other is because I moved here when I was 8 years old from Italy, and I didn't really fit in very well when I went to school. I lived in a household where my family insisted that we continue to speak Italian at home, and then I would try to speak English in school. The way I kind of found refuge is through storytelling and books. So I thought to myself: Wouldn't it be fun to write some kids books, but not cookbooks -- like an adventure storybook. I have two more cities coming up soon.
What do you consider harder to do, cooking a meal or writing a book?
Oh, a book! I can cook all day long. I still love to cook even though it's my job. It's sort of different when the cameras are off and you're just kind of in your own world cooking or when I'm having fun with Jade in the kitchen. Writing is very difficult for me. And I will tell you that I had a writer who helped me.
How do food critics affect you?
I will tell you that over the years, it's taking me a long time to gain respect from fellow chefs and people in my industry. I think for a long time, people in my industry saw what I did as a sellout . . . because a lot of people to this day tell me that you can't trust a skinny chef. So it's been an upward battle for a long time, but I think in the last few years it's all turned around. It just shows you, you've got to persist, you've got to trust yourself.
What is the most essential item in your kitchen?
My mezzaluna knife would be one of them. A really great chef's knife is a chef's best friend. If you can't cut things well, you don't feel confident, and you won't want to do it again. And some really good olive oil, because it makes everything taste better. And probably my pasta scooper because I cook a lot of short pasta for my daughter, Jade, and without it I would be lost.
When you're filming your show on the Food Network, is the kitchen your kitchen or the studio kitchen?
Originally when I started "Everyday Time," it was a home kitchen. It wasn't in my home, but it was a true home, and we would take over the entire home. The problem with kitchens in homes is that the ceilings are very low. So you can't get lots of angles, and you can't move. When I got pregnant with Jade, I said I think this is a good time to kind of change things up. I wanted to make it more realistic. So we moved into a studio, and we built a kitchen that is replica of my home kitchen.