Just Giada

By Rina Rapuano, Photo by Elizabeth Parker

When you tell people you’re interviewing Food Network mega-star and cookbook author Giada De Laurentiis, there’s no need to even mention her last name. She’s that big.

But when we got the opportunity to sit down with her at last weekend’s Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show, it was evident that fame hasn’t gone to her head. She is friendly, relaxed and quick to laugh – and she’s hungry, judging from her run-down of what she ate in D.C. during her stay.

Here’s our edited version of what the diminutive Italian cook had to say.

So, you ate at Estadio last night. What was your favorite dish?
Oh, my gosh, we had about a bajillion dishes. Let’s see. Well, I’d have to say that the Brussels sprouts were divine. The beet salad was awesome. We had a toast with foie gras that was quite decadent. And then we also had pork belly sliders that the chef brought out, that was just …. I mean, I only had half of one because it’s so rich. And we had some nice drinks, too.

Did you try the slushitos?
We tried those. I had some tequila. And the desserts were delicious. We had the cheesecake; we had a cranberry dessert; we had a pumpkin rice pudding that was quite delicious. I mean, it was just … I was impressed; let’s just put it that way.

What can people expect to see when you take to the stage at the Celebrity Theater today?
I’m going to be making three dishes that I think are really fun, especially during the holidays: a lamb chop with barbecue sauce, a bruschetta with shrimp and tarragon, and then my all-time favorite cocktail for this time of year, my gingerbread cocktail.

But really, the best part of it is that I get to talk with the fans, they get to ask questions and get to interact in a way that isn’t usually possible. And I always say, “You know, people can watch me cook all day long on the Food Network; what they can’t do is ask questions and interact.” So a lot of times I bring people on stage [and say], “This is how to make the dish. Have a good time. I’m right here if you need me. And in the meantime, while you make the dish, I’ll guide you and answer questions at the same time.” So we can make it a more of an interactive experience.

What’s your favorite place to eat in D.C.?
Every time I come, I think it’s important for me, as a chef, to taste new things and to change it up and not always go to the same place. But if I had to pick Italian, it would be Graffiato.

Any places you’ve heard about in town that you’d like to try?
Toki Underground. I’ve been dying to go there. It’s on my list for next time.