chef, TV personality
Giada De Laurentiis’ self-named restaurant in the Cromwell will be joined by her second operation, Pronto, at Caesars Palace in late January, right around the time she’ll receive her Woman of the Year award from Nevada Ballet Theatre. Fans and dining critics wanted to get inside the celebrity chef’s head — and kitchen — with food questions.
What is your favorite food memory? (Mi Ann Bennett, fan)
That would probably be when I was super young, about 5 or 6 years old, making pizza with my grandfather. We used to do a Sunday, sort of, more than dinner — it was more like a day. My grandfather loved making pizza. I think that, for me, was the most fun, because you can eat the ingredients as you go along. And then you eat what you’ve made, which is, to me, the most fun about cooking.
What’s an Italian dish that’s near unknown in America and deserves more love on menus stateside? (Mitchell Wilburn, food writer)
Probably Aglio Olio e Peperoncino, a very, very, very simplistic dish that is actually really hard to make well, and that — I think because it has such an Italian sort of name — people don’t know as well. It’s an olive-oil, pasta-water, pepper, and garlic sauce. That’s it. But it’s really, really good.
What advice would you give an aspiring female chef? (John Curtas, dining critic)
I think that a lot of this stuff is timing. You can be super, super talented, but the timing has to be right. I worked hard, but, you know, the stars aligned, and then I worked hard to kind of keep it going. … And, what story are you telling? I grew up with storytellers; Italians are very much storytellers. My grandfather made movies, but that was all storytelling, and I think that I tell my story through my food. Figure out what your story is, and go ahead and tell it through your art.
Is there anything you have trouble with? (I can’t cook scallops.) (Kate Lamb, fan)
Scallops are tough, and the reason that they’re tough is because they’re frozen, and they absorb a lot of liquid, right? So the best thing with scallops is, make sure that you defrost them. And then pat them dry before you cook them, because what happens is they leech water and they boil. And it’s just not good. So season them well, and cook them in a hot pan — and when I say hot, I mean searing hot.
And is there anything you have trouble with?
Fish is tough — not having it stick to the pan, when you do a skin-on. So, I usually just stick it in the oven, so I don’t have to deal with it. Because in the pan is rough, and it falls apart on me a lot. It’s a skill. And the pan has to be really, really hot, because the oil in the pan suspends the fish — it’s suspended on top of the hot oil. And that’s how you get it. But sometimes it’s not enough. And down it goes.
If you had to use spaghetti sauce from a jar, what brand would it be? (Lissa Townsend Rogers, writer)
I would probably go with San Marzano. San Marzano is a little harder to find, and it’s more basic in that it doesn’t have onion, it doesn’t have carrot, it’s just tomatoes and basil, that’s it. But if you’re going to go for one that most places carry, I’d say Rao’s.
What would your last supper be? (Heidi Kyser)
I love cake. And I really just love chocolate cake. So I would say a seven-layer fudge cake would be my last meal — the entire cake.