Giada DeLaurentiis is kind of like our (gorgeous) best girlfriend from down the street who comes over to whip up delicious meals then help us eat them. She’s a staple in thousands of kitchens as the star of the Food Network’s Everyday Italian and Giada at Home, a judge and mentor on Food Network Star and the author of six New York Times best-selling books including her latest, Giada’s Feel Good Food. And although she’s a pro when it comes to cooking, she knows a few things about primping as well. As the celebrity spokesperson for Clairol, we met up with her to chat about Natural Instincts, the hair color and her own intuition. Read on for more scoop on her beauty routine, her favorite recipes and her new restaurant opening in Las Vegas.
So let’s talk about hair color. When did you start coloring your hair and why?
“I started coloring in my early 30s. I just felt that my hair color was getting a little dull. It was brown, but it wasn’t doing anything for my face and as I was getting a little older, I felt like it might be fun to play around and figure out what looks good on me. I think that happened because I had little bit more money to spend and a little more confidence to go out on a limb and try it. So I started coloring my hair a little bit; I went much darker like jet black; I went red; I went platinum blonde. I tried lots of different things. I cut my hair really short at times, then I had a bob and then I had it long. I really was searching. I sort of had a love/hate relationship with my hair almost my whole life; I have curly, sort of frizzy hair, and so I never knew how to tame it, and my mom was never good at teaching me, so I really wanted to find a way to control my hair and so I think I tried lots of different things. And then, I started with Clairol. I found a good color for me; something that could give me a pick-me-up in between salon visits because as I get older, I have to go to the salon more often, but I don’t always have time and so it’s really nice to be able to use something that’s actually conditioning my hair at the same. I think that a lot of us women tie our hair to the way we feel about ourselves. That’s why a bad hair day can throw off the entire day and make you feel bad. So, I think that’s what I was searching for and that’s what I found.”
Has the formula helped with your frizz as well?
“Yeah and that’s the other thing—controlling your frizz is number one and moisturizing your hair and keeping it healthy is a great way to control frizz.”
In terms of makeup, what are some of your must-haves?
“I have a whole beauty routine that I like to do, but I really like cover-up with SPF in it. Sunscreen to me is the key to everything. My brother died about ten years ago from melanoma, so I really, really am hardcore when it comes to sunscreen in everything that I use, whether it’s foundation; whatever it is, I use sunscreen. I even put sunscreen in my hair, to protect my hair and my scalp because a lot of times you burn your scalp without even knowing it, and you can get melanoma on your scalp. So I put sunscreen everywhere. It’s my number one; I don’t leave home without it. I don’t care if it’s snowing or raining, there’s still some kind of light coming out, and I have to protect myself from it. Then I always wear a light foundation on my skin to even it out and to protect it. Unlike a lot of people who feel like the best thing to do for your skin is not wear anything, I actually feel like wearing something actually protects your skin from the elements. The cold, the heat, the dryness: all that stuff. Lately if I don’t want to do my eyes, I really like a red lip. I’m into the red lip, otherwise I’ll do up my eyes and I like a little sparkle, a little glitter eye shadow for me is super fun.”
We know you’re a pro in the kitchen. Do you have any cool beauty tricks that you can DIY in your kitchen?
“Well, what I love to do to moisturize my hair when I’m home is to make a little mask of avocado and olive oil. You mix it together and put it from mid-length to ends. And then, if I’m not in a rush, I’ll just put my hair up and leave it in there for a few hours and then go back and rinse it out. Otherwise, I’ll just stay in the shower for 15 minutes and let the humidity and moisture lock it in. Coconut oil is great on the ends of your hair, as well, and straight olive oil is great on hair, which I love to do. That’s what I do when I’m home. When I’m on the road, I love the conditioner included with Clairol Natural Instincts Hair Color ($9, walmart.com). That’s what I use once a week, because my hair goes through so much styling and curling and flat ironing and blow-drying, so I use that to moisturize my hair.”
Switching gears a bit, we know it’s your job to cook and essentially to eat. What are your tricks for not over-indulging?
“Well, I’m not going to say I never indulge in anything, because I do, but the next day I balance it out. I will say that eating all day is tough [when judging The Next Food Network Star], so I make sure that I have one-to-two bites, tops. I feel like once I’ve had one or two bites, I know what it tastes like and anything else after that is just pure indulgence. And when you have to eat as your job, and you have to eat lots of different things, you can’t ever overeat. So, that plus lemon water also helps me flush it down and keeps my palette feeling very clean and ready to eat something else. I think for me, moderation is the key and I portion-control myself, from snacks that I keep in my bags to food that I eat. Even when I go out to eat, I’ll try and order the appetizer version of things. If I can’t, or I don’t like something that’s on the appetizer menu, I’ll get a main course meal, and then I’ll ask them to just pack up the other half and I just don’t ever see it. Or, the other thing that works really well is family style, where you just share plates and that makes it easier because you never feel like you’re going to overeat and you can taste a lot of different things. I think those are some really simple ways to keep moderation in your diet when you’re out and about, because it’s hard when you travel.”
Definitely. I know you love chocolate. For those of us who have a sweet tooth, are there any healthy recipes you love?
“Yeah! One of my favorites lately is my Chocolate Avocado Mousse. So, put avocado in a food processor with unsweetened cocoa powder, a teaspoon of agave and some bittersweet melted chocolate chips, and puree it all together. And then I usually just chill it, so I put it in little cups and I serve it with raspberries. That to me is my go-to pick-me-up. The other one that I love is dried figs and almond butter in a food processor. I make little balls and then I dip them in melted dark chocolate and make little fig balls and, again, I keep them in the fridge and top them with a little sea salt. And those are pop-in-your-mouth pick-me-ups that are healthy and good for your body. So it’s a really good indulgence.”
Yum! You mentioned you travel a lot, how do you manage to stay active and healthy when you’re on the road?
“You know, working out on the road is probably the hardest and I’m not a runner, which tends to be the easiest way to get some exercise. So, I do a lot of yoga, I bring my yoga blocks with me, so I do yoga in the morning and at night, even if it’s just for five minutes and even if it’s a few sun salutations, it gets my body breathing and aligns me. Lately, I’ve tried to do a little bit of boxing. I find that boxing releases stress and frustration and, at the same time, helps you sweat and really tones your body. So, I’ve been doing a little bit of that.”
I got into a really big kickboxing phase at one point and it’s such a stress reliever; it feels good!
“It just feels good! You know, because I’m opening this restaurant in Vegas, I feel like my stress level has sort of gone to another level and it’s a really great way to control it. So, it’s been really helpful, maybe six months from now when everything’s said and done, I won’t like it as much anymore, but for right now, it’s working for me so I’m going to stick to it.”
That actually brings me to my next question; congratulations on the new restaurant! Why did you feel like now was the right time and Vegas was the right spot?
“Good question. Now is the right time because I think I’m at the point in my career where I need something brand new. I needed to sort of explore a new horizon and try something totally different, although, still in my wheelhouse, something I’ve never done before on a grand scale that I don’t think anybody has done before. I believe that everybody that has a restaurant on the strip has a restaurant somewhere else first. No one is starting from scratch and I’m starting from scratch – literally: the place was gutted, my space was a 2-floor parking garage. Most places have an existing framework or have an existing kitchen, they might be gutting it, but there was a kitchen there. There was no kitchen; there were parked cars there. So, for me, it’s like starting from scratch all the way. It’s a boutique hotel, the first on the strip and I’m one of the first female chefs on the strip, so there’s so many firsts. For me, I feel like, there are things you can do in Vegas that you can’t do anywhere else and although I’m going to make my food and I’m going to have my iconic dishes, I also want to have some show with those dishes. So, instead of just giving you Chicken Cacciatore, I’m going to roast a whole chicken and I’m going to present it to you, it’s going to be Chicken Cacciatore for two, and we’re going to carve it for you. We’re going to finish pasta dishes tableside, sometimes in a skillet and sometimes maybe in a round Parmesan cheese wheel, like they do in Italy. So there’s a lot more show involved than just ‘here’s your dinner.’ And, you know, a really sort of modern, Italian restaurant. So not checkered tablecloths, more of a reinvented Italian with a California spin, which is really what I’m known for. And we have indoor-outdoor dining, which is kind of unheard of in Vegas and an unbelievable view of the Bellagio fountains, so I hope people will come and get engaged—it’s so romantic. The hotel is called The Cromwell and the opens May 1st, and we open around the 20th of May. It’s around the corner and it’s kind of scary because there are no walls up yet, so I’m not really sure how it’s going to work, but they tell me that in Vegas, anything is possible, so we’re just going to leave it at that!”
Good luck! Obviously opening a restaurant is a big step. What has been the best advice you’ve gotten in regards to following your own natural instincts?
“My grandfather told me a long time ago that following your instincts, your natural instincts, is the way to success. It’s kind of the key to success and a lot of us don’t do that or we question ourselves. Trust me that I have questioned myself as to what I was thinking when I said yes to this space and to this restaurant and many people doubt me and many people, especially my peers, fear the worst for me and feel that I have bitten off more than I can chew. And maybe I have, but I have to say that sometimes in life when you’re a little bit naïve about something and you think you can handle more than you can, at the end of the day, part of that naïveté has probably helped me make this decision and will probably propel me to the next level. And had I known everything that I’m in now and will be in, I may not have done it. So, you know, I think ignorance is bliss sometimes and I think that I would like to prove to people that, women can also do the same thing that men can do.”