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Watch Giada De Laurentiis surprise a chef who's been cooking for hospital workers

The virtual meeting brought tears to the eyes of chef Antonella Loiacono, whose generosity has fed so many front-line heroes.
/ Source: TODAY

Happy tears flowed on Thursday’s “Drew Barrymore Show” thanks to one chef taking a moment out of her busy schedule to honor another chef.

It all started when the host of the show introduced her audience to her latest “Drew-Gooder,” a charitable caterer named Antonella Loiacono, who’s used her own company to provide food to front-line workers at 15 Chicago-area hospitals — both as a way to celebrate those heroes and to memorialize someone who meant so much to her.

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“My father recently passed away,” Loiacono told Barrymore. “It’s actually (been) two years now on the 12th of this month. He was always a pretty sick guy. He was in various amounts of hospitals, and being by his bedside, he always, always, always wanted us to take care of the nurses, the doctors.”

And using food as a way to care for them seemed obvious to her, given how she and her father bonded over a shared love for meals and one talented TV chef.

“Growing up in an all-Italian home, my dad, he loved watching the Food Network,” she recalled. “(There was) one specific chef he used to always watch. And my mom used to always tease him, ‘Ah, your dad’s watching that chef now on TV.' I don’t know if it was a little bit of a cute jealousy that she had for another Italian woman he was watching cook.

"So, I started watching with him. It was Giada (De Laurentiis). It was just watching something so close to home, her Italian inspiration. She’s definitely an inspiration of mine.”

That’s when Barrymore brought in a surprise guest — De Laurentiis! It was a reveal that instantly had Loiacono weeping with joy.

“What you’re doing is amazing,” the Food Network star and frequent TODAY Food contributor said. “I think people like you give us all so much inspiration to show good in this world and to love each other no matter what. So, I’m so honored to be here and to get to meet you.”

Loiacono, a graduate of the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, couldn’t conceal how moving she found the moment.

“It’s crazy,” she said through tears. “Thank you so much! This is such a huge gift. I appreciate it.”

However, she soon learned that her virtual meeting with De Laurentiis was just part of the gift.

Before the sweet segment came to an end, Barrymore announced that Loiacono, a self-professed potato lover, would also receive a check for $10,000 from The Little Potato Company so she can “continue making meals for those amazing people.” And on top of the money, she’s also getting a year’s supply of spuds.