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New mom Giada: ‘I’ve gained a partner in the kitchen’

TODAY culinary contributor Giada De Laurentiis has her plate full this year with a new cookbook, a new show  and a new addition to her family. Here, she gives the scoop on how she's juggling life with her new bundle of Jade.
/ Source: TODAY

Freshly minted mother and TODAY contributor Giada De Laurentiis is glad to be getting back to work after her maternity leave, but admits she's reluctant to leave her latest — nonculinary! — creation behind.

Three months after giving birth to her first child, Jade Marie De Laurentiis Thompson, the host of Food Network's "Everyday Italian" is feeling torn. "I thought I would be so excited to get back to work, but I feel bad that I'm leaving her," says De Laurentiis, 37. "She's out of the 'blob' stage of just eating and pooping. She's starting to become a person; I see her character and personality coming out. And now I won't be around that much."

De Laurentiis comes back to the East Coast to guest-host TODAY this coming week, and will start taping her new Food Network show, "Giada at Home," almost immediately after returning home to Los Angeles.

The new program, which starts airing in October, will offer a glimpse into De Laurentiis' personal life, and will have a broader lifestyle focus than "Everyday Italian," which has wrapped. Episodes will also feature a certain tiny assistant from time to time.

Jade, whose name is the English translation of "Giada," is already being exposed to her mom's talents. "She hangs out with me in the kitchen in her swing," says De Laurentiis. "I've gained a partner in the kitchen, as little as she is. It warms [my] heart like nothing else."

And while little Jade still has some time before she starts noshing on "grown-up food," her mom can't wait to share her culinary traditions. "The first thing I made with my parents was pizza dough," De Laurentiis recalls. "That's the first thing I'm hoping we can make together." 

De Laurentiis hopes that her daughter will share her passion for cooking, and if she doesn’t, the new mom admits, "it would break my heart."

But until that verdict comes in, De Laurentiis is enjoying her new role as mother. Although the sleep deprivation is "really bad," she says she's amazed by how much fun she has with Jade, and "how intense and engaging [babies] can be, even at 3 months. It's like watching a plant or flower bloom, but 20 million times better."

Parenthood, of course, does come with its trade-offs: "I've gained a lot of joy … but lost a little of my freedom," the chef admits. But she still has found ways to spend time with her husband, clothing designer Todd Thompson, 44. "Quality time now comes at a different time," laughs De Laurentiis. "We hang out with each other at 4 or 5 a.m., giving Jade her bottle."

Now that De Laurentiis is a mother, it seems fitting to ask if she will start offering up recipes for children. "I never considered doing kids' recipes before," she says. "I felt like I wasn't the authority on it. I figured a mom should do it." But, she notes, kids seem to find fun in Italian cooking. As a result, her new cookbook, "Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites" (out in September), will include a chapter devoted to recipes for tots.

With a new cookbook, a new show and a new addition to her family, De Laurentiis has her plate full, but she plans to make changes in her life to accommodate Jade. For one, she's says she's going to be less of a "workaholic." And she's starting to live with an eye toward the future: She's paying more attention to recycling, has switched to all-green detergents and takes reusable shopping bags — made by her husband — to the grocery store.

"Having a child makes you wonder what you're leaving behind for them," she says. "When you don't have kids, you live for yourself, saying, 'That's their problem, not mine.' When you have a kid, it becomes your problem."

Kids, after all, are impressionable, and they don't miss a thing. "She's been alert since day one," De Laurentiis says of her baby daughter. And when Jade looks her in the eye, "it feels like she's looking right into my soul. She's intense that way."

Like mother, like daughter.