May 16, 2016 11:47 AM

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Giada De Laurentiis makes being a bubbly television personality look easy, but the Food Network star says it still comes as a challenge even after all these years.

“I am an anti social human being,” De Laurentiis tells Bon Appétit on their latest podcast. “I do not like to be in big crowds of people at all.”

But by forcing herself to engage with “every single person” at her food festival appearances and at her Las Vegas restaurant, De Laurentiis says it helps her stand out from all the other chefs in the business.

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“I will say that I enjoy seeing the smiles on people’s faces and I enjoy their stories,” she says. “I think their stories and the sheer fact that they love food and they’re willing to spend their time and hard-earned money in a venue like that, I’m thankful for so that is why I do it…but it is not easy.”

For the self-proclaimed “very shy young lady,” the hardest part about meeting fans is “the touching.” De Laurentiis says at events like the Vegas Uncork’d festival—which she’s participated in for many years including last month—is where she’s run into this problem with maintaining  her personal space. 

“I don’t know that they touch Gordon Ramsay or Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] as much as they like to hug and touch me. And you know, in a venue like that where people drink a lot and all their inhibitions are sort of gone, that’s where it gets a little tricky,” she says. “But otherwise I’m always so surprised and shocked to be in the company of these people—both the fans and chefs—that that’s my way of saying thank you.”

The Food Network Star judge also told the magazine about a meeting she had with an editor for her first cookbook in 2005. The editor doubted she would sell more than 10,000 copies but De Laurentiis was determined to prove her wrong.

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“She said to me, ‘Just so we’re clear here, you’re never going to sell as many books as Ina Garten.’ And I said, ‘Watch me,'” De Laurentiis recalls. “Lo and behold, I sure did, and we did not have enough books on my first book tour because we sold out on presales. So I went on a book tour and signed Bobby Flay’s cookbook and Ina Garten’s cookbook and Rachael Ray’s cookbooks but I didn’t have any books to sign—and then that all changed.”

—Ana Calderone, @anacalderone

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