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PARK CITY - Giada De Laurentiis, celebrity chef, cookbook author - and mother-to-be - says being part of The Sundance Film festival combines two of her favorite ingredients: food and movies.
"It mixes what I know so well, with what I grew up with," said De Laurentiis, one of several top-ranked chefs cooking for the stars during the 11-day film festival, which ends Sunday.
Next to the films, these "invitation-only" parties, held everywhere from restaurants and clubs to exclusive homes in the mountains surrounding Park City, are among the most popular events at the festival.
De Laurentiis, star of Food Network programs "Everyday Italian" and "Giada's Weekend Getaways" (and granddaughter of film producer Dino De Laurentiis), was the guest chef at the Bon Appétit Supper Club on Main earlier this week. The national food magazine took over the Riverhorse restaurant for four nights, offering private cast dinners and receptions.
Despite being one of the most popular chefs in America, De Laurentiis - seven months pregnant with her first child, a girl - doesn't have her own restaurant kitchen where she can create new dishes and get feedback from diners. That's why she likes coming to Sundance.
"When you're on TV, you don't get that immediate reward," she said, adding that she has family ties in the Beehive State. Husband Todd Thompson, a fashion designer for Anthropologie, is a University of Utah graduate and has a brother who lives in Utah.
On Monday, actors Luke Wilson and Radha Mitchell from "Henry Poole Is Here" feasted on De Laurentiis' classic Italian comfort food, including tagliatelle pasta with short-rib ragu and a mocha semifreddo ice-cream dessert.
Paris Hilton, in town for her movie "The Hottie and the Nottie," came through a few nights earlier, dining on North African lamb with yogurt prepared by Cat Cora, another popular Food Network chef. Bono and his U2 bandmates, Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover and former vice president Al Gore also have come to dine.
"My friends keep calling to find out who I've been serving," said star-struck server Anthony Del Vecchio.
Similar celebrity parties have been taking place at ChefDance, being held about a block up Main Street in the basement of Harry O's. The nightclub and live music venue has hosted top-name musical acts almost every evening.
Last Saturday, Todd Mark Miller, who worked at Deer Valley, Fresco and Cafe Trio before heading to New York City's STK restaurant, was guest chef for 50 Cent and his musical entourage. Christophe Bellanca, of the famed Le Cirque-New York, was in charge of the kitchen when Amy Redford, director of "Guitar," and papa Bob were in the house.
Bethany Frankel, the chef who almost won "The Apprentice," hosts the star-studded dinners.
"It's not just a culinary event," Frankel said of the nightly dinners, "it's entertainment."
* KATHY STEPHENSON can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-257-8612. Send comments about this story to email@example.com.