The Untold Truth Of Food Network Host Valerie Bertinelli

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Celebrity chef and television personality Valerie Bertinelli has been in the spotlight for most of her life, and there's no denying she's worked hard for her impressive net worth, numerous awards, and Food Network shows like "Valerie's Home Cooking." She's had an illustrious career in the food industry and has experience juggling multiple roles: She's a veteran of the small screen, a best-selling author, a proud mother, and more, according to her website.

Since Bertinelli made her debut at the age of 15 as Barbara Cooper on the hit sitcom "One Day at a Time," fans have adored her comedic chops and down-to-earth personality (via Good Housekeeping). She went on to star in other beloved TV series like "Touched by an Angel" and "Hot in Cleveland." In fact, she's been on camera for so long, the chef and actress told Entertainment Weekly it's hard to imagine her life otherwise. She said, "I never pictured my life the way it is. And yet, I can't picture it differently."

When she left scripted acting to pursue a career as a television chef, it turned out to be a natural transition. "I've been in front of the camera since I was 12 years old [but] I have been cooking longer than I have been acting," she told Closer Weekly. "I was never quite comfortable acting. Now, I'm just able to be me and cook."

There's more to the Food Network star than meets the eye. Here's the untold truth of Valerie Bertinelli.

Valerie Bertinelli was raised all over the U.S.

Valerie Bertinelli was born on April 23, 1960, in Wilmington, Delaware, to Nancy and Andrew Bertinelli. Because her father was an executive at General Motors, the family frequently moved to different cities while she was growing up (via Detroit Free Press). In fact, they traveled so much that Bertinelli still calls herself a "GM brat."

Her father was relocated to a General Motors plant in Detroit, Michigan, in the early 1970s. Then, when Valerie was in middle school, the family packed up and moved again, traveling more than 2,000 miles to California after he was transferred to a different plant in Los Angeles. According to her autobiography, "Losing It," this turned out to be a momentous twist of fate, as she became friends with a television producer's daughter in her neighborhood, which led to her enrolling at the Tami Lynn School of Artists to develop her acting chops. Tami Lynn played a crucial part in landing Valerie her first role as America's favorite girl next door on the hit sitcom "One Day at a Time."

The Bertinelli family also spent some years in Shreveport, Louisiana, an experience that apparently influenced Bertinelli's later culinary career; she showcased a gumbo dish on her Food Network show "Valerie's Home Cooking," and she often shares recipes with Cajun influences (via the Shreveport Times).

Her brother died at 17 months old

Valerie Bertinelli grew up as the third oldest child in a family where she had four brothers and was the only daughter. Her mother Nancy equally loved driving Bertinelli to acting auditions and cheering on her sons at their sporting events (via Hansen Mortuaries). In an emotional interview with People, Bertinelli revealed that her parents had been dealt a hard blow when her brother Mark died suddenly and tragically at only 17 months old. Her mother was still pregnant with Bertinelli at the time.

"When I came into the world, my mom was grieving," Bertinelli said. "He died in the most horrible way. They were visiting a friends' farm, and he wandered off unsupervised and drank poison out of a bottle that wasn't supposed to have poison in it. It was a soda pop bottle." Her parents were so devastated by the loss of their child that Bertinelli didn't learn about her brother's death until she was a teenager. "The subject was too painful. My parents kept the tragedy locked inside," she recalled.

Years later, once Bertinelli became a mother herself, she understood her parents' loss in a new light. "I was holding [my son] Wolfie who was 17 months old and thinking how did my mom survive?" Bertinelli said. "She had to keep going and I learned that from her. She had to carry on. She had a very hard life. She always tried to make the best of everything."

Her Italian heritage inspired her culinary career

It's no secret that the Food Network star's recipes often reflect her Italian roots. As it turns out, Bertinelli had a deep love for cooking long before she debuted her first Food Network shows "Valerie's Home Cooking" and "Kids Baking Championship" in 2015 (via IMDb). In fact, it was her family that introduced her to the culinary arts at an early age, including her Italian grandmother. She told The Food Network, "I [remember] sitting on the stool watching my nonni roll out gnocchi, cappelletti, and fry bread." Bertinelli's grandmother let her test out her cooking skills by asking her what kinds of fillings she wanted in the bread. It should come as no surprise, then, that the first dish she ever made on her own was an Italian classic: lasagna.

Even though Bertinelli's mother wasn't of Italian descent (in an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?," Bertinelli found out she was a descendent of medieval British monarch King Edward I on her mother's side), she nevertheless had a strong influence on her daughter's relationship with food. "And my mom, our cute little kitchen was her office; She just did three meals a day, no microwave, using fresh, fresh ingredients," Bertinelli told Good Housekeeping. "But I think they had a passion for it too. And I learned from them. And now I have a passion for it, too."

Valerie Bertinelli has been an acting star since she was a teen

Before Valerie Bertinelli charmed television audiences with her mouthwatering dishes on the Food Network, this celebrity chef stepped into the spotlight in the hit sitcom "One Day at a Time." The storyline focused on a divorced mother and her two teenage daughters as they face life's challenges together (via IMDb). Bertinelli was only 15 years old when the show premiered in 1975, but she captured America's hearts in her star turn as funny Barbara Cooper. In this role, Bertinelli earned two Golden Globe awards, which cemented her celebrity status. 

Bertinelli has graced the small screen since her tenure on "One Day at a Time," including a starring role on the hit show "Touched by an Angel," a drama series about angels helping people in need that ran for nine seasons. After Bertinelli's run as an accident-prone angel came to an end in 2003, Bertinelli returned to comedy acting, starring in Emmy Award-winning sitcom series "Hot in Cleveland," which also featured Betty White, Wendie Malick, and Jane Leeves. The show premiered in 2010 and ran for six seasons, concluding in 2015. 

She was married to rock star guitarist Eddie Van Halen

When she was just 20 years old, America's sweetheart fell hard for bad-boy guitarist Eddie Van Halen. As she revealed to Oprah, the pair met backstage on August 28, 1980, after a Van Halen show. Bertinelli's brothers had invited her in hopes her social cachet could get them some facetime with the band. Bertinelli was drawn to Van Halen even before they met. "I took a look at the 8-track cassette that was in the back of my Corvette ... and I saw a picture of [Eddie Van Halen], and I went, 'Oh, yeah, I'll be going. He's a cutie,'" she recalled.

Bertinelli instantly fell in love with the musician. "You had to peel me off the floor," she said. Apparently, Van Halen felt the same because three days later he asked Bertinelli out, and the two were married eight months later.

Bertinelli looked back on the wedding day with some regret. "The priest we tapped to perform the ceremony gave us questionnaires so he could get to know us better and offer more personal words. As we filled out the forms at home, we each held a little vial of cocaine," Bertinelli told Oprah. "Now, if you ask me, those are not two people who should be making decisions about the rest of their lives." The wedding night concluded in rock-star fashion. "I passed out on the bed in my gown, and Ed fell asleep in the bathroom."

Her rocky marriage ended in divorce

Despite their fairytale meet-cute, Bertinelli's marriage to Van Halen wasn't a storybook romance. Bertinelli struggled to keep pace with her husband's rock star exploits filled with cocaine use and all-night partying, especially while she was working full-time taping "One Day at a Time." "He had his responsibilities of what he had to do, and I had my responsibilities," she told Oprah. "And we thought if you just live in the same house there would be a connection, but no."

After growing apart, both Bertinelli and Van Halen committed multiple infidelities. Bertinelli told OK! that fans accused her of breaking up the band Van Halen. Even though their personal demons weighed on the marriage, they gave birth to a child, Wolfgang, and stayed together until their separation in 2001. "One of the many reasons that Ed and I split up is to give Wolfie a better vision of what two people who are supposedly in love treat each other like," Bertinelli said to Oprah. "Ed and I weren't treating each other like two people that loved each other, and that's what Wolfie was seeing."

Even though the marriage was tumultuous, the two remained close until Van Halen died from cancer in 2020. Bertinelli has also defended her grief to haters who have shamed her for grieving for her ex-husband. She fired back, saying, "I knew the man for 40 years ... He's the father of my son ... I'm allowed to miss him."

She found love again after her divorce from Van Halen

Who says you can't fall in love twice? Bertinelli did just that when she fell for financial planner Tom Vitale in 2004 after her brother Patrick introduced them. They both had developed trust issues in the wake of their respective divorces, but they were able to find common ground over their similar backgrounds: Bertinelli has Italian roots, while Vitale is Italian-Sicilian. "We just understood each other completely," Vitale told AARP. "My family is her family. It wasn't love at first sight; it was family at first sight." They got married on New Year's Day in 2011 (via Parade).

Another thing they have in common is their love for food. Their favorite date night ritual includes opening up a bottle of wine, turning on some music, and cooking together instead of going out to a restaurant. Bertinelli told Parade that her second husband is "very inventive in the kitchen." One of his most creative innovations, espresso-rubbed ribeye, impressed the seasoned chef so much that she included the recipe in one of her cookbooks.

Vitale has also played a crucial role in expanding Bertinelli's horizons. For example, Vitale is an ordained nondenominational minister, a fact which has helped the celebrity chef, who was raised Roman Catholic, explore her spirituality. "I believe in the whole karma thing — sowing and reaping," Vitale explained to AARP.

Valerie Bertinelli has a close relationship with her son

In March of 1991, Valerie Bertinelli gave birth to her son Wolfgang Van Halen, whom she affectionately calls "Wolfie." If Bertinelli's Instagram handle, @wolfiesmom, is any indication, the two are incredibly close. That's not much of a surprise considering he is her only son. In an interview with Today, when asked what her son means to her, the sitcom queen said in a heartfelt response, "That I know how to do something right." Bertinelli also has four stepchildren with her second husband Tom Vitale, according to AARP.

It was particularly hard for them when they were separated during quarantine lockdown. When they were able to reunite, Bertinelli didn't hold back from telling TODAY what the emotional reunion meant to her: "I wouldn't let him get out of the hug," Bertinelli said. "It was just so nice — so nice to hug my son again." They frequently FaceTime with each other, according to Good Housekeeping.

They're also each other's biggest fans. Twitter went wild when Valerie Bertinalli shared a video of her musically-inclined son performing onstage; the post garnered more than 1,000 likes. Fans of "Valerie's Home Cooking" may also remember Wolf making several guest appearances on his mom's show (via IMDb). Plus, Wolfgang has a wicked sense of humor. When Bertinelli posted a photo to Twitter of a batch of burned onion rings she made at home, her son replied cheekily via video: "Onion rings? More like overdone-ion rings!"

The sitcom veteran is returning to acting alongside Demi Lovato

Once Bertinelli left acting behind to launch her career as a celebrity chef in 2015, the Golden Globe winner wowed television audiences with her Food Network shows, including "Valerie's Home Cooking" and "Kids Baking Championship." But fans of both Bertinelli's food and acting are bound to be thrilled to learn that she's set to star in a brand-new comedy show on NBC called "Hungry." The show's storyline, which focuses on a group of friends in a food-issue support group, traverses emotional terrain that Bertinelli knows all too well, as the actress has navigated a complicated relationship with food since a young age.

In this single-camera comedy pilot written and produced by Suzanne Martin, Bertinelli will play Lisa, the mom of Demi Lovato's character, Teddy. According to Deadline, Lisa is a restaurant owner who often has food on the brain. Although her character is described as "warm and loving," she's also "a self-critical and emotional mess who has lost and gained the same 30 pounds for 30 years." This show will mark Bertinelli's first acting role in a fictional show since "Hot in Cleveland" ended in 2015.

She has said she isn't interested in TV dramas

Bertinelli's return to acting in the upcoming comedy pilot "Hungry" with Demi Lovato doesn't come as too much of a surprise. In 2019, the 61-year old celebrity chef told the New York Post that sitcoms and comedy acting were still near and dear to her heart. "This business is so funny," she said. "You go through different periods ... and now I think I've been doing my cooking show for so long [that] I don't think people think I can act." She admitted she would act in another sitcom if the opportunity arose.

At the same time, Bertinelli confessed she prefers comedy acting over dramas despite appearing in the drama series "Touched by an Angel" for nine seasons. "I wouldn't do a one-hour drama — that takes up too much of your time, and my first baby is my cooking show — but I would do a four-camera sitcom in a heartbeat," she explained. "I love it. I come alive in something like that. The whole process of doing 'Hot in Cleveland' and 'One Day at a Time' was that it was so much fun being around a live audience and being able to make people laugh — right there on the spot."

She has opened up about her struggles with body confidence

As her hit Foot Network shows "Valerie's Home Cooking" and "Kids Baking Championship" would suggest, food is an important part of Bertinelli's life. But the Golden Globe winner's struggles with body confidence complicated her relationship with food. "The very first time I became really aware of my body, I remember my fifth-grade teacher patted me on the belly and said, 'You might want to keep an eye on that,'" Bertinelli recalled (via Today). Hollywood stardom at the age of 15 only augmented her self-image concerns.

Although the actress said she never starved herself to lose weight, she admitted to taking weight loss pills in an Oprah interview. Other challenges down the road, such as her divorce from Eddie Van Halen, had her rely on food as a coping mechanism. "Those were some of the darkest days of my life, and I was eating my way through them. I became a hermit," she explained.

Determined to improve her self-confidence, Bertinelli became a Jenny Craig spokesperson, losing nearly 50 pounds in the process. More recently, she has admitted she isn't proud of her Jenny Craig experience and rejects so-called "diet culture." "I have been buying into the diet industry my whole life and then I became part of the problem, so here I am today receiving the karma of my actions" (via Yahoo).

Bertinelli is redefining what it means to be healthy

Over the years, Bertinelli has worked hard to balance her lifelong struggle with body confidence alongside her career in the food industry. In addition to being transparent with the media and her fans about her self-esteem, the celebrity chef has begun to work on changing her relationship to food.

"I had to realize that food wasn't the enemy. And I used to think of food as the enemy no matter what it was ... Food isn't the enemy, it's the way I have abused it in my life by eating the wrong things, eating emotionally, or eating unconsciously," she explained in an interview with Good Housekeeping. "I'm [still] trying to figure out, then, where does my body fit into this? Even at 60, I'm still trying to figure out what my body likes and what it doesn't like, but I have to stay conscious when I eat. And that's not always what I do ... But that's the path I'm on right now."

Right around the start of the pandemic, Bertinelli teamed up with NBC to debut "Start Today with Valerie Bertinelli," an ongoing wellness journey that examines how the actress-slash-chef is revamping her approach to holistic health.

She is unapologetically outspoken

Part of Bertinelli's enduring popularity is her openness with fans. Whether she's sharing her emotional journey with weight loss and self-acceptance, or the death of her ex-husband Eddie Van Halen, or her new marriage to second husband Tom Vitale, she doesn't hesitate to share her opinions.

For example, Bertinelli is outspoken about fatphobia and body shaming, especially when it comes to internet trolls. When she was body-shamed online, the award-winning actress shared a vulnerable video response about her body struggles. Similarly, when a Twitter user called her "chubby," Bertinelli whipped out the classiest comeback ever. "Wow. Someone is always there to remind me to tidy up my negative thoughts some more,” she tweeted. "Thank you for reminding me I'm so much more than my body. Have a blessed day."

Unsurprisingly, Bertinelli also has strong opinions when it comes to food, including a divisive brand of candy. The celebrity chef recently sung the praises of Almond Joy via Twitter, writing, "How in the world do you hate an Almond Joy? It is a macaroon and an almond covered in chocolate."

Finally, Bertinelli has some choice words for the network behind the cancellation of the now-defunct sitcom "Hot in Cleveland," which Bertinelli starred in during its entire six-season run (via The Wrap). According to her, canceling the hit comedy series was "the stupidest thing they ever did."

She is a best-selling author

As if the multitalented actress and chef's résumé wasn't impressive enough already, it turns out Bertinelli has a way with words, too. Given her infamously candid personality, it was only natural that her first book to hit stores was a tell-all memoir called "Losing It." Published in 2008, the book meditates on Bertinelli's personal struggles with weight loss, drug use, and her volatile relationship with Eddie Van Halen (via USA Today). Her first book's success — it spent eight weeks atop The New York Times bestseller list — led to a follow-up the next year. In "Finding It," she dives deep into serious topics like blended parenting with her then-boyfriend and now-husband Tom Vitale, her maternal anxieties, and spirituality (via Simon & Schuster).

In 2013, Bertinelli shared more than 100 Italian recipes from her childhood in her first cookbook "One Dish at a Time," named after the sitcom that skyrocketed her to fame. Her second cookbook "Valerie's Home Cooking," named after her hit cooking show on the Food Network, was published in 2017.

Readers impatient to find out more about the actress and celebrity chef's inner life can expect her third memoir to hit bookshelves on January 18, 2022. "Enough Already" focuses on Bertinelli's life during her 50s and 60s, as well as the triumph of self-love over the pursuit of perfection. On Instagram, she expressed the hope that her book can help readers "not feel so alone with the struggles [they're] going through."

Her Instagram is worth a follow

Bertinelli's natural candor and bubbly personality dovetails perfectly with social media. On Instagram, the multitalented star knows just how to connect with fans in personable ways.

For example, her account is decorated with numerous photos of her adorable pets. In one particularly popular post, she showed off a throwback video of her cat Batman when he was a kitten. The caption she wrote emphasizes what a dedicated cat mom she is: "OMG! Feels like yesterday! My babyyyyy ..." There's no denying that Bertinelli is an animal lover. According to The Pioneer Woman, she has four cats and one dog named Luna.

Of course, her Instagram is replete with mouthwatering photos of freshly cooked meals and baked cooks. One post in particular had followers salivating: her Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies. "The trick to these warm treats are the chopped caramel bits melting into the semi-sweet chocolate chips topped by flakey sea salt," she said of her creative spin on the classic dessert.

Some of Bertinelli's best posts are her throwbacks, and one notable example racked up almost 100,000 likes. Bertinelli shared a jaw-dropping black and white photo of herself outfitted in a spaghetti-strap mini dress and knee-high boots. Fluffy '70s hair softly frames her face as she gazes seriously at the camera. Appropriately, the photo was captioned, "Oh my!! Throwwwbackk!!"