You can get your very own cooking show any number of ways: Win a contest. Run a series of hot restaurants. Or cook every day in the makeshift kitchen that your husband built in your basement while he videotapes you.
That would be how Laura Vitale of Atlantic County, N.J., did it. All homemade.
On Saturday, Sept. 27 at 1:30 p.m., Vitale - whose library of 850-plus YouTube cooking videos have 1.3 million subscribers and have been viewed more than 230 million times - premieres Simply Laura on the Cooking Channel. It's a six-episode series, heavy on the Italian cuisine and the energy, easy to follow.
"I still cannot believe this," said Vitale, 27, who moved to the United States from Naples, Italy, when she was 12 and worked in her father's restaurants until he closed them in 2008.
Vitale, who is self-taught, said she always loved being in the kitchen. "I didn't think anything of it when I was growing up," she said. "I thought anyone could cook."
When she arrived in the United States, "I didn't speak the language and I didn't feel connected."
She called her nonna back home, and they cooked together - so to speak - over the phone.
"Cooking connects you to a person or a place," Vitale said.
Living in Philadelphia, she was home-schooled. Her stepmother urged her to watch television to learn English and escape her shell. She believes that she picked up a Southern accent from CNN, though she sounds more like southern New Jersey.
"Hiiiii, guyyssss," she chirrups at the start of her web shows, flapping her hand hello.
Thank Joe Vitale for the Jersey part.
Vitale, 31, an electrical engineer, was living in the Victor Lofts in Camden in the mid-'00s and working for a company across the street. He found himself eating downstairs at La Riviera, the Italian bistro.
"I went there a lot," he said. He liked not only the food but also owner Sal Pietrangeli's daughter.
Laura Pietrangeli liked Joe back.
But the economy in 2008 was unkind, and Sal Pietrangeli closed La Riviera and his Deptford restaurant, Franks III.
Laura came to work for Joe's family's business, Arizona East, a grower and wholesaler of cacti and succulents in Atlantic County.
"She said, 'This is a job. This is not my career,' " he said. "My career is in the kitchen."
The couple, who married in late 2009, had considered reopening the restaurants but he said the numbers didn't add up.
Laura offered to write a cookbook. Joe said he replied that he had an aunt who self-published a cookbook, "and sold eight copies to her friends."
Laura suggested hosting a cooking show. "But you can't knock on the Food Network's door and just get your own show," he said he replied. "What can you do?"
Cook up your own TV show on YouTube, the video platform. Shows with large audiences can get a healthy cut of ad revenue.
The L-shaped kitchen in their home in Minotola, a town near the Black Horse Pike could not be used for TV production, so Joe designed and built a second kitchen in the basement. "Isn't it every Italian woman's dream to have a second kitchen?" she said, repeating a joke the couple likes to tell.
She initially balked at going in front of the camera.
One night over wine, about a year after the kitchen was finished, she agreed.
But what would they shoot? They went to Google.com and began typing the phrase, "How to make..."
When they started the next word with a "B," Google's autocomplete function suggested "bruschetta."
The top-ranked bruschetta-making video they found featured a chef who insisted that quality bruschetta could only be made with a certain bread from Rome. "Well, that would be a turn-off to someone," Joe thought.
"We'd have to make better videos than what is out there."
Their first videos, in early 2010, were shot with a $49 point-and-shoot digital camera, he said. As Laura became more comfortable and traffic grew, the couple began investing in better equipment.
Through analytics, the couple learned that the show resonates particularly among teen girls, 13 to 17 years old. "There are a lot of them on the [YouTube] platform," Joe said. "And they're interested in food and ready to leave the house and cook for themselves."
At the time, in 2010, the Vitales created a chart to project where they wanted to be in five years. According to the plan, they expected to field a TV offer in 2013.
In September 2012, Entertainment Weekly wrote a blurb about up-and-coming talent. "Hey, Food Network. I think we've found your next star," it wrote about Laura. Three days later, Joe said, they got the call. Then came the development of the series for the Cooking Channel - a Food Network spinoff. A separate production company taped those shows.
"When I was up at Food Network and I saw all those photos of Bobby [Flay] and Giada [De Laurentiis], I thought they'd have to pick me up off the floor."
In February 2013, Joe left his engineering job to manage Laura. He shoots the video, edits the video, runs the website and her social media and handles her schedule.
Meanwhile, the couple was bombarding YouTube with new cooking videos. For a nine-month stretch, the couple shot an episode each day to build a backlog and to create a library. Now, they publish three episodes a week.
This month, Laura delivers the recipes for a cookbook that is expected to be released in 2016. And the couple is moving to a new house south of Glassboro. Joe is working on the logistics of creating a temporary studio kitchen while he converts the current TV kitchen back to its basement glory.
She said the 20-year plan involves building a media empire.