Lidia Bastianich has been described as the reigning queen of Italian cuisine in America. She is the host of cooking shows on PBS, including Lidia's Italy, a new 26-episode series which features American and Italian chefs preparing regional Italian dishes.
Bastianichs family fled Communist Istria in 1956 and became political refugees in Italy, before moving to the United States. Bastianich trained in kitchens in New York City and opened her first restaurant with her husband at the age of 24. Since then, she has opened several restaurants, including Felidia and Becco. She has also authored several cookbooks including Lidia's Family Table and Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen.
Question: What are the pressures of being a celebrity chef?
Lidia Bastianich: You know I get asked that question a lot. I think that I . . . I . . . That superstar chef did not take over Lidia. I can look at the superstar chef almost from the outside and still be Lidia. And therefore I think that it has not changed me or my values all that much. What it has done, it has given me an opportunity, a platform to maybe predicate some of my philosophy and act upon it – whether it is to work with UNIFAM on helping the women of the world; or whether it is with the war in Bosnia to help the children. So you . . . your stature helps that. That’s, you know, quite . . . quite . . . quite a positive. And being . . . Having the stature, there’s also a responsibility. There’s a responsibility of the people that watch you, that follow you, that imitate you – that you deliver the right thing to them; that you continue to . . . to deliver things that will stimulate them rather than just make it a personal sort of collecting ground.
Recorded on: 10/4/07