Thursday, January 28, 2016

CHEF LIDIA BASTIANICH DELIGHTS AT THE SHUBERT THEATRE

Lidia Bastianich is the authority on Italian American cooking. She's the owner of countless restaurants, including one of my favorites, Becco, in New York City. For years, she has also starred on her own cooking shows on PBS. So, when Bastianich came to town on Tuesday night, I jumped at the chance to see her speak at the Shubert Theatre.

The evening was moderated by Steve DiFillippo, the owner of Davio's restaurants. His personality meshed perfectly with Bastianich as he asked her about everything from cooking for two Pope's (she cooked for Pope Benedict and Pope Francis) to jokingly asking her who she dates. 

Lidia was candid about her whole life and the journey she took to become a noted restaurateur, or as DiFillioppo called her "the Julia Child of our generation." Lidia was born in Italy, but didn't come to United States until she and her family were brought over by Catholic Charities. She got her work ethic from watching her parents work hard to make it in America. Growing up, she worked at Walken's Bakery in New York City. It was owned by actor Christopher Walken's parents. Lidia said he worked there, too, and they are still friends to this day. (He was featured in her recent PBS Christmas special.)

Lidia talked about opening her first restaurant, Felidia, with her husband Felice. That restaurant put her on the map, with everyone wondering who that young lady was cooking up such inspired food. Lidia has two children, Joe and Tanya. She told them to get an education and they did just that, before coming back to join the family business of food. She talked about how Joe helped her expand the family business, by opening other restaurants like Lidia's Kansas City. Joe was a judge on "Masterchef" for several seasons and is the author of "Restaurant Man," an honest look at the restaurant business which Lidia explained is full of F-bombs.

Lidia also talked about how she got her start on television. She appeared in a couple of specials with Julia Child and PBS took note, asking her if she wanted to do her own show. The rest is history.

The last half hour was opened up to questions from the audience. Everyone had the chance to write down questions before the show. She answered questions for cooking groups in the audience who wanted to know what they should prepare for their next meeting. There were also lots of people saying, "Happy birthday to Grandma!" Lidia's mother just turned 95 last weekend! , , ,

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