Responsibility and the Arts: Lidia Bastianich
The renowned chef, TV host, author and restaurant owner reflects on how responsibility guides each aspect of her busy life. Head here to visit lidiasitaly.com and learn more about Lidia.
Brought to you by Liberty Mutual’s The Responsibility Project
This is a transcript of the film, included for screen readers and the visually impaired.
>> LIDIA BASTIANICH: Food is the basis of life.
Food communicates sentiments, food communicates art,
food communicates messages of love, and affection, of caring.
So food is an entrance to every part of our life.
I am from the northeast of Italy.
After World War II that area was given to the newly formed Yugoslavia,
communist Yugoslavia, and actually, I was just born in that period,
so I, my family got caught behind the Iron Curtain,
and we ended up in a political refugee camp.
My parents decided that life under communism was no way
to raise their children,
and we escaped back into Italy, and from then on migrated to America.
Food was always important to us.
And especially when we came to the United States as immigrant, it was the kind of the glue,
the place that we kind of felt, we're back home,
we're eating the food that we remembered, the food that we grew up with.
And it was in 1971 that we opened that first restaurant;
I was 24 years old.
We hired the chef, of course, at the first restaurant,
Buonavia, and I worked alongside, but I realized soon enough
that the food that he was cooking was more Italian American.
But you know, I at home, still cooked the traditional food.
My father would only eat the way we cooked at home.
And I began slowly to bring that to the restaurant,
the potato gnocchis, the polenta, the risotto,
all of these were new things for the diners.
A little risotto. It's good for the soul, and good for the stomach.
>> MALE: Thank you.
>> LIDIA BASTIANICH: And ultimately, we made a plan.
We bought a little house on 58th Street,
a brownstone, and we opened Felidia Restaurant.
There I became the chef in the kitchen.
Everything I do, I do with a lot of passion,
but behind all of that is a great sense of responsibility.
I have responsibility to all of those people that work for me.
I have responsibility to all the customers that come,
that watch my show, that I give them what I promised.
Felidia was a new frontier in Italian food.
Did I know that, did I plan it that way?
No. It was something that just, you know, came natural out of me,
that's the way we ate,
and I felt that America was ready and America wanted that.
I have eight restaurants,
written seven books,
twelve years in public television with a cooking show.
You know when people ask me for my autographs,
they'll stop me in the street.
For me it's like meeting a friend.
I open up, and I actually feel like I belong to them,
that they watch me, follow me,
and I am part of their home;
they invite me in their home, and I behave like that.
So Grandma, this is your family,
and it's your party, and we're here to celebrate you!
>> GRANDMA: Thank you very much.
I'm very happy.
>> LIDIA BASTIANICH: The table is the most important part in a household,
in a family; it is where we all gather.
>> MALE: Very good!
>> FEMALE: What else do you want, sweetheart.
>> LIDIA BASTIANICH: We are four generations,
and I glow when I see all four generations together.
[applause and cheering].
I think as individuals we have a need for identity,
and there's no better identity than your roots.
And I think with what I do, certainly,
I communicate the Italian culture, and I feel it resonating.
But I hope that also it goes beyond there,
that people out there that,
that watch me and view me, you know,
go and search their own roots.
Food for me is the story of a people.
This is the family! This is the right family!
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