LIDIA BASTIANICH Emmy award-winning public television host, seven-time James Beard award winner, best -selling cookbook author, restaurateur, and owner of a flourishing food and entertainment business. Lidia has married her two passions in life—her family and food, to create multiple culinary endeavors with her children, Joseph and Tanya. Owner of Felidia, Becco, Esca, and Del Posto. Along with daughter Tanyam she owns Lidia’s Pittsburgh and Kansas City. Partner in Eataly NYC, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Sao Paolo, Brazil. Member of Les Dames D’Escoffier and founding member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, two non-profit organizations of women leaders in the food and hospitality industries, and champion for the United Nations Association of the United States’ Adopt-A-Future program, in support of refugee education.
Downtown: Name three women that inspire you, and why.
Lidia Bastianich: I am inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt. I recall being a twelve-year old immigrant and learning about her in American history. This First Lady was already standing up for Women’s Rights and the rights of African Americans and she left quite an impression on me; Julia Child was a beacon of confidence and direction, especially when I was a young female chef in 1971 and opening up my first restaurant in an industry that did not easily embrace women. Her straightforward way of cooking and teaching America how to cook was an inspiration and confirmed that there was a place for women in the culinary industry. She visited me a decade later when we opened Felidia in Manhattan, and we remained friends until she passed away; I love classical music and am friends with great conductors such as Maestro Valery Gergiev. I was especially thrilled to see Marin Alsop, former conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and current music director, join the ranks of such esteemed talent.
DT: What has been the secret of your success?
LB: I believe my success comes from the fact that I have always been passionate about food. I love what I do, and my work gives me a great amount of pleasure and rewards. I am always learning and discovering new things and am grateful to all the mentors along the way. My success is also based on the happiness that I feel when I can also give back and mentor young talented chefs coming into the industry.
DT: If you were going to pass on one piece of advice to a young woman looking for success, what would it be?
LB: To young women just starting out I say, gender is not what defines you in our industry; it is the belief that you have in yourself. Invest time in yourself and you will become better at your profession. Show passion and dedication and always be ready to learn.
DT: In the fight for women’s equality, what area do you think needs the most attention?
LB: The banks and financial institutions need to give more attention to women and their fight for equality. For women to grow and become owners in their industries, they need encouraging financial institutions to back them.
DT: What are you most proud of in your career?
LB: I am very proud of the support that I receive from my family and the fact that my children, Tanya and Joseph, are carrying on the businesses which are continuing to grow.
DT: Where do you get your confidence?
LB: I think confidence comes from within and from the people that surround you. So, believe in yourself and listen to others.
DT: What makes a woman beautiful?
LB: A woman is beautiful when she is confident, content and willing to share with others.
DT: What gives you joy?
LB: What gives me the most joy is to cook and nurture people and see them enjoy my work.