5 for Friday :: Lidia Bastianich

about_lidia-2I have the great providence of being surrounded by inspiring people. 5 for Friday questions will be asked of artists, farmers, curators, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs etc – all of the people that I find interesting. Everyone gets the same five questions. Today we feature graceful celebrity, Lidia Bastianich. She needs no introduction for anyone who loves food. Lidia has hosted several cookings shows on PBS, including Lidia's Italy which is produced by Tavola Productions, an entertainment company she founded and oversees. She owns four restaurants, is a partner at Eataly in NYC, owns a B&B and winery in Friuli (see #3 below) and has authored MANY award-winning books.

Lidia Bastianich is a business powerhouse that shouldbe studied, I think particularly by woman who own their own business. She has a lot of irons in the fire. As her site notes, "Lidia has married her two passions in life – her family and food, to create multiple culinary endeavors alongside her two children, Joseph and Tanya." She runs restaurants, builds cooking shows, and would seem to continually be on the lookout for the next great endeavor. (See #3, below.)

Despite her clear successes, Lidia's appeal to me is more personal. Firstly, she was born in Pula, Istria. While this peninsula is now part of Croatia (Lidia's parents lived there when it was a province of Italy), I can't help but feel personal kinship as my family is from the north of Croatia, Krk. There is cross over between our culinary histories, and while visiting Pula several years ago I couldn't help but think, 'Lidia grew up here.' Additionally, I've had the fortune to meet Lidia on several occasions over the years and she has always been calm, kind and interested. I used to produce Tom Douglas' radio show, and she was often our guest. After each visit, she would send me (little old me, Tom's assistant) a thank you card on personalized stationary. That nod to formality always struck me as a very considerate manner, and I quickly adopted the habit. Recently, I saw her at an event for KCTS9 and I introduced myself. Lidia totally lacked any air of celebrity status and stood and chatted awhile - a really cool lady.

This week, YOU get a chance to meet her at an upcoming Gala on November 1st to support Saint Martin's University. Go talk to her! Go eat delicious food! Tickets are available here. And for anyone that can't make the gala, meet Lidia Bastianich…...

1. What did you eat for breakfast this morning? This morning, I had some fresh pineapple, whole wheat toast and a cappuccino.

2. What is one thing you do EVERY day, by choice? I love to always read the New York Times as I drink my coffee.

3. If you had all the time in the world and no budget restrictions, what one project would you take on just now? There are two projects that I would love to work on:  1) I have always been interested in setting up a table of peace, where a group of both men and women from places of conflict can come together and actually cook in the kitchen and eventually sit down at a “peace table” where they will enjoy each other’s ethnic foods and negotiate.    I think the table is a natural place for communication and serious discussions, and I love the idea of having both men and women cooking together in the kitchen AND sitting at the table negotiating.  2)  I would love to develop and produce an animated children’s series that instructs children about where their food comes from, how it grows, how to take care of it and ultimately how to create nourishing meals with it.

4. Where is your 'happy place'? My happy place is in the region of Friuli, Italy at Orsone, our Italian home and B & B at our winery.  It is where I find peace, especially as I walk the rows of vines in the vineyard.

5. What is your signature dish - something you make well and consistently?  I love making risotto.  All of my family members love it, and I can whip it up with any ingredient that we have in the house.  Even salad leaves, when not at their prime, make a delicious risotto.