“Thrilling and extraordinary.” That’s how Lidia Bastianich, star of GBH programs Lidia’s Kitchen and Lidia Celebrates America, describes her delight at being named a 2024 National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Honoree. 

“I’m thrilled — I had thought Emmys were given for acting and performance.” She says she’ll be proud to “carry the flag” for cooking programs alongside two soap opera actors also receiving the award. 

“Lidia Bastianich’s astounding success combines her love of cooking while simultaneously entertaining millions each day,” said Adam Sharp, President and CEO of NATAS. “It is an honor for us to say ‘grazie’ for the many fine meals borne from her TV kitchen and cookbook pages.” She’ll receive the award at a dinner on June 8 in Los Angeles, the day after the daytime Emmys are broadcast. 

“I’m so pleased that the Emmys are coming to the food world,” said Bastianich. “It says a lot about how effective cooking programs are. People really need and want to be around the table, cook good food, and be nourished.” 

Watch a preview of 25 Years with Lidia: A Culinary Jubilee, a celebration of her 25 years on public television, 12 of which have been at GBH, here.

 Bastianich’s life story is remarkable by any measure. Born in Italy, she lived her early years under the rule of Communist Yugoslavia, finally escaping with her family, only to be put in a refugee camp in Trieste. After two hard years, they were granted permission to enter the United States. Settling in Queens, New York, she had her first job at actor Christopher Walken’s family bakery. Still passionate about her beloved Italian cuisine, she eventually opened her own restaurant. One day Julia Child and James Beard sat down at one of her tables and her life took yet another dramatic turn. 

“I’m on television because of Julia Child,” she recalled. “When she came to my restaurant, she had my mushroom risotto and wanted to learn how to make it. I invited her to my house, we became friends, and she asked me to be on her show.”

In that appearance, viewers got their first glimpse of what Laurie Donnelly, GBH Lifestyles Executive Producer, calls Lidia’s “star power.” Julia Childs’ producer noticed it too — and invited her to host her own program. 

“Lidia is an incredible role model for women both on and off the screen,” said Donnelly.

“She is approachable — kind of everybody’s Nonna, yet she is a phenomenal chef.” 

When Bastianich replied to the invitation to create her own show, she had two requests: She wanted it to be on PBS and filmed in her own home.

“Public media is a platform that respects viewers and teaches them,“ she said. “If a viewer is going to give me half an hour of their time, they’d better get something out of it.”

Bastianich says, “I am who I am because of the opportunities that I received in the United States,“ adding that her favorite thing about being on television is that it gives her a way to connect with people across the country and show her gratitude. 

“I think it is the duty of the immigrant to be forever grateful and give back when they come into a comfortable position. This is what immigration should be all about.” 

Learn more about Lidia here

Enjoy episodes of Lidia’s signature PBS series Lidia Celebrates America here.