Chef and author Lidia Bastianich sat down with WGBH News' Henry Santoro to discuss her recently released memoir, her immigration to the United States, her family and her popular cooking show, "Lidia's Kitchen." The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Henry Santoro: You don't have to be Italian to call Lidia Bastianich your favorite TV aunt or grandmother. Her PBS show, “Lidia’s Kitchen,” which just won an Emmy, is seen by millions of Americans each week. But in addition to being a celebrity TV chef, Lydia is also a famous restaurateur, a best-selling cookbook author, and now the author of a memoir titled, “My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family and Food.” And it's a pleasure to have her here at WGBH, the flagship of her broadcasting empire. How are you, Lidia?

Lidia Bastianich: Buongiorno, Henry.

Henry Santoro: Buongiorno, very nice to see you again.

Lidia Bastianich: Pleasure.

Henry Santoro: You've been on PBS for 20 years this year. So happy anniversary.

Lidia Bastianich: Thank you.

Henry Santoro: Julia was on PBS for decades. What was your relationship like with her?

Lidia Bastianich: It was great. It developed into a great relationship. We became friends until the very end. And we encountered, well actually when I opened for Lidia, and I became the chef there and I was cooking, at that point, I began cooking regional Italian food. The Italian cuisine known was the Italian American cuisine. So, I did polenta, risotto, and all kinds of food. And she and James Beard came in together for dinner. Those two big towering figures, and she came in and she wanted to know all about the risotto. Ultimately, she wanted me to teach her. She came over my house, I gave her a lesson, and then I went over to her house to cook. And the friendship continued.

But I think she was instrumental in getting me on PBS, because she invited me to be on two of her Master Chef series, two shows. And there the producers of the show said, “Lidia your pretty good, how about a show of your own?’ And here I am 20 years later.

Henry Santoro: "My American Dream" begins with you sharing something extremely personal. Lidia was not your given name, and your life wasn't always a big bowl of Bolognese. Tell us about little Giuliana and tell us about your family and Yugoslavia.

Lidia Bastianich: All right. Well first, maybe the story of ... the kind of historical story. I was born in Pola, Istria and now it is Pula, and it is part of Croatia now. But that part, that peninsula, was part of Italy. After World War II, Italy lost the war, and there were a few years after the war of deciding how to divide that territory. And the allied forces and NATO, in 1947, decided where the border would go. And the border cut Istria and gave it to the newly formed government of the communist Yugoslavia. And I was just born in 1947. But when it came time, my mother wanted to baptize me, because that was our tradition. And she really couldn't, because, you know something, they would incarcerate or whatever. So, she asked the sister, whose name was Lidia, to secretly take me to church, and the name she chose for me was Giuliana.

Henry Santoro: The fact that the world is dealing with the issue of immigration more now than it has in years, and the fact that you decided to write this memoir is not a coincidence is it?

Lidia Bastianich: Not really. But I had no intentions of writing it now. I was going to write a memoir in another five years, or 10 years, for my grandchildren, so that they have it. But it was so relevant, my publisher says, 'Lidia, you've got to speed this up. This is the time to tell your story. Your story is a real story of struggle, of getting to freedom, and ultimately making it a success.' And you know, I did it in America.

Henry Santoro: Lidia Bastianich can be seen each week on your favorite PBS station. Her new book, “My American Dream: A life of Love, Family and Food” is available everywhere. Lidia, so great to see you.

Lidia Bastianich: Thanks, Henry.