Julia Child has influenced countless chefs over her long career in public television, including Lidia Bastianich, host of Lidia's Kitchen. As part of our You & Julia: At Home series, Amy Traverso, co-host of GBH's Weekends with Yankee, talks with Bastianich over Zoom about being mentored by Julia, their enduring friendship, and the time Lidia taught Julia to make mushroom risotto.
Here are some highlights from the coversation.
On the time Julia visited Lidia's restaurant in New York:
Lidia: In 1981 we had opened Felidia, and I became a full-fledged chef. I was in the kitchen one day — there comes Julia and James Beard, these two towering figures. They wanted to taste, what was this Italian woman cooking? She came for the risotto specifically. I cooked the risotto and I was kind of nervous, of course, knowing these two personalities. But you know what Amy? I don't think I really realized the magnitude. You know, sometimes ignorance is bliss? I was very comfortable. I felt like she was my friend, I had watched her on television.
She wanted to learn how to make risotto. We arranged for her to come over to my house, gave her the lesson in risotto and she was wonderful. She met my mother, my family, the whole thing. She ultimately called me to come and do two episodes of her Master Chef series. That's where it all began, as far as I'm concerned, on public television.
On Julia's presence on public television:
Lidia: I watched PBS and caught Julia, this wonderful woman with this poignant voice and cooking French. I said, "Okay, she's cooking French, that's a cuisine too." I just loved her mannerisms. I loved the way she directed the viewer — just went straight into the home of the viewer. I felt like she was telling me what to do. She bypassed the camera. That I absolutely picked up from her. I was just like a little Julia in my mind.
On their long-lasting friendship:
Lidia: She was, in a sense, a mentor — specifically on TV and cooking on TV. We remained friends until her very end. I went to visit her in Santa Monica. It was, I think her last week or two. But it was beautiful until the very end. She was such a grand lady.
Watch Julia Child: Cooking With Master Chefsfeaturing Lidia Bastianich.