10 Things You Didn't Know About Lidia Bastianich

10 Things You Didn't Know About Lidia Bastianich
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10 Things You Didn't Know About Lidia Bastianich

Read on to learn 10 facts about Lidia Bastianich that you don't know.

Image Credit: Lidia Bastianich

She doesn't just cook Italian food

"Italian cuisine is my basis, that's what I cook and that's what I'm best at," Lidia explains. However, Lidia notes that because of any country's surrounding borders, it's easy to become familiar with a range of cuisines and flavors.

For instance, when she cooked for Pope Benedict, she drew on her experience with Germanic flavors to please his tastes. She prepared traditional German dishes including strudel, späetzle and sauerkraut. "A border is very unique because you have predominantly a culture that you are and that your family is, but you kind of get to know the other cultures that are on that border, and food is no different," Lidia says.

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Who she's been starstruck by

Lidia shares that she recently got to cook for Sophia Loren, a woman who has always been one of her idols (and someone who happens to love cooking too!). But she isn't the only famous face Lidia's been able to interact with and cook for. "I think the Pope was one of the grand moments of my culinary life," Lidia says. "And then of course President Napolitano of Italy."

She's also cooked for the Bush family, and met Bette Midler and Meryl Streep. "It's a pleasure to cook for these people, because you admire their talents, and you're kind of very happy to give a little bit of your talent to please them," Lidia says.

Image Credit: Silver Screen Collection via Moviepix

The type of food she's into now

"There's a lot of good food to be had out there," Lidia shares. "New York is extraordinary as far as restaurants." Lidia says that in addition to her interest in Italian cuisine, she enjoys Asian flavors as well, and despite her love for New York fare, Lidia admits she can't choose just one favorite restaurant. "You can't just sum up my whole life and eating out in the restaurant business by saying one restaurant, so let's say that now I'm into Korean food," Lidia says.

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Her typical dinner

"I love pasta," Lidia says. "So let's say that I come home at night late, and I haven't gotten a chance to eat something. I will usually have a nice piece of Grana Padano [cheese], a fresh peach, a slice of prosciutto and a glass of white wine," Lidia reveals. "But if I'm really hungry, a little plate of spaghetti. Just spaghetti, garlic and oil with a nice spicy peperoncini will do at 11 o'clock at night when I have not had dinner yet."

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Chefs who inspire her

Lidia filmed a few television shows with Julia Child, which Lidia says strongly influenced her own show. "I observed how she connected with the people, and her cooking was all about the viewers and them being able to duplicate what she does and was not ... a pedestal for her to show what she can do," Lidia shares. "I think that that was a big lesson in my cookbooks and in my television show, in actually trying to transmit this comfort, this love, this passion and capability in the kitchen."

Lidia admires not just Julia's cooking, but the way she communicates with viewers. Lidia also cites Jacques Pépin as an influence, particularly for his technique in the kitchen. "I still watch him, and I still learn some techniques from him," she shares.

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A family affair

Cooking runs in Lidia's family. Lidia says that the women in her family imparted a lot of culinary wisdom. She particularly learned a lot from her great aunt, who was a personal chef. It was she who taught her certain techniques and traditions in her style of cooking. "My style of cooking is not inventive, but one that transfers tradition. I cook very much in the familiar, family style kind of cooking—that direct kind of cooking without much fuss," she says.

Image Credit: Lidia Bastianich

A different career path

"I began my college focused on the sciences," Lidia reveals. "I thought I would be a pediatrician." The chef specifically recalls the ship HOPE, a hospital ship that provided traveling medical services and training. "I always thought I would end up on that ship," she reflects.

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Her least favorite flavor

"I hate cilantro," Lidia shares. "That flavor of cilantro ... I think it's genetic," she says.

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Her favorite music

"I love opera and classical music," says Lidia, who reveals that she travels around the world to hear it.

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The secret skill she has

"I love playing chess," Lidia says. She and her brother used to play when they were younger, and Lidia was a chess competitor in high school.

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This giveaway is now closed.

Since Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen first premiered in 1998, Lidia Bastianich has become an Emmy-winning chef and a household name. Lidia was born in Italy, and though she resides in the U.S. now, she's stuck to her Italian roots throughout her life and career. She's opened celebrated restaurants throughout the U.S., and thanks for her television series, multiple cookbooks and line of pastas and sauces, Lidia has helped generations learn the basics of Italian cooking.

Though you may know her in the kitchen, there are still some facts about Lidia that you probably aren't aware of. She shared with us one of the great moments in her culinary life, the career she thought she'd have when she was in school, her least favorite flavor to eat and more.

Check out the slideshow above to learn 10 things you didn't know about Lidia Bastianich. Then, discover how Lidia's business became a family affair, find out 8 of her favorite recipes and learn what she'd take with her to a deserted island!

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