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Chef Lidia Bastianich Loves Canada

The Italian maestro shares her insider tips on cooking and careers.

Step aside trusty Bolognese, there are some new kids on the block. We sat down with Emmy-award winning chef Lidia Bastianich ahead of her trip to Vancouver next month to chat education, recipes, and Julia Child.

Bastianich will be in town on September 23 for Una Bella Notte con Lidia, a fundraising gala at the Four Seasons Hotel held by the BC Chapter of  Les Dames d’Escoffier. The evening will feature a seven-course meal prepared by some of Vancouver’s finest chefs, and tickets are available here.

Have you been to Canada before?

I love Canada; I think it’s beautiful! I have a cousin that lives in Montreal who I go visit, and I have friends up in Toronto. Since my show started airing on Telelatino, I have gained a ton of fans in Canada; they’re into Lidia’s cooking and it’s great!

How did you get involved with Les Dames d’Escoffier?

I’ve been a member of Les Dames here in New York for over twenty-somewhat years, so when [the BC Chapter] asked me if I would come to the gala, I was all in. It’s a big event for them; I’m looking forward to it.

What are the proceeds from the gala benefitting?

The Les Dames scholarship fund, which is something I’m really passionate about; it’s an organization mostly for females. When I started [in the business] 25 years ago that kind of help was really important and it still is. It’s not so much saying “oh we’re women,” it’s about connecting and sharing experiences and opportunities. The culinary world is not an easy profession to get into because of the hours; especially if you’re a women and you want to have a family—how do you manage? It’s about young women who need the opportunity, and education is key.

You managed to balance a family and a culinary career, though.

Yes, I have two children who grew up in the restaurant business with me because they would come to the restaurant to eat, then my brother would put them to bed. I told them: “This isn’t what you want to do, you don’t want to work like this.” My daughter ended up going to Oxford and my son has a masters in business, but they both work with me now. And you know what? I love it!

Your new book, Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, has a familiar title…

[Laughs] Yes, people always ask me if there’s any connection to Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. We actually share the same publisher (Knopf), so when the name came up they encouraged it. My editor said: “Absolutely Lidia, you do the Italian thing now.”

How does this book differ from what you’ve done before?

In this book I’ve compiled a lot of the philosophy behind cooking based on my personal experiences. Hopefully it’s a book people can actually read, not just head straight to the recipe. The should be able to take those instructions and apply them to their own recipes. My daughter was responsible for the enoromous glossary in the back. It’s a book that I hope can stay on peoples’ shelves as a reference book for generations.

Can we get a sneak peak of a recipe from the book? An Italian dish people might not have tried to make before?

Definitely. I was trying to decide between sharing my secret for a moist meatloaf (the trick is to add ricotta) but because the west coast gets such amazing seafood, I’ll share the recipe for my Shrimp Buzara. The north Italian Buzara is from the Adriatic coast that makes a nice dense sauce. Sometimes sauce can be a little watery, especially with fish dishes, but with the addition of breadcrumbs your guests will really appreciate the deliciousness.

View Lidia’s recipe for Shrimp Buzara here, or get all of Lidia’s recipes in her book Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, available at Indigo.

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