Chef Lidia Bastianich celebrates immigrants and their meals, tradition in PBS particular

NEW YORK — In her new PBS particular, Lidia Bastianich tastes the world’s meals with out ever crossing the US border.

The Emmy award-winning TV host, writer and restaurateur explores the immigrant expertise by way of meals in “Lidia Celebrates America: Flavors That Outline Us.” It is going to air Might 30 at 8 p.m. on WTTW-Channel 11 in Chicago and also will be streamed on and the PBS app beginning that day.

Bastianich visits a refugee from Bhutan who has constructed a brand new life in Ohio, Cuban immigrants who’re feeding individuals in Kentucky and Indian People who’re constructing companies in California. In Texas, she meets Afghan refugees who assist newcomers and a second-generation Vietnamese American who owns a number of eating places.

“There have been a number of attention-grabbing connections between the meals and them and the brand new tradition and me,” says Bastianich. “Meals at all times opens the doorways for me in some way.”

Bastianich himself was a Chilly Conflict refugee who turned a expertise for home-style Italian cooking into an empire of eating places, produce and media.

“I got here right here after I was 12 years previous. An ideal alternative was given to me and my household. And I needed to share that as a result of generally I feel America is reviled. It isn’t valued the best way I would really like it to be,” she says.

Within the particular, Bastianich travels to each new and established immigrant communities and asks newcomers about their motivations, challenges and experiences.

“There’s an enormous distinction in flavors, however there is a commonality of cooking,” she says. “Meals just isn’t threatening. Meals is constructive.”

In Reynoldsburg, Ohio, she meets the person from Bhutan, who spent 18 years in a refugee camp in Nepal and was resettled in America, the place he arrived with simply $9. He landed on a Thursday and labored Saturday morning at a 7-Eleven. He turned an American citizen and a member of the town council.

“America is all about immigrants. And as immigrants, we owe it to this nation to offer again,” says Bastianich. “As soon as we’re snug settling in and given the chance we’d like, it is necessary to essentially be part of this and provides again.”

In Louisville, Kentucky, she is fed and serenaded by Cuban immigrants, one in every of whom began out as a waiter earlier than opening a restaurant together with his bank cards maxed out. In Bakersfield, California, she meets a group of Punjabis who’ve opened a roadside truck cease, and others who’re almond farmers and processors.

Zara Frankel, senior director of programming and growth at PBS, hopes the particular will “encourage individuals to step outdoors their consolation zone, find out about new elements, strive unfamiliar recipes, and style one thing they’ve by no means skilled earlier than.”

Amongst her layovers, Bastianich visits Houston to satisfy “MasterChef” season three winner Christine Ha, who usually mixes her Vietnamese heritage with Tex-Mex parts. The 2 cooks put together a braised pork stomach dish, whereas Ha remembers being bullied as a toddler for the sharp lunches she introduced from residence.

Lidia cooks with Chef Christine Ha whereas visiting her Houston residence in “Lidia Celebrates America: Flavors That Outline Us.”

WGBH Academic Basis and Tavola Productions

“For me, having the ability to take these dishes that had been as soon as uncool and unpopular, and the issues that I’d convey to high school and be made enjoyable of or teased about, and now be capable to put it on the menus in my eating places introducing it and getting individuals excited to strive it’s the final achievement,” says Ha.

Thit Kho, the stewed pork belly, prepared by Christine Ha and Lidia Bastianich.  make together.  Credits: WGBH Educational Foundation and Tavola Productions

Thi Kho, the stewed pork stomach, ready by Christine Ha and Lidia Bastianich.

WGBH Academic Basis and Tavola Productions

All through the collection, Bastianich and the immigrants share their meals, from stuffed flatbread from India to the Cuban basic ropa vieja. She marvels on the completely different flavors but in addition on the similarities.

Bhutan’s pea soup, for instance, “jogs my memory a lot of American cut up pea soup or, as we make it in Italy, dry backyard soup,” she says.

Over a desk – or generally on the ground – Bastianich eats meals that the immigrants say remind them of their homeland, and shares their new goals.

“It doesn’t matter what tradition comes collectively — on the desk or on the ground — to eat collectively, that is the second of actual alternate and understanding and nurturing and wanting the most effective for somebody,” she says.

Considered one of Bastianich’s most private visits is with Polina Frishko, a brand new Ukrainian refugee who fled the conflict in her homeland together with her teenage son. They first ended up in a camp in Poland after which, due to a resettlement group, ended up in Hartsville, South Carolina.

“If he smiles, if he isn’t at risk, that is my happiness,” says Frishko.

Polina Frishko (left) and her friend Enna Elias get ready to make Borscht with Lidia Bastianich (center) as seen in the exclusive clip of

Polina Frishko (left) and her pal Enna Elias get able to make Borscht with Lidia Bastianich (heart) as seen in “Lidia Celebrates America: Flavors That Outline Us.”

WGBH Academic Basis and Tavola Productions

The connections between Bastianich and Frishko are placing. Bastianich was born in 1947 in Istria, an Italian territory ceded to Yugoslavia after World Conflict II. She spent the primary years of her life underneath communist rule after which fled together with her household throughout the border to Italy. There they lived in a refugee camp for 2 years till they had been delivered to New York in 1958 by an help group.

Bastianich laughed that Frishko’s son has jumped his toes into American life and tradition, barely trying again.

“I needed to grow to be American so shortly and so badly,” she says. “That does not imply I’ve forgotten who I’m. Later in life, I had a want to mix my beginning and adoption cultures, merge them, and I really feel all of the richer for it.

Escarole and white bean soup

Lidia Bastianich presents her escarole and white bean soup.

Lidia Bastianich presents her escarole and white bean soup.

Serves: 6


  • 1 1/2 cups dried cannellini or different white beans, soaked in a single day and drained
  • 2 contemporary bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup further virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 complete dried pepperoncini
  • 8 cups packed coarsely shredded escarole leaves, ideally the robust outer leaves, washed and drained
  • 1 cup ready tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chopped contemporary chives


1. Switch the drained beans to a big casserole dish.

2. Pour in water as much as 5 cm underneath water, add the bay leaves and convey to a boil. Modify the warmth in order that the water is at a simmer, pour in 1/4 cup of the olive oil and prepare dinner till the beans are tender, about 1 hour.

3. Drain the beans, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Season the beans with salt and discard the bay leaves.

4. Wipe the casserole dry and add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the garlic and pepperoncini and prepare dinner till scorching and golden brown, about 2 minutes.

5. Add the escarole and prepare dinner and stir till it begins to scale back, about 2 to three minutes.

6. Add beans, tomato sauce and reserved cooking liquid. Simmer till thick however nonetheless spicy, about 7 to eight minutes. Season with salt and sprinkle with chives. serve.