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Lidia Bastianich Questions

I have always thought the term chef was only give to people who had training from a culinary school. On a CreateTV commercial she said she was happy to be one of the top chefs on the channel. I have read things about her but nothing was ever mentioned of her going to a culinary school. Does working in a restaurant kitchen allow you to call yourself a chef?

I read an article where it said Lidia wasn't Italian at all but was really of Croatian descent. Is this true? I honestly don't believe she would pretend to be something she wasn't. She seems like a very nice woman. I love her show except when her son is on. He never smiles and is kind of creepy looking, just my opinion.

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  1. She's from the Istrian region which has been part of Italy (when she was born) and was later part of Yugosavia. And it was not uncommon for people to become chefs through apprenticeships before the proliferation of professional schools.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Lidia was born in Croatia, but because of the communist regime, her family moved to Trieste when she was 9, I believe.

      Yes, there is a lot of varied opinions about her son Joe. Not a terribly likeable person.

      1. re: SmartCookie

        I think there are varied opinions about Lidia, too, given the case brought against her for enslavement of an immigrant she brought here. She's never made any public argument against it.

        1. re: mcf

          Is she really required to speak out publicly about this?

          1. re: ferret

            It's her choice. It seems like an informative one.

      2. re: ferret

        A glance at the Istria article on Wiki shows an area with an ethnically mixed population, with Italian speakers concentrated on the coast (from days of Venetian dominance). Rule has shifted, Austria-Hungary up until WW1, Italy between the wars, Yugoslavian after. There was a major exodus of Italians by 1954.

        Lidia has talked, on the show, about her family's move, and sometimes has distinctive recipes from this cross-roads region.

        1. re: paulj

          After visiting Croatia, we fell so in love with Istria that we bought a lovely traditional stone house there. It is located about half an hour north of where Lidia is from. There is a lot of Italian influence in the architecture as well as the food. There are so many Italian ruins (i.e. the second best-preserved amphitheatre in the world after Rome) all over the country. But Istria is the most Venetian. Many people we know speak Italian, German, Croatian and English. Menus are printed in those languages as well. The food in Istria can be just as good or better than in Italy. It is also a bit influenced by Hungary and Austria in areas.

          We will actually be in Istria in a few days and can hardly wait to live life there and be spoiled with wondrous food.

      3. Going to culinary school does not make you a chef. "Chef" is a job title. Many chefs achieve their position not by going to a culinary school, but by working their way up through a series of apprenticeships. Examples include Jacques Pepin and Mario Batali. Surely you wouldn't argue that either of them are not really chefs?

        1. Going to culinary school is neither a sufficient nor necessary condition of being called a "chef".

          See Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, Ferran Adria, etc.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            I believe Heston falls into this category as well.

            Granted these chefs are incredible in their field, I hold Pepin in very high regard. Not only is he a great cook/chef, he's a fantastic instructor.

            I've been watching Essential Pepin and there's something about his cooking methods that blows the others out of the water. I've even compared the same instructions with the CIA DVDs and it was night and day.

            I used to like Lidia (her son did not bother me too much even though he gave off anger vibes), but there's something about her style that I'm bored with.

            Too bad no one's going to tell her to stop smacking her lips when she 'tastes something for me'.

            1. re: nikkib99

              I agree with you about Pepin qua teacher.

              But I think there's a difference, but probably a significant one, between a good chef and a good chef instructor. Pepin is probably both, but many chefs are only the former, and very few are the latter.

              Julia Child and Martin Yan come to mind as examples of both "good chef" and "good chef instructor".

              1. re: nikkib99

                talking about tasting,
                http://www.chow.com/food-news/126539/...
                from a taping of Susan Feniger:
                "Feniger threw her head back and took a long sip. Then she turned to us and smiled: “This is really good.” .... you have to stay connected to the food you love—even if it means drinking from the blender jar."

              2. re: ipsedixit

                Alice Waters was never a chef; she was always more of a restauranteur like a Danny Meyer.

                In a New York Times Magazine article, it talked about Meyer's role and input in the kitchen: "Meyer devotes unlimited time to his new ventures, tasting every item on the menu multiple times, suggesting alterations to such minutiae as the size of a sous chef’s dice and constantly consulting with the manager. I heard him instruct Untitled’s chef to alter a B.L.T. so the bacon would stick out on either side. “That’s called turning up the ‘home’ dial,” he explained."

                But, explain how that's different from Alice Waters' role at Chez Panisse. She didn't come up with the dishes or run the kitchen brigade. Instead, her role was more like an editor who gave feedback about the dishes.

                If we're going to call Alice Waters a chef, then we should also start calling restauranteurs like Danny Meyer, Siro Maccione, etc.. chefs too.

                1. re: hobbess

                  Why should I care about the distinction between a restauranteur and a chef? Is there any other business in which people are uptight about the name of a middle management position? Or is it even that. By some descriptions a chef sounds more like a foreman.

                  Why should we, as consumers (i.e. not restaurant professionals) care about these titles? Do I get more pleasure out of a meal prepared by a chef, as opposed to a mere cook? Do I expect to learn more from a real TV chef?

                  -----------------
                  on tonight's Chopped, the cable blurb says 'school cafeteria cooks ... ', but the MC addressed them as 'school chefs'. :)

              3. When you graduate culinary school, you're a 'cook'.
                When you lead a brigade of cooks, you're a 'chef'.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Novelli

                  Actually ...

                  when you graduate from culinary school, you're poor, in debt and unemployed.

                  When you lead a brigade of cooks, you're less poor and less in debt.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    1.
                    the chief cook, especially in a restaurant or hotel, usually responsible for planning menus, ordering foodstuffs, overseeing food preparation, and supervising the kitchen staff.
                    2.
                    any cook.
                    That's right: 'any cook'