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A chef's touch: Lidia Bastianich meets fans in Bethlehem before heading NCC's Food and Wine Gala

Micaela Hood
Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich attends a meet and greet at Lehigh Valley Public Media on June 2, 2023 in Bethlehem.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — It was a day of tears and cheers during Lidia Bastianich's visit to the Valley.

The celebrity chef made two stops and met with fans and culinary students before headlining the Northampton Community College Food and Wine Gala on Friday, June 2.

  • Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich attended events at PBS39 and the Wind Creek Event Center
  • The author and host of PBS's "Lidia's Kitchen" was the special guest at the Northampton Community College Food and Wine Gala on Friday, June 2
  • Earlier in the day, she met with fans at Lehigh Valley Public Media

Bastianich, star of the PBS show, "Lidia's Kitchen," is an Emmy-award winning TV host, author and restaurateur.

Consoling, greeting fans

Micaela Hood
Michael Mcglinchey talks with celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich at a studio inside Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem.

People applauded as Bastianich walked into the studio on Friday afternoon at a meet and greet inside a studio at Lehigh Valley Public Media, 839 Sesame St.

One-by-one, the crowd of 80 attendees lined up to take photos and selfies with the beloved chef and James Beard winner.

Invites were available to those who donated $100 or more to PBS39.

Along with the two tickets, attendees received a signed copy of her book, “Lidia’s a Pot, a Pan, and a Bowl: Simple Recipes for Perfect Meals" and a raffle entry to the Northampton Community College Food and Wine Gala.

Michael Mcglinchey jumped at the chance to meet the TV star, who ended up consoling him briefly.

His wife, Karen, who passed away in 2021, was a huge admirer of Bastianich.

As he made his way towards the TV star, tears formed in his eyes as he told Bastianich about one of her pasta dishes he had cooked in Karen's honor.

'Say it with fortitude'

Later in the day, Bastianich shared advice with a group of culinary art students from Northampton Community College (NCC).

At one point she had a hard time hearing a student and quickly offered a bit of wisdom.

"When you are addressing a room, any room, a kitchen, wherever — stand up, be proud of yourself and project," she told the bright-eyed chefs to-be. "Don't think what you are saying is not interesting. Say it with fortitude, say it with belief."

Others asked her about her start as a female chef in an industry that is male-dominated.

Bastianich noted she would tell her younger self to seek more, but to also take time to celebrate life's precious moments.

"Maybe stop and enjoy more along the way instead of just forging ahead. You need time to enrich yourself, especially being a woman, because you want to be informed," she said. "And you want to be ready to go out there —whether you want a mentor or want to travel to a place, but within that context, take the time to smell the flowers."

During the hour with the culinary class, she touched on her origins.

Bastianich said her family fled Europe during World War ll and with the help of Catholic Charites was able to start a new life in New York.

"America is about the immigrants living here. Whether you are second or third generation you cannot forget [that]," she said. "That is the strength of America. The intertwining of these cultures is what makes America what it is."

Micaela Hood
Celebrity chef Lidia Bastainich spoke with culinary students from Northampton Community College on June 2, 2023.

She recently combined her roots and love of food in “Lidia Celebrates America: Flavors That Define Us.”

The show is available to stream on PBS.org and the PBS app.

In the show, Bastianich interviewed refugees and immigrants from Ukraine, Cuba, Vietnam and South Asia and India.

It was an eye-opening experience, which she said she hopes brings people together.

Micaela Hood
Partygoers attended a cocktail reception for the Northampton Community College Food and Wine Gala in Bethlehem on June 2, 2023.

"Through culture and food you can understand another person better. Food is extremely important," she said. "Take the time to taste their food, see their culture and slowly let the assimilation happen."

A gala to remember

At a more swanky affair, Bastianich dazzled about 200 attendees, who were dressed up in their finest summer gowns and linen suits for the Northampton Community College Food and Wine Gala.

Tickets, which cost $500 per person, will benefit the NCC Foundation to fund student scholarships.

The soiree kicked off with a cocktail reception followed by a dinner with a menu inspired by some of Bastianich's savory recipes.

Patrons feasted on items such as limoncello poached shrimp, panzanella salad, sea scallops (with risotto cake), filet and shrimp and limoncello olive oil cake.

Micaela Hood
Celebrity chef Lidia Bastainich huddled around a group before the start of the Northampton Community College Food and Wine Gala.

The celebrity chef, who sat at a large table in the middle of the room, and NCC president David Ruth were among the speakers.

During the festivities, Bastianich graciously posed for photos and chatted with party-goers.

Throughout the evening, people participated in a live auction bidding on luxurious trips, golf lessons and dinner at Becco, a New York City restaurant owned by Bastianich and donated by the chef.

"Her generosity, thoughtfulness, and culinary talents are deeply appreciated and we're fortunate to count her among the college's good friends," Ruth said in a statement earlier.