Our Culinary Stars on PBS!

Emmy Award-winning chef Lidia Bastianich cooks with students from The Culinary Arts Program at August Martin High School

Lidia Bastianich Cooks with Our Youth

**New date and time: Sunday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. on WNET, Channel 13, for the New York Metro market. PBS will run the show in most other U.S. cities on Fri., Dec. 20–check the Lidia Celebrates America website for air times in your area.

Renowned chef and Emmy Award-winning television personality Lidia Bastianich cares deeply about immigrants and under-served youth having pathways to bright futures.

On Sunday, December 15, Lidia’s PBS special Lidia Celebrates America will premiere on WNET and will include a segment of Lidia cooking with 12 juniors and seniors of the Culinary Arts Program at August Martin High School (AMHS), an inner-city school in Jamaica, Queens. The five-year innovative partnership between The Child Center and August Martin has brought about a dramatic turnaround in graduation rates from 23% to 74% in four years. 

When she met The Child Center a couple of years ago, Lidia felt an instant connection to our mission and our serving a large immigrant population. She was particularly drawn to our innovative work at AMHS, where The Child Center works with students who often come from under-served communities to help them succeed, and where students can pursue vocational specialty tracks that get them prepared for — and excited about — fulfilling careers.

Lidia, an immigrant herself, grew up in Queens. “I came to the U.S. at age 12,” Lidia explains. “Lots of people helped us without even knowing us. People supported me, and it’s important to give back.”

“It is important to me that young people get exposed to the vocational opportunities in culinary arts and the hospitality industry, where college degrees are not always required to build fulfilling lives and careers,” Lidia continues. “These young people have the passion to go forward. It’s a privilege to help provide the tools they need to grow.”

What does that growth look like? One of the main takeaways of the cooking session was that it’s OK to make a mistake. “At first I was really nervous, especially with the cameras,” says Jason, one of the culinary students who participated. “But Lidia was supportive when I messed up and splattered the tomatoes out of the bowl. She made a joke, and we kept going. I began to feel more confident that I can do this.”

“These young people have the passion to go forward. It’s a privilege to help provide the tools they need to grow.” — Lidia Bastianich

Another takeaway was the introduction to new foods and tastes. “The food was something I never had tasted in my entire life. It was rich and flavorful. It’s unexplainable how different it was from the food I am used to,” says another student, Sharika.

The two professional chefs accompanying Lidia were restaurateur Angelo Vivolo and caterer Paul Neuman, both of whom gave generously of their expertise in cooking Italian pasta dishes.

“It was an inspiring experience as much for me as I hope for them,” Vivolo reflected.

Once the cooking was done, the young chefs-in-the-making proudly presented their dishes, and everyone gathered around beautifully set tables to share the meal. Joining them were Rory Parnell, Principal of AMHS, Child Center Senior Program Director Saran Shields, and Chef Marie Hayes, who leads the AMHS culinary program.

We are excited to see our students on screen! Stay tuned, and check the Lidia Celebrates America page on the PBS website for updates and the full schedule.

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