The last two years have presented incredible challenges, from the global pandemic, massive unemployment, hunger, and homelessness, to racial tensions and political upheaval.
Yet, Americans are picking themselves up and moving forward, united by the resilience and a drive to find meaning and purpose in their lives, no matter the obstacles or uncertain times.
This December 14, 2021, join the internationally celebrated chef, award-winning television host, and bestselling cookbook author Lidia Bastianich in a new PBS Special, Lidia Celebrates America: Overcoming the Odds (8 pm ET/check local listings), which explores our ability to rise up and meet the challenges we face.
In this hour-long Lidia Celebrates America, produced by public media leader GBH, Lidia travels from big cities to small pockets of rural America, both in person and virtually, to share the inspiring stories of a diverse group of resilient Americans who have overcome extraordinary odds in their own lives, found purpose in serving their communities, and turned their loss into inspiring accomplishments.
“These overcomers understand better than most that all of our futures are interconnected,” said Lidia. “Now more than ever, we need each other to survive and thrive. In Lidia Celebrates America: Overcoming the Odds, it was a special gift to me to be able to thank them all for their incredible resilience and their service to their communities.”
“Lidia Celebrates America is all about how food bonds us and helps to build community,” says Laurie Donnelly, GBH Executive Producer. “In Overcoming the Odds, Lidia crisscrosses the country meeting Americans from all walks of life who embody what it means to truly triumph over adversity. In these challenging times, their stories can inspire us all.”
Throughout the special, Lidia shares these inspirational stories, including a wrongly convicted man who became a lawyer and advocates for the underserved after spending nearly a decade in prison; a paralyzed NYC restaurant owner who opened a barrier-free restaurant and launched a nonprofit that supports and empowers people with disabilities; and a group of veterans who help people affected by natural disasters — and their story about helping a local family in Houston, TX that lost their home due to Hurricane Harvey. Profiled in Lidia Celebrates America: Overcoming the Odds:
Convicted of a crime that he did not commit and sentenced to 28 years in a maximum-security prison Jarrett Adams (Los Angeles, CA) served nearly 10 years before being exonerated. Adams used the injustice he endured as inspiration to become an advocate and attorney for the underserved. He is co-founder of Life After Justice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing wrongful convictions and building an ecosystem of support and empowerment for exonerees’ as they rebuild their lives.
When Tony Hillery’s (New York, NY) business fell apart during the 2008 financial crisis, he began volunteering at a school in Harlem. Shocked by what he saw, he founded Harlem Grown, an independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire youth to lead healthy and ambitious lives through mentorship and hands-on education in urban farming, sustainability, and nutrition.
Kristen Thomas (Raleigh, NC) aged out of the foster care system and had her wish granted through One Simple Wish, a nonprofit organization serving children in 49 states through a network of over 800 community partner agencies. In preparation for becoming a foster parent herself, Kristen wished for cooking classes. One Simple Wish provided those cooking classes, and Lidia supplemented them with her own personal culinary course at Kristen’s home in North Carolina.
Paralyzed in a car accident, sommelier Yannick Benjamin (New York) co-founded Wheeling Forward, a nonprofit that supports and empowers people with disabilities, as well as Wine on Wheels, a sister program that raises awareness and funds for people in the wine industry with disabilities. A longtime sommelier at the University Club of New York, Benjamin is currently focused on Contento, a restaurant in East Harlem designed to be barrier-free for those with disabilities.
Jake Wood (Los Angeles) spent four years of service in Iraq and Afghanistan as a combat sniper in the marines. Back from the war, he felt lost without a clear mission and purpose. When he heard about the devastating earthquake in Haiti, he organized a team of veterans, including fellow marine and close friend Clay Hunt, to fly down to help. Shortly after, Hunt took his own life. It was at that moment when Wood’s mission became clear: he would help veterans redefine their purpose and support their transition back to civilian life. He co-founded Team Rubicon, a non-profit that has today supplied thousands of volunteers and donated over a billion hours of service in hundreds of disaster zones around the world. In Lidia Celebrates America, the team comes to the rescue of Maria and Marco Peña to help them rebuild their Houston home that had been destroyed by the devasting floodwaters associated with Hurricane Harvey two years prior. Lidia connects with the family and talks about what it’s like losing your home, a feeling she experienced, viewers learn, when she entered a refugee camp in Trieste, Italy at the age of ten.
As with her other specials, Lidia Celebrates America: Overcoming the Odds culminates with a gesture of food – a gathering of some of the people she has visited with along the journey. For the taping, Lidia took over Contento, Yannick Benjamin’s restaurant profiled in the special, and she prepared dishes in honor of the men and women she met. Dishes included Chopped Salad with Frisee and Fennel inspired by Harlem Grown, Baked Rigatoni and Zucchini inspired by Jarrett Adams, and desserts honoring Lidia’s story, including Italian favorites including Babas Infused with Limoncello, and Tiramisu.
Lidia Celebrates America: Overcoming the Odds premieres on December 14, 2021, on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings).
LIDIA CELEBRATES AMERICA is a lively exploration of the rich diversity of cultures across the United States, and the vibrant ethnic and religious customs and traditions observed by various groups—in which food is a common denominator that connects all human beings. Previous programs have focused on the different ways Americans celebrate weddings, holiday traditions, independence, and life’s milestones. The most recent specials pay tribute to America’s heartland and the charming rural communities that also hold thriving new immigrant communities. Two specials have earned special distinction, winning the prestigious James Beard Award. Both programs honor U.S. troops by celebrating the ways in which veteran farmers continue to give back to our country. For more program information, visit the website pbs.org/lidiacelebratesamerica. To view recipes featured in the series, go to PBS Food: pbs.org/food. Lidia Celebrates America series DVDs, Best of Lidia: Pastas DVD, Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine cookbook and more are available at shoppbs.org. Every purchase supports PBS.
Lidia Bastianich is an Emmy award-winning public television host, a best‐selling cookbook author, restaurateur, and owner of a flourishing food and entertainment business. She is the owner of Becco in New York City and Lidia’s in Kansas City. She is also a partner in Eataly, with locations in New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Toronto, and Sao Paolo, Brazil. Together with Tanya and son-in-law Corrado, Lidia also has developed a line of artisanal pasta and all-natural sauces, LIDIA’S, which are sold at fine food stores nationwide. Lidia has authored over a dozen books, with her most recent being her memoir, My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food, and her newly released cookbook, Lidia’s a Pot, a Pan, and a Bowl: Simple Recipes for Perfect Meals. Lidia is a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier and a founding member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, two non-profit organizations of women leaders in the food and hospitality industries. She is also a champion for the United Nations Association of the United States of America’s Adopt-A-Future program, in support of refugee education. Among the numerous awards and accolades, Lidia has earned are seven James Beard Awards (Outstanding Chef, Television Food Show, Best Chefs in America, Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, Specials 2016, Special 2017, and 2018), and two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Culinary Host (2013 and 2018).
Founded by Lidia Bastianich, Tavola Productions, an entertainment company that produces award-winning broadcast productions of quality, including Lidia’s Kitchen, Lidia’s Family Table, Lidia’s Italy, and Lidia’s Italy in America.
GBH is the leading multiplatform creator for public media in America. As the largest producer of content for PBS and partner to NPR and PRX, GBH delivers compelling experiences, stories, and information to audiences wherever they are. GBH produces digital and broadcast programming that engages illuminates and inspires, through drama and science, history, arts, culture, and journalism. It is the creator of such signature programs as MASTERPIECE, ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, FRONTLINE, NOVA, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, Arthur and Molly of Denali and a catalog of streaming series, podcasts, and on-demand video. GBH’s television channels include GBH 2, GBH 44, GBH Kids, and national services WORLD and Create. With studios and a newsroom headquartered in Boston, GBH reaches across New England with GBH 89.7, Boston’s Local NPR; CRB Classical 99.5; and CAI, the Cape, and Islands NPR station. Dedicated to making media accessible to and inclusive of our diverse culture, GBH is a pioneer in delivering media to those who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, and visually impaired. GBH creates curriculum-based digital content for educators nationwide with PBS LearningMedia and has been recognized with hundreds of the nation’s premier broadcast, digital, and journalism awards. Find more information at gbh.org.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally managed and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television, and related online services. For more information, visit cpb.org
Photo credit: Harlem Grown.