411mania Interviews: Joe Bastianich (MasterChef)
Posted by Al Norton on 08.14.2012
411's Al Norton sits down for an exclusive interview with Joe Bastianich, judge on Fox's hit series MasterChef.
Joe Bastianich is a restaurateur (including the owner of a James Beard award winning establishment) and winery owner who is in his third season as a judge on Fox's popular cooking competition show MasterChef. His memoir Restaurant Man was released this spring. MasterChef, already renewed for a fourth season, returns with new episodes tonight at 9pm .
Al Norton: Not really a question but knowing you are a huge Glee fan is going to make me smile during some of your harsher MasterChef criticisms.
Joe Bastianich: Glee is the best.
Al Norton: You hardly needed a TV gig on your resume to have your career be considered a smashing success; what drew you in?
Joe Bastianich: It seemed like a great opportunity to do something new, and I had had some very positive experiences on TV at that point. The idea of getting to see what people are doing in their kitchens at home was the draw.
Al Norton: Can you put into words what it felt like when you learned Del Posto was getting 4 stars from the NY Times?
Joe Bastianich: One of the best days of my professional life. Everyone involved worked very hard, and if you've read Restaurant Man, then you know the whole gut-wrenching back story behind making that dream a reality.
Al Norton: You've become a bit of a self-made physical marvel...how much trouble do you think the US is in when it comes to obesity and do you think restaurateurs like yourself have a responsibility to help with the cause? –
Joe Bastianich: I think we are in big trouble in this country, and everyone is responsible. Not just restaurants but the media as well. In our own way, even shows like MasterChef, given their huge platform, should really do what they can to promote healthful consumption. It's sad to think that we have generations of children who don't know any better, were never taught to value what they put into their bodies.
Al Norton: Tell me something about both Gordon and Graham that you'd only know from working with them closely.
Joe Bastianich: For breakfast, Gordon likes to put chocolate chips in his oatmeal. Graham is pretty much running out of room for new tattoos on those arms of his.
Al Norton: Your memoir Restaurant Man came out this spring; are there books that made an impression on you in your path to success?
Joe Bastianich: Born to Run by Christopher McDougal.
Al Norton: What are the biggest differences between MasterChef and MasterChef Italia?
Joe Bastianich: The level of cookery in Italy is a little higher- but each season brings out stronger contestants in America. With MC USA you also see more ethnic diversity, whereas in Italy it is about regional diversity.
Al Norton: Is it just me or is the talent on MasterChef at a significantly higher level than the first two seasons (and I mean that as a compliment toward this crew, not a knock on the previous seasons)?
Joe Bastianich: Absolutely- the first year was great- there was certainly a lot of talent there, but each season performs at a higher level. We are all very excited for Season 4, and we are planning the challenges according to our expectations.
Al Norton: Can you preview the rest of the season for me?
Joe Bastianich: It is a pretty intense and surprising last few weeks- think that's probably all I can get away with at this point.