Resolutions: Joe Bastianich on becoming the best taster you can be – don’t smoke

Joe Bastianich, restauranteur, chef, winemaker, judge, merchant of Venezia

In October, the Culinary Institute of America graduated its largest baccalaureate class ever but all you have to do is look around to see that more and more young people are pursuing serious careers in the food and wine industry.  The most ambitious invest in the best schools like the CIA or commit to years of grueling study and tasting to achieve the coveted Master Sommelier title.  To get to the top though, these young turks need every advantage they can get through perseverance, productivity and being the best tasters they can be.

Joe Bastianich is a great example of someone who is enjoying the pinnacle of success in the industry due to his highly-tuned palate.  Joe not only owns 25 wildly successful restaurants around the world, he is also a winemaker from the ground up (Friuli Venezia Giulia) and a judge in the MasterChef series in the U.S. and Italy, so he tastes constantly and well.

The turning point

But this wasn’t always the case.  Fifteen years ago he made a critical change that he contributes to his success today, and that was to quit smoking, a habit still practiced by nearly a third of his colleagues in the trade.  His motivation at the time was the birth of his first child and the desire to be there for her.  But the ancillary benefits were immediate.  “My senses of taste and smell increased tremendously after I quit smoking.  It was pretty immediate – within a few days I noticed a difference.”  Joe’s mom Lidia always told him he was a born taster, but after quitting, Joe says he not only tastes more intensely, but with more enjoyment too.

It changed my life

Because quitting cigarettes was by far the most difficult thing he’d ever done, his sense of accomplishment was a catalyst for positive change in all aspects of his personal and professional life.  He found the discipline to lose a significant amount of weight and now runs marathons and triathlons, a considerable change from when he used to lose his breath simply climbing stairs.  He feels more in-control of his life rather than being controlled by the need to have a cigarette, and has “replaced non-productive habits like smoking with productive habits like exercise.  When you are healthier, you are more productive in all facets of life.”  Joe Bastianich is living proof of that.

Joe’s tips

  • Go public.  When Joe decided to quit, he made a public declaration of his intentions – for emotional support and a little tough love.  “I told everyone who would listen.”
  • Replace the habit.  Joe knew that a big part of smoking was behavioral, so he embraced other activities – like running – to do instead.
  • Avoid temptation.  Joe figured out what his triggers to smoking were including drinking coffee and being in certain social situations, and so avoided them.
  • Treat the addiction.  NicoDerm CQ patches helped Joe stave off the physical cravings – he says it was one of the key success factors for him after trying and failing in the past to quit.