Joe Bastianich Reveals What's On The Menu At His New LA Restaurant — And It's Not What We Expected - Exclusive Interview

While you might initially recognize Joe Bastianich as one of the toughest judges on Fox's "MasterChef" with host Gordon Ramsay, he has various interests and talents. Entrepreneurial by nature, Bastianich has built a restaurant empire, owning 30 eateries globally including in the U.S. and Singapore. If that weren't impressive enough, he also has his own wine label, he has written several books, and he sings and plays the guitar. He told us in an exclusive interview that his musical hobby ultimately led him to agree to be on "The Masked Singer" this season.

Bastianich made his debut on the hit show on March 20 for Billy Joel night as the intricately adorned "Spaghetti & Meatballs." The judges on the series, Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, Robin Thicke, and Rita Ora, were moved by the chef's vocals as he sang the Joel classic "Only the Good Die Young." However, Bastianich had some stiff competition with the other competitors that night and was ultimately sent home in the elimination battle.

We spoke with Bastianich about the whole experience, from the costumes to the performances, and what fans can expect to see on the new season of "MasterChef" that airs on May 29. He also revealed what foodies can look forward to eating at his newest restaurant with Nancy Silverton.

What it was like on the set of 'The Masked Singer'

First, the obvious question: It's Billy Joel night. You're Joe Bastianich. As much we love "Only the Good Die Young," how can you not go with "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant?"

Well, because we tried it and "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" is really like a suite of music. It's five songs put together. Very complicated to get into the time, so we couldn't do it justice, so we went with "Only the Good Die Young."

​​As fellow New Yorkers, musicians, and Italian food fans, have you ever had a run-in with Billy Joel?

I actually know Billy Joel, I mean, we grew up with the music, but he's a customer of the restaurants. He comes before the Madison Square Garden shows, so I can't wait to hear back from him on what he thought of my performance. Looking forward to that feedback.

Out of all your famous musician friends, who's the most talented in the kitchen?

You know who's a really good cook is David Grohl. He's a super foodie and likes to cook his pasta and he actually knows what he's doing.

What ultimately inspired you to be on "The Masked Singer" this season?

Well, look, I'm a singer and a songwriter, so ask a singer to sing and they sing, so you take the opportunity. It's a great stage. Love to get my music out there, have people see what I do, and so why not? All in the Fox family.

Are you excited to be performing some of your own new music this year?

Yeah, absolutely. We have a new Christmas album coming out and will be on tour in some of the summer festivals in Europe this summer, so always doing the music thing. It's great to get the word out about it.

How hard was it keeping a secret from everyone that you were on "The Masked Singer?"

Very difficult because something you take to heart, you want to tell it to everybody, but we kept it under wraps. Fox and the whole "The Masked Singer" production team are amazing. No one knows anything. I don't know who the other singers are, so it's really an incredible thing. It's an incredible thing they do keeping everything so top secret.

Wow, I didn't realize you didn't know who the other singers were either.

No, not a clue.

What was it like performing in your elaborate "Spaghetti & Meatballs" costume? I have to imagine that's very heavy.

Challenging. The head weighed 20 pounds, about three feet wide. I do sing a lot, but singing and dancing is not something that I do every day, so that was challenging. But look, once the moment comes and you're on that stage you got to make the best of it. So you try to own the moment with all the challenges I did the best I could.

Did you have any input into what your costume looked like?

We negotiated a little bit. I wanted to be a slice of pizza, but we had some technical problems with that, so we went with "Spaghetti & Meatballs."

What are your best spaghetti and meatball tips?

For the meatballs, you've got to use veal, pork, beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, and garlic. You've got to get a nice crisp on them when you sear them in the pan. They've got a stew in the tomato sauce for a couple of hours and it's just about patience and timing.

What fans can expect from this season of 'MasterChef' and his new Korean-Italian pasta restaurant

Of course, you'll be back on Fox in May for "MasterChef," what can fans expect for the new season?

Great season. We're doing generations. So "MasterChef" really chronicles the evolution of foodie-ism in America for the last 15 years. This time we break it down to millennials, baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Z, and you really kind of see the last 50 years of food, the trends, the references to ingredients, but it's a really intelligent, smart, entertaining season of "MasterChef." So we're really pleased and proud of it.

That sounds interesting. Is there anything else fans can expect to see this season that's different or unique?

I mean, the challenges always change. You're going to have people who are 70 years old cooking against people who are 19 years old, so you can imagine the difference in their approach to food. So it's shocking, enlightening, entertaining, everything all at once.

Nancy Silverton recently announced that the two of you'll be collaborating on a pasta bar in L.A.'s Koreatown. What was the inspiration behind the restaurant and how's it going to be different than the other spots you've opened with her?

We have some Korean friends who have this location and who are our partners. We're going to put a little bit of a K-Pop Korean twist on a classic Italian pasta bar and Nancy's super excited. Our executive chef Liz Hong, she's Korean by ethnicity, her parents own Park Barbecue in L.A., so that's a classic institution. So, it's going to be really exciting to get a bit of a mashup between Korean and Italian pasta culture. It's going to be fun.

What are some signature dishes you'll have on the menu?

Still working on it. There'll be kimchi, there'll be barbecued short ribs mixed with some classic ravioli. You'll see. It's the best of both worlds put together.

How he celebrated Easter with his culinary legend mom Lidia Bastianich and his recent food travels

Easter is in a couple of weeks. How did you celebrate the holiday as a family growing up?

Easter was a big one in our Italian Catholic family. It's as big as Christmas, so it's all about eating. It's about spit roasting a lamb out in the yard and then having the priest over to the house saying mass in the kitchen, grandma cooking pasta. A lot of tradition, a lot of food.

Did you help your mom in the kitchen for the holiday?

Everyone helps mom cook in this. Who does the grill? Who makes the pasta? Who washes the dishes? Everyone's got to be on board because it's an immense project. That cooking day is a lot of cooking, so everyone has to help.

What are some dishes that your family enjoyed eating on Easter?

We would eat krafi, which are like sweet ravioli filled with ricotta, and done in a butter sauce with orange rinds. We would have definitely some seafood, baccala, which is a codfish kind of tuna style. We would definitely have grilled octopus. And then we'd have lamb, spit-roasted lamb, roasted potatoes, pretty classic Italian Easter stuff.

That sounds really good. I saw on Instagram that you were recently in Japan. What were some of the food highlights for you there?

Japan is next-level foodism. The Japanese are obsessed. Everything they do, even like Italian food in Japan is awesome because they're so disciplined and detail-oriented. Such great food. They don't fool around. When they do something, they do it right. So I love everything about Japan. It's an amazing place.

I love the broths. Any kind of soup. I'm a big soup eater. We ate a lot of soup in my family. So anything brothy, starting with ramen, but anything brothy, noodly, steamed. Love it all.

Were there any specific restaurants that you liked in Japan?

I like the markets. Some of the street food in Japan is amazing. We ate some great Kobe beef. We went to Kyoto and ate Italian food. It was all amazing. Japan's just an incredible place. Great people.

Do you have any other projects coming up you'd like to tell us about?

We'll be on tour with the band in Europe, doing a lot of the festivals. You can check my music out on Spotify, and looking forward to the next season of "MasterChef."

Watch "The Masked Singer" on Fox Wednesdays at 8 p.m./7 Central.

This interview has been edited for clarity.