Jonathan Waxman Dishes On His Relationship With Joe Bastianich - Exclusive

Superstar chef Jonathan Waxman's recent guest judging stint on "MasterChef: Legends" was like a big family reunion. "I've got my culinary dad here," Aarón Sánchez gushed, who revealed the James Beard Award winner's role as a mentor in and out of the kitchen during Waxman's visit. "He plays an extremely paternal role in my life because I sadly lost my father when I was a teenager and he kind of really helped me get through some tough times."

But Sánchez isn't the only judge whose ties run deep with Waxman. He and Joe Bastianich also carry an extended history together that goes back decades. "I know Joe very well," Waxman said during an exclusive interview with Mashed. "Joe and I have a unique relationship."

One important commonality Waxman and Bastianich both share is a kinship with celebrated chef Nancy Silverton, who just so happened to have filled the "legend" role on the "MasterChef" episode prior to Waxman's. In 2007, Silverton partnered with Bastianich to launch the wildly popular Mozza restaurant franchise in Los Angeles. But before she was making a name for herself as a pizza and pasta extraordinaire, Silverton was focused on pastry at seminal Santa Monica restaurant Michael's in the early 1980s under the watchful eye of none other than head chef Waxman (via Los Angeles Magazine).

"We all have shared similar backgrounds and tastes," Waxman said of his connection with "best friend" Silverton and Bastianich. "We love Italy. We love the wine through Italy. We love everything Italian."

How Jonathan Waxman met a young Joe Bastianich

It is no surprise that Basitianich's obsession with Italian cooking is rooted in the tutelage of his mentor (and mother) Lidia Bastianich, the beloved television personality and restaurateur behind New York's famed Felidia which debuted in 1981 (via Michelin Guide). When Waxman made his move to the Big Apple three years later to open Jams, per Eater, he not only crossed paths with Bastianich, but also became acquainted with her son. "I've known Joe since he was a little kid," said Waxman. "I knew Joe, when he dressed up in a tuxedo and worked at his mom's restaurant." Apparently, Bastianich was a dapper dresser even back then.

As for Bastianich's notoriously icy demeanor on "MasterChef," Waxman acknowledged, "I think Joe likes being the stern tough guy, the person that's always asking the hard questions. With me, we just talk about wine. We talk about tennis. We talk about really just fun stuff. We have a very light-hearted relationship, and I have a really good rapport with Joe."

But perhaps the important trait that the two friends share is a mutual admiration for each other. During Waxman's appearance on "MasterChef: Legends," Bastianich remarked about the man who helped put modern California cuisine on the map, "Here's a big statement very few people can say: 50 years in the restaurant industry. Half a century."

Watch new episodes of "MasterChef: Legends" Wednesdays on Fox. And to get a taste of the genius of chef Jonathan Waxman, stop by his restaurants: Jams in New York, Adele's in Nashville, and his latest, Baffi in Atlanta.