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What’s cooking on TLN this season: fun, food and Lidia Bastianich

Today's epistle encourages you to watch some cooking shows on Telelatino (TLN). One involves the great Lidia Bastianich and the other features a certain Kylie Flavell.

Main reason for this is an encounter last week with one of the two, who declared, first, "This type of television is the ultimate in escapism." And then, "I made a show to inspire people to leave their partner, quit their job and go to Italy." The speaker was Flavell and in the second declaration she was joking, but only sort-of joking.

This columnist doesn't get out much during daylight hours. A creature of the night, which explains the crankiness. Mind you, an invitation to a lunchtime thing hosted by TLN, as happened last week, is irresistible. Why? Well, boys and girls, TLN is pretty much defined by four words – passion, fun, food and soccer. That's me. I'm there.

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A TLN event is not in the same category as a CBC or CTV shindig. Heavens no. The food is excellent, the people are exceptionally well-dressed, chic and unafraid to eat. Also, they know loads of stuff about soccer, which I always find reassuring.

The point of everything was to introduce some TLN shows and personalities. The highlight was Flavell interviewing Lidia Bastianich. My, that was good.

But a word about Kylie Flavell, the next big thing, I'd say. To call her "bubbly" is an epic understatement. Flavell's story is that she was toiling as a superbusy, supersuccessful magazine editor in Australia when she gave it all up, including her boyfriend, to run away to Italy and live "la dolce vita." Cursory research reveals this isn't quite true. In 2007 Flavell was writing for Australian papers that she'd run away to Spain, not Italy, to find adventure. She was anchored down in Barcelona and loving it all. Presumably she broke up with Barcelona as she broke up with her boyfriend, and ditched it for Rome.

It's Rome's gain and ours. Flavell's When In Rome vignettes for TLN are pretty much the sexiest things on TV. Her encounters with Italian chaps are as delicious as the food she extols. In one vignette she enters the kitchen of a famous pizza joint and gets busy with the dough. There are air kisses with the young, stunned, male pizza maker in charge and he apologizes for being sweaty. Yes, it's really, really hot in there, and no, we're not talking about the pizza oven.

Flavell's new project is now airing here. When Patrick Met Kylie: An Italian Food Love Affair (Saturdays, Sundays, 7:30 p.m. on TLN) is, as Flavell told us, a romantic comedy of sorts. The sort of romcom that people don't believe could ever happen in real life. But this one did. The backstory is that Flavell was about to do a TV cooking show, travelling round Italy, when fate intervened. She came across a blog online, that of an English lawyer, Patrick Drake, whose real passion was Italian food. On an impulse she e-mailed him, "Do you want to be in a TV show?" She just invited him to be part of the show. And dear readers, they are now a couple. In love and everything.

You see, he did indeed go to Italy and the result is When Patrick Met Kylie, this charming, goofy show in which the pair travel Italy from city to village, meet the locals and then prepare them a homemade meal.

As with Flavell's story of fleeing to Italy for "la dolce vita," the story behind When Patrick Met Kylie isn't quite as told by Flavell. When Flavell contacted him, Drake had already abandoned his career at Goldman Sachs, he'd cooked at the top British restaurant the Fat Duck and was heading up a very successful food delivery company called Hello Fresh. He had told the Financial Times, "I have long wanted to have my own cookery show on television."

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I'm telling you these details because it's easy to get sucked into the fun and romance. But who cares about the details? The show is indeed a triumph of escapism. And that's what a lot of TV is meant to be.

Eventually, Flavell interviewed Lidia Bastianich. She gushed. We all did. Bastianich is an impressive figure – articulate, thoughtful and doesn't rely on buzzwords and phrases. She's got a food empire and an Emmy for Lidia's Italy (Sundays, 3 p.m. on TLN). And listen, whether you go for Lidia Bastianich's quiet, thoughtful cooking or you go for the bubbly Kylie Flavell, it's all good – passion, fun and food. The soccer you can just imagine into the cooking shows, as I do. Enjoy.

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