Padma Lakshmi may be witness to a host of cuisines and cooking styles in the US, but she still credits a childhood in Kerala for her sustained culinary interest over the years. The actor-model-author has been the host of Emmy-winning reality TV show, Top Chef, for seven seasons, and is currently shooting for the eighth.
Recalling her most impactful brush with food, she says, “When I was young, I would spend a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandmother. Everything she did — the way she made her masalas, mixed her pickles — it really created an impression on me.”
Padma believes she’s qualified to host the show, simply because of her fondness for food. “I love Mexican, Thai, Moroccan and Indian food the most. I don’t want to eat the same thing all the time, so every day is a new discovery for me. Whenever I see someone putting in effort, love and enthusiasm to prepare food, it really makes a difference,” she says.
Meanwhile, she’s starting working on her third cookbook after the first two were well received, but she doesn’t have a plan for it: “I’m taking my time because I tend not to write unless I really have something to say. I just go to my computer and start typing or go to the kitchen to experiment. We’ll see what comes out organically.”
In the wake of Mumbai-born Floyd Cardoz winning Top Chef Masters (a spin off of her show) by creating upma, Padma reaffirms the popularity of Indian cuisine in the west. “It’s one of the trendy cuisines here, and people like Floyd are part of the reason why. There’s a lot more awareness about spices. Also, with so many people turning vegetarian, Indian food caters very well to their palate,” she claims.
Top Chef, which was a surprise Emmy award winner last year for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program, has been nominated again this year, and the host has her fingers crossed. She’s also excited about the seventh season of the show, which is currently aired on AXN. “We have a great mix of politicians and ethnic minorities like Ethiopians. There’s a great look into southern and regional American cooking. Besides, this season was shot after the birth of my baby, so I look very different,” she smiles.