Padma Lakshmi is on a roll.
The Emmy-nominated food expert, television producer, host, and New York Times best-selling author is thriving with her Hulu show, Taste The Nation, entering its second season.
The star that speaks five languages says she thinks she wins at the TV chef game because she’s recognizable.
“I spend a lot of time – especially when I’m filming – making people feel comfortable,” the star, 52, told High quality living writer Laura Schreffler.
“I don’t think I’m intimidating. I mean, I try to be as warm and approachable as possible because I remember being intimidated by a lot of people growing up.”
Haute stuff: Padma Lakshmi is on a roll. The Emmy-nominated food expert, television producer, host and New York Times best-selling author is thriving on her Hulu show Taste The Nation as it enters its second season
Stellar star: The star who speaks five languages says she thinks she wins at the TV chef game because she’s recognizable
The single parent added: “I think of Top Chef, my position and my role on that show for so long made people think I was more intimidating than I am – I had to be stoic in my role – but normally I am not. .’
She has been in Top Chef since 2006. She created Taste the Nation in 2020. And now it returns for its second season on May 5.
“You know, interviewing people was a new skill for me,” she admitted.
“I mean, I’m a food writer.
“Before Taste the Nation, I could count on one hand the times I had to interview people, and that was at a literary festival or a food festival – it wasn’t for something very high stakes. It was something I had to learn on set, and I’m still learning.”
And she’s got her journalism skills down.
“I think the reason I learned (how to become an interviewer) so quickly is because I’m genuinely interested,” Lakshmi confided.
‘The whole show is made around all my different interests: history, food, people, languages, travelling. I’m genuinely curious.’
Warm Woman: “I spend a lot of time — especially when I’m filming — making people feel comfortable,” the star, 52, told Haute Living writer Laura Schreffler
Not tough: ‘I don’t think I’m intimidating. I mean, I try to be as warm and approachable as possible because I remember being intimidated by a lot of people growing up,” she added.
Lakshmi said she tried to approach each community with fresh eyes.
She wants to enter a community, learn about their food, get your questions answered, and then repeat it.
“I really wanted to tailor each episode to some aspect of an immigration issue that we can learn from,” she said.
‘For example, we address the issue of food sovereignty and sovereignty in general in (‘Ketchup or No Ketchup’).
“People don’t think of it that way, but (Puerto Rico is) the last American colony; we are the settlers of Puerto Rico.
Host time: Lakshmi said she tried to approach each community with fresh eyes
She does her job well: she wants to enter a community, learn about their food, get answers to your questions, and then repeat it
Friendly approach: “I really wanted to tailor each episode to some aspect of an immigration issue that we can learn from,” she said
“But some people think of Puerto Ricans as immigrants…and they’re not. We went to their country, you know? They are also American. And (with this show) we could talk about that, get that point across.”
She likes to highlight another country because it helps immigrants.
“I have not heard these stories told. I mean, I grew up in an immigrant community and I started working with the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in 2016 because so much vitriol came out of Washington from Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Trump and his entire campaign.
He tried to foment xenophobia and demonize immigrants.
“Those stories just weren’t true, and they didn’t reflect the immigrant communities I lived in.
“It made me so angry that I started working with the ACLU on immigrant issues, and after a while I just wanted to do something creative in my professional career that would allow me to take my advocacy and do something artistic with it so that I could showing what I meant through these people and these stories, instead of just stepping on my soap box and telling you at a speech or a gathering.”
Details: . ‘For example, we address the issue of food sovereignty and sovereignty in general in (‘Ketchup or No Ketchup’). “People don’t think of it that way, but (Puerto Rico is) the last American colony; we are the settlers of Puerto Rico’
And there is so much more to cover.
“There is a wonderful, large Vietnamese community in New Orleans. I haven’t dealt with it yet, but many other people have. So then I think, how can I cover it differently than other people? How do I make it sexy? You want to hold people’s attention, you want to entertain them, you want them to have fun, but you also want them to have some kind of takeaway.”
And she has learned so much through her show.
“I think it’s taught me that the faces of America are very varied, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less American.
“It took me a long time to feel this way. Growing up, I always felt like an outsider in America,” she said.
She was born in India and moved to the US at the age of four.
“I was like, yes, I’m American, but I’m not as American as someone who’s Euro-American, who’s white, or ‘waspy’ for lack of a better word.”
They lived in Queens, New York, before moving across the country to a mixed, mostly Mexican and Filipino neighborhood in Los Angeles.
She never felt particularly Indian.
“I always had one foot in each,” she admits.
Padma also spoke to female chefs.
Still a 10: Lakshmi at the TIME100 Gala 2023, New York this week
New Friends: Padma with Kim Kardashian and Gayle King at Lincoln Center
‘I think the profession is not conducive to family life. Cooking is a science and also an art, but it is also manual labor; you’re just standing there in a hot kitchen, and it’s physically demanding work.
“So I think it’s stopping a lot of people from getting into that workforce for an extended period of time. There are women, but then they drop out, or they don’t reach a certain level because they have to cook for their family at home,’ she explains.
“I think that every facet of our culture is ruled by patriarchy, and patriarchy is built on one group of people subjugating another group of people to maintain an unequal balance of power…because that’s how capitalism works. Capitalism and patriarchy are strongly intertwined.’
She also said that her 13-year-old daughter, Krishna Thea Lakshmi-Dell, stayed up into the wee hours to watch the Netflix series Never Have I Ever.
“Krishna and I breathed that show after a premiere of Top Chef during quarantine; we started looking at it at 11am and we finished it at 4am. We binged that show. It was so wonderful to hear a mother call her daughter ‘Kanna’ which means ‘Dear’ or ‘apple of my eye’ (in Tamil). That’s what I call Krishna, that’s what my mother called me, and I’ve never heard it on American television.’
And she spoke to compatriot Mindy Kaling.
“I think Mindy is trying to write programs for people who have never seen themselves on TV, which is why Never Have I Ever exists and why it’s so brilliant.
‘I have a great deal of admiration for her. (Likewise) I think being Indian is part of me, but it’s not all of me either.
“For example, I spent my entire twenties in Italy. So I feel very Italian too, you know?’
“Being Indian affects everything I do, from how I raise my child to how I make people take off their shoes when they come to my house – which is very Asian – to how I grease my hair every week. I just don’t wear it on my sleeve,” she says, noting, “I’m Indian, so I don’t necessarily have to make everything Indian my identity, if that makes sense.”
Her shoot was by Luke Dickey.