Greetings reddit. Padma Lakshmi here. I am an author, host of Bravo's Top Chef, and have a new web series called "Padma's Picks". I'm looking forward to taking your questions so AMAA!


guys, I wish I could stay all day and answer these questions. It has been so much fun getting to talk to you all directly in an unfiltered way. I thank you for your interest and support. And don't forget to watch Padma's Picks online! It just went live now - and if you like the show, please tell Bravo because I want them to extend it into its own series so I can travel and do all that stuff I don't get to do within Top Chef.

Thanks everyone!

Comments: 198 • Responses: 30  • Date: 

potdecreme36 karma

Hi Padma! In season 3 when CJ gets eliminated, you seem to have a really strong reaction to admitting that he was the one who has to "pack his knives and go." You look especially sad at having to deliver the news.

Was that scene just randomly edited to make you seem extra upset, or did you actually like CJ that much more than other contestants? Thanks!

PadmaLakshmi49 karma

First of all, I was genuinely upset, but I am really upset most of the time. I loved CJ, and he is definitely someone who stands out across the seasons, but telling a chef to pack their knives is the worst part of my job.

I am the person who spends the most time with the chefs. I am in the kitchen with them every single day. And I know how hard they work, and I can see how passionate they are about being the best that they can be.

And to leave your family and friends and your work, and take that personal and professional battle on with cameras rolling and millions of people watching you is just plain hard sometimes. It's as wonderful when you do well as it is awful when you don't. And I physically feel that pain along with them. I can't help it, I never had much of a poker face.

vnkatesh25 karma

Happy (Indian) Independence Day! How are you celebrating?

PadmaLakshmi31 karma

Thank you! That's right, it is Indian Independence Day. I went boxing this morning, made pickles and hot peppers with my daughter, and I am celebrating with all of you guys! And then tonight, I will also be on Watch What Happens Live so you can tune in there to celebrate some more with me.

allknowingshah24 karma

As I fellow Indian, I have to ask this.

How have you found your heritage shaping how you approach food.

PadmaLakshmi45 karma

I am positive that my Indian background totally influences how I think about food, from when I was very young in my grandmother's kitchen in India, to today. I'm really thankful for my Indian heritage because I believe it gave me an extensive understanding of spices and how to make food tasty without necessarily adding a lot of fat. Because much of Indian cuisine is indeed vegetarian, it's also easier for me to eat in a more conscientious way without feeling deprived. Once you understand how to mix and blend spices, most of the hard work is just chopping and cooking time. And by the way, Happy Independence Day!

Frajer19 karma

What was it like doing 30 Rock?

PadmaLakshmi31 karma

Doing 30 Rock was a lot of fun. It had been a few years since I had done my last acting gig, so I was pretty nervous. Even though I was supposed to be playing a campy version of myself!

Alec Baldwin was so kind and generous and patient with me that the whole experience was wonderful.

viabobed16 karma

Hello Padma, have you been casted on any shows or movies as a result of your time on Top Chef?

You are, in my opinion, the prettiest woman I have ever seen on television and I was wondering if Hollywood has noticed.

Not going to lie I also admire how cool and collected your personality is, unlike most host.

Thank you!

PadmaLakshmi34 karma

Wow! Well thank YOU. I don't know what to say. Listen, I'm out there, so whomever wants to notice can notice, but I'm really happy with my work as it stands right now. But always nice to be called good looking. Oh and happy cake day! Have a piece for me.

spaghetti_spaghetti16 karma

Hi Padma! Are there any pranks that happen on set? I feel like you and Gail could easily gang up on Tom off camera.

PS. Will you please mention to the producers to have Aziz Ansari as a guest judge on the show with his Food Club? I think it would make great for ratings and hilarity. TREAT YO SELF Top Chef style.

PadmaLakshmi33 karma

The truth is we don't have time for that many pranks because although we film the show ahead of time, it's shot pretty much like a live show. However during the finale when we were in Singapore, my hairdresser and I did play a prank on the producers. We did my hair back, but left the front bangs gelled up, Something About Mary style. I basically looked like Woody Woodpecker on a bad day. And Michelle called from the car and whispered to the producers that I insisted on having my hair done in this really horrendous way because I had seen something like it in Italian Vogue, and she was giving them the head's up because I was being really sensitive about it. And so we got to set with a total straight face and walked through the whole crew (lighting, sound, culinary department) and it was amazing how polite everyone was being with me until I got to the control room, where they tried to talk me gently down of the hairdo. They were going on and on and getting pretty nervous (and Michelle and i knew we could comb it out really fast) and it was really funny when they found out that I was not crazy but was rather playing a prank on them.

We always joke about what we are going to wear at each challenge - because other than my or Gail's wardrobe, it's pretty much men in suits and chef's coats. So we try to jazz it up a little bit.

PadmaLakshmi36 karma

PS: Aziz and I are friends and we have tried to get him on the show for a while. It's a mutual admiration society. And of course, he is South Indian too. But scheduling, scheduling, scheduling...

insertpenishere1714 karma

Who has been your favorite chef from all the top chef seasons?

PadmaLakshmi48 karma

That's a hard one, but if I had to pick just one it would be Kevin Gillespie from Season 5. I love his attitude about food, but also how evocative he is when he speaks about food. So much of Kevin's laconic poetry wound up on the cutting room floor because we just didn't have time for all of it at the Judge's Table. But he's just so articulate, and soulful. And that's just when he's talking about food, so you can imagine how delicious his food is when he actually cooks!

Other_Annie13 karma

What has been your favourite or most memorable quickfire challenge and why? Thanks for the AMA!

PadmaLakshmi36 karma

There was a quickfire once that was really like a gameshow where each chef had to identify a spice or ingredient blindfolded, and whomever had the most points won. That was really fun, and I think it highlighted something that I don't think we often address on the show, which is an actual knowledge and education about ingredients that are out there. A good chef can smell or taste or feel their way through a myriad of ingredients, and both knowledge as well as palate played a pivotal role in that quickfire.

AND it was really fun.

bad_wolff13 karma

I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about a reddit AMA—I’ve been watching Top Chef since season 1. This is the culmination of so many years of my life.

  • If you had to base an entire season of Top Chef around one food item, what would you pick?

  • What challenge over the past 10 seasons produced the best food all-in-all (not just the best plate from one contestant)?

  • Which contestant would you say most deserved to win based on their full season’s work who didn’t end up winning the finale?

  • Top Chef is one of the first TV shows to include an internet-only component. How did the producers decide that that was something they wanted to add to the show? Do you think that has been successful so far, and do you see that as a trend that more and more shows will start to incorporate?

  • Does anyone actually know what happened with Ed’s pea puree in season 7, or is that a secret Alex Reznik will take with him to the grave?

Thank you so much, Padma! Most exciting moment of my television-related life.

PadmaLakshmi16 karma

For question one................................................(that silence is me still thinking about it)

Question two is easy; the Fairytale episode with Charlize Theron in San Antonio. It just brought out the imagination of all of the chefs'. It was wonderful to see each of the chefs really tell a story. You could taste the narrative on each of their plates. And I will never forget when Paul Qui served the plate with the bloody handprint, or the black chicken that someone else served.

Three: I can't answer that, because they only deserve to win if they win. The best team does not always win the World Series... the way our contest works is that the chef that makes the best dish on any given day advances and so there is only one left standing.

Four: I think that Bravo's been incredibly successful with doing extensions of Top Chef, and Top Chef Masters. I know for a lot of people, watching TV is not always feasible and so they get their content online. And this kind of content is also a place for fans to get additional material while they are waiting for the next episode or fix. I hope that everybody loves Padma's Picks ( as much as I loved doing the show. I really meant for Padma's Picks to be a love letter to New Orleans and to highlight some of the upcoming talent and the next generation of cooks that are out there.

Fifth question: There was no pea puree debacle! Nobody stole anybody's pea puree. I don't know what all the fuss was about. If it did, we would have heard about it and we would have dealt with it accordingly and fairly.

Thank you so much for being such a superfan and for tuning in. For what it's worth, I've never been as terrorized over an interview before because I can barely eke out my emails! And every time I send out a tweet I am super nervous I will push out the wrong button and put something out there that I'm not supposed to.

catcafe10 karma

Hi Padma! Top Chef is one of my favorite TV shows, and every week during the season my good friend and I get together to cook and watch it.

We were wondering, though, if you pick your own clothes or if you have a stylist for each episode?

Thanks, hope you're having a great day!

PadmaLakshmi21 karma

I do indeed pick out my own clothes.

There is a brilliant gentleman by the name of Albert Mendonca who does the shopping for me: he helps mix clothes from my own wardrobe as well.

Thank you guys for watching!

strings_struck9 karma

Hi Padma! I'm a huge Top Chef fan. Being from New Orleans myself, I have to ask what has been your favorite city to shoot in so far out of all the seasons of Top Chef?

PadmaLakshmi28 karma

You know, I have to say I love New Orleans. It was really the most fun city we've shot on. Texas was hard for me because we had to move around across the state. We had to be nomadic, moving every two weeks. It was really tiring for all of us. I love the quality of life I had in Seattle as well as the food, but New Orleans had the best of everything. It had great food, and great music, and also it was really child-friendly. Most people don't think of New Orleans as being child-friendly because everyone thinks of it as being a place to listen to live music late at night, but we had a ball. MY mom came to stay with us, and we went to the Aquarium and the Children's Museum several times. We also went to the Imax and the Zoo and to the Wild Animal Park by John Besh's house. And I never go out that much when I'm working because my hours are so crazy, but I probably went out more in New Orleans than in any other city I've ever filmed. And I love that there is no pretense. I went to music halls where there were skater dudes, and college girls, and middle-aged couples, and a few grandmas dancing, and everyone was having a good time.

iwanttofork8 karma

What advice would you like to share with redditors?

PadmaLakshmi26 karma

The best cooking advice I can give is to start simple and then build on your success from there. The family that cooks together eats better, is healthier, and is closer emotionally too to each other. And cooking with your family can be something as simple as making scrambled eggs, steaming some rice, and sauteeing some green beans in butter and garlic. That's a very nutritious meal that can be made fresh and easy and enjoyed by everyone. And just the act of breaking the ends off of green beans with your four year old, or watching your husband's biceps as he scrambles the eggs, or being patient enough to watch the rice steam for twenty-four and one-half minutes is really important to experience.

The healthiest thing you can do for everyone's diet is to eat at home. Everyone from Michael Pollan to Lidia Bastianich will tell you the same thing.

rae0fsun8 karma

Hey Padma! Thanks for doing an AMA today. My big question: Do you have any amazing (secret or not) family recipes that you love to make? Do you yourself cook on a regular basis and if so what is that you create? Thanks!

PadmaLakshmi19 karma

Oh my gosh, yes! I cook almost every day, and I have many family recipes, too many to list or give you the recipes here. BUT (and excuse me for being a little bit pluggy) my last book, Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet has over 150 recipes of just the sort that you are asking about. I generally each much differently at home than I do on Top Chef. We eat mostly a plant-based diet at home. That is very Indian of course, with lots of lentils, beans, veggies and rice.

Did you have any kind of recipe you wanted in particular?

HighGuy927 karma

I don't know about him/her, but I would love to know what your favorite curry is to make at home?

PadmaLakshmi26 karma

That's a hard one, but my simplest curry is really just made with mirepoix, some protein, and coconut milk. There's a South Indian dish called Meean Moilee. Literally translated it means Fish for Molly. And it is a gentle version of an Indian curry that we believe was first made for an English woman during colonial times called Molly, who didn't like spicy food. It's basically a simple fish stew but the fiery curry powder is tempered by the addition of coconut milk. It's a nice dish to make for the whole family. It's a Keralan dish from the very deep South of India.

jennjaytea8 karma

If you had to survive on one thing,eat only that one thing for the rest of your life.... what would it be?

PadmaLakshmi46 karma

Fried chicken.

atlasgenius7 karma

What's your workout routine? You obviously have to eat a LOT as part of your job, and I don't have to tell you that you are in incredible shape. Do tell!

PadmaLakshmi23 karma

Oh my god, it's really hard to maintain my figure while doing what I do for a living. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I've been boxing for ten years. I also skip rope, run up and down emergency stairs, and lift old school weights at the Musclehead Gym. Even doing 20 pushups, 20 situps and 100 jumping jacks twice a day will improve your life significantly.

kjs45d6 karma

PADMA! You are the most beautiful and inspirational woman on television and I love that you never shy away from showing the scar on your arm. I have a large scar on my leg and you inspire me to not hide it or be embarrassed. So THANK YOU! If you ever want to get cocktails in Amsterdam, let me know! p.s. my mom loves you too!

PadmaLakshmi15 karma

Thank you so much, I am very flattered. I didn't set out to be an inspiration because of my scar, and it took me a few years to get to the place where I was comfortable with all of my body, really. I was 14 when I first got the scar and it's a tender, awkward time for any girl. So I'm very pleased and honored if it helps you or others in any way. And I've only been to Amsterdam once, for the Book Ball. And I LOVED it. I may just take you up on that offer! P.s. say hi to your mom.

matyrice6 karma

Filming question. Some of the challenges seem to go all day, especially if groups of chefs are cooking in a staggered format. How long do the judges sit there between meals, and how do you stay hungry with all that food? I imagine it would be difficult to clean your plate with each entree.

PadmaLakshmi11 karma

I don't often clean my plate, or at least I try not to. Some of the challenges do go on all day, so sometimes we will leave and then come back when the time is almost up. And I do try to time my eating so that I am hungry when the chefs are serving their food, because I want the contestants to have the full audience of my hunger. But it doesn't always work out, because we are still a television show. There is a lot of waiting around and hurrying up!

Peirol6 karma

First Post :D I'm a huge fan <3

  1. What’s the strangest/most exotic/weirdest thing you've ever eaten?

  2. If you could have any living/dead famous person over for dinner, who would you invite?

PadmaLakshmi8 karma

Where do I start? Well, years ago I did a documentary series called Planet Food in Spain where I had to eat some bull's testicles. And I can safely say I'm not a fan. In fact, it's funny because sometimes early on in each season of Top Chef, there is always that Fear Factor episode where I just cringe and plug my nose through it because I'm not naturally very carnivorous. Actually my new series that just went live right now called Padma's Picks was partly inspired by my work on Planet Food, so do enjoy watching it.

It would be Richard Pryor, because I think that humor is the best dinner companion, and he was very funny. But it's hard to pick just one! I would love Mohammed Ali, and Dorothy Parker, and Lenny Bruce, and Mae West, and Cleopatra, Elvis and Einstein. Among many others. But I like smaller dinner parties so 8 is good.

totes-muh-gotes5 karma

Hi Padma! Looking back over your eclectic career, is there a project(s) that really stand out fondly in your memory?

PadmaLakshmi18 karma

Yes, it's been quite an interesting career thus far. I would say that the project that I am most proud of other than Top Chef of course are my two books. There's more me in those pages than in anything else I've done. My writing is always extremely personal, and I come from a very specific place when writing. But beyond my professional life, what stands out most is the work that I do with my foundation, the Endometriosis Foundation of America. I'm really proud of the work that we have been able to do in the five short years since co-founding the charity with my doctor and surgeon, Dr. Tamer Seckin. We do a medical conference every year, and we do whatever we can to get the word out. I suffered for a long time (by long, I mean twenty-three years, that is over half my life) with this disease. And it's something most women don't want to talk about, but it affects every part of a woman's life, including her physical, mental and emotional self. Moreover, it affects her whole family and everyone who has contact with her. 176 Million women around the world suffer, much of them in silence. I didn't want the next generation of young women to go through what I went through.

stupiddamnbitch5 karma

Hi Padma!

Who was the most painful elimination for you? A chef you truly wanted to keep.

PadmaLakshmi10 karma

Honestly, the first season it was hard for me to let Sam go in the finale. But I was outvoted by my other judges. I still feel that, that day, Sam gave us the most original and delicious food.

I really love Ilan Hall. I think he is a wonderful chef, and he is also by the way fun company.

But at the end of the day, it's not only up to me.

Other than that, I must say that I stand by the decisions that we judges collectively have made throughout and across the seasons. I can't really look back and say "Oh, we let the wrong person go." As much as we may or may not have liked that chef personally.

potdecreme4 karma

Do you buy your own groceries, and do you shop at Whole Foods like the Top Chef contestants do?

PadmaLakshmi17 karma

Yes, I do buy my own groceries. I am a dawdler. By that I mean that I go slowly from lane to lane, and I peruse every label from bottom to top. I do shop at Whole Foods, but I shop at a lot of places. I buy my seafood from a place called Wild Edibles in the city, or I like the farmer's market: there's a farmer's market near me. I think the guy is called Pura Vida in the East Village. I buy all my spices at Kalustyan's which is located at 123 Lexington Avenue in New York City. The reason I know the address by heart is because I have literally grown up between their stacks. I first went there when I was four years old, and I continue to go there all the time.

But I also love the Essex Street Market. There's a great cheese shop in there, where I also get my olive oil from a big barrel - I take washed out empty wine bottles and stick them under the spout and fill 'em up. And they have a really good butcher there called Heritage Butchers. In fact, I got my Christmas Turkey from there last year.

freshcutgrass3 karma

Favorite Brooklyn spots? Oh and could you please tell me to pack my knives and go?

PadmaLakshmi15 karma

I love the beautiful Carousel by the water, as well as Brooklyn Larder, West Elm Market, and I love Talde.

Dale Talde is also one of my favorite chefs from the show.

p.s. I never tell anyone to pack their knives and go outside of the Top Chef kitchen!

gwzluckyluc13 karma

What is the biggest sin someone can make in cooking? Also, what is a recipe everyone should know? What ingredient is not very popular but needs to be used more?

PadmaLakshmi15 karma

The biggest sin a person can make in cooking to me is not using the bounty and diversity of vegetables we have, especially right now in summer and in fall and in spring.

I think one recipe that is super easy that everyone should know is how to make their own stock. People get intimidated by it, but it's so easy. I'm always telling people to save their bones and lobster shells, and when I have enough I take them plus some regular pieces of chicken and I just boil them with sea salt, onions, ginger, bell peppers, carrots, celery and spices. And I'm sure the spices that I use you already have in your spice rack. You let it boil together softly (medium heat) for about 45 minutes. I love using juniper, whole black peppercorns, star of anise, that sad sprig of rosemary or bunch of thyme in the bottom of your crisper... put it in the stockpot. I even throw leftover grilled vegetables like fennel or turnips into the stock. It all boils down to something yummy. And then just drain it, and when it cools you can keep it in your fridge or freeze it in individual containers to use. It's so easy to make. Store-bought stock is never going to be that yummy. And that yumminess will bleed into everything you make with that stock, and make ALL your food better.

There are lots of lesser-known ingredients. It's not as much an ingredient, but water. Water is something that people don't think that you can use in lieu of fat. But you can poach in water and a few spices - like bay leaves, peppercorns, and a few other spices that you probably have in the back of your cabinet - you can poach fish, chicken, anything. There is nothing wrong with using an inch of water and it tastes really good. And add salt. That is the best way to make chicken that you can use in salads, soups, other baked dishes or whatever. We've forgotten and gotten all fancy, but sometimes the simplest method is not only the quickest and best for you, but it's also the yummiest.

BadVogonPoet3 karma

Is there a chef (pro or just starting out) that you haven't worked with? Why do you want to work with that person?

PadmaLakshmi14 karma

Two people spring to mind immediately, both very very pro. First and foremost, Alice Waters. Alice more than anyone else I believe has inspired our modern attitudes about food. About eating fresh, about eating local, about all of it. Her work in and out of the kitchen is truly remarkable, and what she has achieved with Chez Panisse since the '70s is incredible. She is certainly the modern inheritor of M.F.K. Fisher's mantle.

The second person is actually someone who has burst on the scene out of Europe: René Redzepi of NOMA in Copenhagen. Probably made me the single most delicious and intriguing restaurant meal I've had to date. He served a simple seven-course meal that was basically a sonnet about a boy who loved the woods. Everything from the Swedish Butter to the Wood Sorrel that was foraged around the forests outside of Copenhagen were sublime. It is an extremely precise and eloquent example of the fact that the best food tells us stories of who we are.

Tell me how a man eats, and I will tell you how that man lives.

GigantePotatoHead2 karma

Thanks for doing this, Padma! Big fan of your work and the show.

One question: What's the best dish you've ever had on Top Chef?

PadmaLakshmi18 karma

Actually, Ilan Hall made the best dish I've ever had on Top Chef. It was in the last episode in California, we went to Santa Barbara with Eric Ripert. Ilan made a beautiful spanish dish with noodles and seafood called Sedillos Con Chorizo.

It was divine. It's this beautiful baked bubbly dish with clams and spicy chorizo, and it was so good I finished my whole portion and half of Eric's portion. I think that was the point where I got the nicknam Padma 'are you gonna eat that' Lakshmi.

ceanders2 karma

LOVE Top Chef! My parents and brother and I all watch it in three different locations and we text during the show to talk about it. It's great.

Question, though - how do you have room for all the food you're supposed to eat and judge?

PadmaLakshmi6 karma

It's very difficult. Especially in the first half of the season, when we have so many chefs. I try to take small bites, but I am not as good at that as my fellow judges. You just have to pace yourself. That's why I celebrated Indian Independence Day by going boxing - working off the glut from NoLa!

And that's so cool that you text comment on the show!

insertpenishere172 karma

When you have celebrities and other non culinary experts as guest judges do you make them go through pallet tests? Do you take their opinion less seriously then the permanent judges?

PadmaLakshmi14 karma

We take everybody's opinions who sit in the judge's chair equally. You don't have to be a food expert to know when something is right or wrong. And there are four of us up there, and that keeps it balanced. We don't make them do any palate tests. Usually if it's a celebrity comes on, it's because they have some connection to food or they are just an extreme fan of the show. Natalie Portman separately stalked me and Tom every time we were at an event, and told us how much she loved the show, and I invited her to be on so that's how she got on the show. A couple of other people, same thing. We have some other wonderful people who would love to be on the show who we haven't had yet just because the schedules haven't worked out or whatever.

I feel like Top Chef is such a part of popular culture that it's nice when we can incorporate other figures who are also in pop culture who are also in the zeitgeist at the moment. For instance, Pee-wee Herman (who had a tv show years and years ago before anyone had the idea to do a Top Chef) was - by the way - our single most popular celebrity guest judge. Even our crew was walking around like giggly teenage girls, and some of us even dressed like him in homage. For instance, my assistant Jason Duffy not only dressed himself in a white collar shirt with a red bowtie with slicked-back hair, he dressed my daughter like that too. Lucky for him, she was at an age where she didn't have a choice in the matter.

tamammothchuk2 karma

What packaged food would you eliminate from existence in favour of a healthier, more succulent version? KD? TV Dinners? Canned stew?

PadmaLakshmi10 karma

I don't know. There is so much packaged food out there that it's hard to pick one to eliminate (hee hee hee). We don't eat many packaged foods in our home besides cereal, yogurt and milk (those are our packaged foods). But even within packaged foods, you can make healthier choices. I for example have a real weakness for potato chips. Oh my god yes. I can walk away from a pile of brownies or chocolate cake no problem, but gosh forbid I walk by one teensy potato chip that is sitting on the counter unguarded. But you can look at the list of ingredients on the packaged foods to see what's in them - Lay's are basically salt, oil and potatoes. A handful now and there are not bad. I could make my own but the entire house would smell like frying oil and I'd definitely not eat just a handful.