Why Padma Lakshmi is celebrating immigrants on her upcoming Hulu show

The 'Top Chef' host on finding comfort in south Indian cuisine and bringing forth dishes representative of their culture

Updated - October 04, 2019 04:51 pm IST

Published - October 04, 2019 03:00 pm IST

TOP CHEF -- "A Little Place Called Aspen" Episode 1513 -- Pictured: Padma Lakshmi -- (Photo by: Paul Trantow/Bravo)

TOP CHEF -- "A Little Place Called Aspen" Episode 1513 -- Pictured: Padma Lakshmi -- (Photo by: Paul Trantow/Bravo)

You may think being a feminist or a mother would be daunting in today’s times. Tack on the tag of an immigrant and you could add a couple of more pebbles on an already bumpy road. But Padma Lakshmi’s social media profile makes mention of all these roles like laurels. How does she pull them off? “Everyday is different; you need to figure out what your priority of the day is,” quips the American author and host of Top Chef.

True to herself

In an age that’s imprinted by overwhelming content and opinion, voicing your take on issues can sometimes mean simply staying relevant. Is that a task for Lakshmi? “I don’t try to stay relevant, I try to stay authentic; to make the world a better place for my daughter,” says the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, who attended the 2019 Emmy Awards with her nine-year-old. “I don’t speak out when I don’t feel passionate about something. I just emphasise what’s important to me.” Earlier this month, she delivered the keynote address at New York’s New American Festival — meant to showcase the influence immigrants have on American culture — alongside the likes of author-host Ruth K Westheimer and comedian-political commentator Hasan Minhaj.

Local to global

Meanwhile, Lakshmi has announced her maiden solo venture on Hulu. The 49-year-old is no stranger to culinary shows. She is known for outings (in early 2000) such as Padma’s Passport and Discovery Channel’s documentary series, Planet Food — which had her travelling to diverse regions, cooking and exploring their culinary heritage. Her Hulu show is along the same lines, but here she will reportedly venture into immigrant communities and bring forth dishes representative of their culture.

Lakshmi feels that social media has also been instrumental in opening up this global palette on screen. “There is room for the emergence of micro-cuisines and chefs embracing their roots because they can find people with like-minded tastes; something they couldn’t do 20 years ago,” says the Emmy-nominated television host (2009).

Decades, seasons and hundreds of recipes down the line, has anything changed in the food industry since she began? “It’s more expansive than what it was, due to the increased availability of channels and streaming services that offer food programming,” she says. And as Top Chef clocks more than a decade of air time, she adds that the understanding of the show’s makers of their content has evolved — making the experience for viewers more authentic and intimate. As for her personal food mantras, she prefers keeping it homegrown. “The recipes I always turn to are traditional South Indian ones from my mum and grandma.”

Season 14 of Top Chef will première on AXN, on October 7. Monday to Friday, 9 pm.

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