Q&A with Padma Lakshmi: the Top Chef host, who’ll be in town for the Delicious Food Show, talks about her favourite contestants and places to eat
Padma Lakshmi, the model, actress, sometime singer, Top Chef host and bestselling cookbook author, will be in town this weekend for the Delicious Food Show at the Better Living Centre. The show, which will also see appearances from Mark McEwan, David Rocco and Afrim Pristine of the Cheese Boutique, will feature cooking demonstrations, tastings, a wine-stomping and more. We chatted with the former supermodel about some of her favourite places to eat, her Top Chef co-star Tom Colicchio and her impressions of eating out in Toronto.
What’s your role in the Delicious Food Show this weekend?
I’m doing a demo, a talk and a book signing.
Can you tell us anything about the upcoming season of Top Chef?
For the first time we are moving from city to city. It’s set in Texas, and we filmed in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. I think the moving around added an extra layer of pressure on the contestants.
Did you get Governor Rick Perry as a guest judge?
What is Tom Colicchio like to work with? Is he less stern than he appears on the show?
In his job description there is little room for levity—it’s a serious competitions for chefs, not a contest to see who can make the best coconut cream pie for a garden-variety potluck. Things that people don’t know about Tom are that he’s a good guitar player, he has a great sense of humour and he’s very good with kids, including mine, who is always with me on set. When fans meet me, too, they say that I come across as very stern and cold, and are surprised that I am very spontaneous. My role is to make sure the contestants know exactly what is expected of me. I don’t often get a chance to yuk it up.
Do you have a favourite Top Chef contestant?
Well, it’s a bit like picking favourites among children—although even if you asked a mother she would tell you she can’t decide, then turn around and tell you who her favorite is anyway. Carla Hall and Kevin Gillespie were both very sweet.
Is Marcel Vigneron really as annoying in person as he seems to be on the show?
He was never difficult in front of the judges, but certainly when you watch the tapes he seems to get under the skin of the other contestants.
The first season of Top Chef Canada aired earlier this year. Have you seen it?
No, I haven’t. Who’s on it?
Thea Andrews is the host, and Mark McEwan is the Tom Colicchio.
So, can you tell us what some of your favourite restaurants are in New York?
There are so many, but I like Daniel Boulud’s Daniel, Jean-Georges’s ABC Kitchen, Wylie Dufresne’s WD-50, Michael White’s Marea and Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin. Oh, and David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants—all of them, even Milk Bar.
Toronto is about to get a pair of Momofukus. Can you recommend a dish?
I had heard about that! I like the pork dumplings.
Top Chef‘s Gail Simmons is from Toronto—in fact, she was once a Toronto Life intern. Did she give you any tips for what to eat?
You know, I didn’t even ask her about Toronto. I’ve been before, but I’m always extremely busy working or spending time with my family who lives there. I haven’t had a chance yet to properly explore the city. I do think the food scene is nice, though, from what I’ve seen. People seem to really enjoy food in Toronto, and there are lots of different ethnic pockets, which helps make a vibrant food culture.
The Delicious Food Show runs October 20 to 23 at Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre. Tickets are $18–$20, deliciousfoodshow.com