I must admit that one of the great pleasures in watching Top Chef is watching host Padma Lakshmi. Now, before you veer down the path of simply enjoying watching her because she is, indeed, beautiful, I am also impressed by her resume (she really does know food), hosting abilities compared with season 1’s Katie Lee Joel, and her dry sense of humor. Unfortunately, since her recent highly publicized divorce from author Sir Salman Rushdie, Padma Lakshmi has been maintaining a significantly lower profile citing personal life issues. However, despite abandoning her Top Chef blog for the remainder of the season, her professional career is moving forward.
Katie Lee Joel, host for the first season of Top Chef, wife of singer Billy Joel, and, reportedly, a future cookbook author, presented neither the on-camera charisma nor food authority that viewers experienced when Padma Lakshmi took over the hosting duties. Many viewers may not be aware but Padma is a respected cookbook author having published the award-winning Easy Exotic in 1999. She has also hosted her own Food Network show Padma’s Passport as well as Spanish and Indian segments for the British culinary show Planet Food.
When Padma Lakshmi, age 33, married controversial, and recently knighted, author Salman Rushdie, age 56, in April, 2004, the gossipmongers sharpened their pens. She was compared with Vanity Fair’s destructive social climber Becky Sharp, and he was portrayed simply as a lecherous old man. The couple countered the critics when they felt necessary, but the marriage eventually fell apart after 3 years with the annoucement of a divorce July 2, 2007. The divorce ended a relationship that had lasted for a total of 8 years. 12 days after the announcement, Padma Lakshmi posted a personal message on her official website:
“As many of you know, this last month has been personally difficult, but I want to thank everyone who has contacted me with messages of concern and support. Thank you.”
While Padma has pulled herself out of the media spotlight, her professional career moves forward. Her next cookbook Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet is scheduled for an October 2, 2007 release. Persistent rumors exist that she is dating American billionaire Ted Forstmann. Padma Lakshmi is also expected to take part in the filming of the finale of the current 3rd season of Top Chef in Aspen, Colorado. Among personal appearances, she is also expected at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute’s Epicurean Classic September 13-15, 2007 on Michigan’s beautiful Grand Traverse Bay. Padma may be a bit down these days, but she is far from out. Her dry sense of humor seems fully intact as evidenced by her quick response on last night’s Top Chef recap show to Micah’s comparing Indian people eating chutney with curry to Americans eating ketchup. In a quick deadpan response, Padma indicated Micah was wrong about that, too.