It is safe to assume that many hearts skip a beat at the sound of the name Padma Lakshmi. For some it is because they are taken by her striking beauty. For contestants awaiting judgment on the reality television show she hosts, it is more likely due to fear. Her pronouncement of “Five minutes left, chefs,” can make professionals wilt.
Since 2006 Lakshmi has been hosting Top Chef, a fiercely competitive cooking competition on Bravo. This role is just the latest for Lakshmi, who has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to create success in many fields. Beginning her career in modeling, she is often credited with being the first internationally-known Indian supermodel. She has published two cookbooks, Easy Exotic in 1999 and Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet in 2007, hosted Padma’s Passport and Planet Food, and has also appeared in films and mini-series. As if that weren’t enough, she has launched her own jewelry line and Easy Exotic, her personal line of tea, teaware, and spices.
It was with no small amount of anxiety that I phoned Lakshmi, steeling myself against the intimidation I felt. It was immediately apparent that my apprehension was unnecessary. I was greeted with warmth and enthusiasm as she shared her thoughts on tea.