One of the many nice qualities about Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is that the lady will answer any question and will chat your ear off... and that's why I called her first thing this morning for some coffee tawk!
Did you just wake up?
NO I HAVE BEEN UP FOR HOURS..
LET'S GET INTO IT... WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE DISH SO FAR?
That's a great question because it's so hard to choose! One of the most ingenious things I've had was very simple but it was Sam's fruit salad at the firehouse. Tonight's episode has my favorite quickfire challenge of the whole thing. It's snacks.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR LEAST FAVORITE DISH?
Actually someone makes something at the quickfire that was pretty hideous. Guess who's it was...
OK WHAT ABOUT BEFORE TONIGHT?
Suyai's red-wine soaked flambe fiasco from the first episode. I'm sorry because I liked Suyai so much. Her personality would've added to the show but that becomes irrelevant if the food chops aren't there...
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING FOR YOU ABOUT STEPPING IN TO HOST THIS SHOW?
The hours. What people don't realize is that we shoot in real time. Nobody's going to any trailer and hanging out. Unless the chefs have something to do for three or more hours, me and the other judges are waiting around for them to cook and do their thing. It's exhausting and exciting and unfolding before our eyes.
LET'S PLAY TOP CHEF WORD ASSOCIATION
gin and tonic
he ain't my brother he's just heavy
spitfire in a DVF dress
deep love of pickling!
accent (sometimes I ask her questions just to hear her talk)
THERE HAS BEEN SO MUCH DRAMA ABOUT YOUR CLOTHES THIS SEASON! DID YOU HAVE A STYLIST OR WHAT?
No I don't have a stylist. Top Chef did have a costumer on the set who worked for all of us and would help us and pull clothes. We would look at what we were going to shoot and what I was going to wear. I change twice - for the quickfire - like at the fish market - and at judge's table.
THE FISH MARKET! PEOPLE WERE TALKING ABOUT THOSE HOTPANTS...
At the fish market I also was wearing galoshes. I've done several food shows and documentaries and it's been my experience that when you go to a fish market, you can pretty much throw away what you wear afterwards because the clothes stink. I wore shorts with fisherman's galoshes so I could be hosed down afterwards. Martha Stewart commented on it when I went on her show. Martha started as a model and told me that if she could wear shorts she would too.
WAIT BACK UP. DID YOU ACTUALLY GET HOSED DOWN AFTER THE FISH MARKET? I AM TRYING TO VISUALIZE THIS?
(laughs) I didn't need to luckily for me.
AND UNLUCKILY FOR US!
I was attached to that hair net I was wearing! I don't know if that hair net made it into the final show, but I had a white hair net on like the other fish mongers. That was not too glamorous. But I like what I wore on the show! I have been fortunate enough to gather some nice clothes over the years. I have spent over a decade in the fashion industry not only as a model but I have written for Vogue and been a contributing editor for Harper's Bazaar. If you go through a season and have 20 or 30 outfits, who among us hasn't picked something not great sometimes? I am more focused on communicating the challenges clearly than on my clothes. The reason I am not speaking faster, by the way - a criticism I've heard - is that I have a lot of rules to get out and so my job there is to communicate them simply. That's more important than sounding cool or flashy.
DOES YOUR HUSBAND (SALMAN RUSHDIE) WATCH THE SHOW?
Yes he's obsessed. But he doesn't know anything (about the winners) either. To be fair to him and my mom, they're the only two people who haven't hassled me trying to find out info. I was at the National Board of Review Awards last night and a major studio executive was begging me for info about the show. This is a really serious film event and I was accosted about the show! It's really funny! I am running around town and people are stopping me everywhere about "Top Chef" and wanting info.
SO YOUR HUBBY AND MOM WATCH?
My mom doesn't have cable, by the way. She works until 11 at night at a mental hospital in California. She watches at the hospital and everyone there is obsessed. The staff I mean...
I HAD NO IDEA ABOUT ANY OF THIS...
Oh yeah. Because she is at the nurses station she has control of the remote so everyone at this mental hospital is watching Top Chef, whether they like it or not...
WELL THAT'S OUR TARGET AUDIENCE, PEOPLE IN MENTAL HOSPITALS. IT IS FASCINATING TO ME THAT TOP CHEF IS BEAMED TO BOTH SALMAN RUSHDIE AND A MENTAL HOSPITAL IN CALIFORNIA.
(laughs) The thing about this show is whether you're a spinal surgeon or a pedicurist or movie executive, this show seems to unify everyone because it's about food and people being passionate about what they do -- and that's compelling to watch. I went to a dinner at Columbia University for Orhan Pamuk on the day he won the Nobel Prize at the home of a Professor. Every Professor there -- from the head of the graduate film and tv department to the physics guy -- all they wanted to talk about was Top Chef! They want me to come do a master class about the Top Chef experience!
SPEAKING OF MASTER CLASSES, YOU HAVE TO GIVE ME SOME INFO ABOUT "GLITTER"....
Oh my god -- you know who I ran into last night? The actor Terrence Howard who played my boyfriend in that movie! I had some great scenes with him where I hear my voice for the first time -- which is actually Mariah's voice ghosted -- and I get so excited that we have a big makeout scene. I ran into him last night and obviously both of our careers are at a much better place now!
DID YOU KNOW THAT IT WAS GOING TO BE RECEIVED THE WAY IT WAS WHEN YOU WERE SHOOTING IT?
No I did not. I didn't know what people would say. You never know when you make a film. That was Mariah's film. I showed up for work, did what was asked of me and went home. I figured she was a big enough star for it to do well. Nobody was going to any movies after 9/11, so the timing was awful. Because it came out 10 days after it really suffered. And Mariah was going through personal stuff at the time. But boy has she come back on top!
I know you want to ask me about the scar?
THAT IS IN FACT MY LAST QUESTION, HOW DID YOU GET THE SCAR ON YOUR ARM?
When I was 14 I had a car accident driving with my parents and my right arm flew over my mother's chest - I was sitting in the middle in the front seat. We went off the freeway into an embankment, hit a tree which fell on top of the car causing the dashboard and roof to cave in. My arm flew onto my mother's chest and broke in many places. In spite of that my mother broke 4 ribs and her sternum. I am thankful for my scar. I wouldn't have it any other way. The scar is a result of multiple surgeries on my arm. I've had a metal plate in my arm and screws and physical therapy before high school 3 mornings a week for months and months. But I am lucky to be alive and that my mom is alive. I have complete use of my arms. I can stir pasta, belly dance, and box!
AND I WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOU DO ALL THREE AT ONCE! THANKS FOR THE MORNING CHAT!!