Padma Lakshmi has our dream job. She’s the host and executive producer of “Top Chef” and the upcoming series “Taste The Nation.” And her career has taken her all over the world to try the best food. But it’s also thrown her a few curveballs. Padma sat down with us this week to tell us how she became a serious player in the culinary world, and why her activism fuels her work.
Carly: Who do you go to for career advice?
Padma: That's a tough one. That really is a tough one because I never knew anyone in the entertainment business. I never knew any writers. My mom is a retired nurse. My stepdad is a plumber. And I had to learn everything the hard way for myself. And I wish that I had had a couple of mentors, even if they weren't in my particular field… who could remind me of things I wouldn't even know to ask for.
I've made it my mission to mentor, you know, a few girls in their 20s... so that they didn't have to go through the bullsh*t that I went through,
Danielle: The culinary world has been plagued by issues. Recently, the editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit stepped down. There was another resignation there today. How do you bring that sense of activism to what we're seeing now in the culinary world, but also beyond that?
Padma: I was shocked when I heard what was going on at Bon Appétit. I really was shocked. Was I shocked about the bro culture? No, I was not. I had been hearing rumblings of behavior like that for about a year from employees there...
I did not think that racism and sexism extended to unfair pay practices at a big corporation like Conde Nast. That is crazy. And so, that really disturbed me. And I'm not surprised because, you know, I've been on TV for a long time. As you guys said I'm known in the food world, in the media. I'm known internationally for it. But even I have trouble getting sometimes as many people to cover stories or projects I'm doing or whatever than people who are my colleagues who work half the amount of time that I do. And I… could never figure out why that was. And it's like this invisible undertow of the ocean you're entering in. There's a force that's working against you but you don't know what it is and you don't know how to address it by your actions because, guess what, it has nothing to do with your actions.
Padma: You should listen to what people say because maybe they have some good advice or counsel for you. You know, nobody does it in a vacuum. And so it's really good to weigh your options. You never know where your success is going to come from. And the only rule that I follow is try to do something you love for a living, because you will be better at it and you will be much happier as a human.
“I was working six days a week and mostly 12 to 14 hour days... when you're in it, you don't realize that it's not healthy.”
"Empathy is everything."
“My friends were sneaking out to parties and I was sneaking out to protests.”