‘Top Chef’ Star Padma Lakshmi Started Her Television Career in Italy

Not many Top Chef fans would guess that the hit Bravo reality competition’s host, Padma Lakshmi, who was born in India and enjoyed great success in the United States, got her career start in Italy.

Italy, in fact, is very near and dear to the television personality’s heart, for reasons beyond her career.

Padma Lakshmi
Padma Lakshmi | Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

‘Top Chef’ just wrapped its latest season

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The most recent season of Top Chef just wrapped up in June 2020. Kicking off in March, the 17th season highlighted 15 all-stars from previous seasons who hadn’t ever taken home the show’s grand prize. Returning for this season was their opportunity to fight for the coveted title.

“It’s All-Stars, which is really exciting,” Padma Lakshmi told Savannah Guthrie in March on Today. “You’re going to know all of the contestants. We have ten finalists and five front-runners, so they’ve all at least have made it to the last part of [the show].”

This season was filmed in Los Angeles.

“So we have a lot going on,” Lakshmi continued, “we shoot at Griffith Observatory, the Disney Concert Hall, we are at the L.A. Coliseum with all these Olympians, we have Randall Park . . . Kelly Clarkson, I mean, it’s chock full of [guests].”

Padma Lakshmi got her career start in Italy

After modeling in Europe in the late nineties, the 49-year-old turned to television work in Italy, hosting a variety show. In a June 2020 conversation with Eater, Lakshmi explained how her first major gig in Italy prepared her to host Top Chef, and most recently, her new Hulu show, Taste the Nation.

“I started my hosting career in Italy on a live show,” she said, “and there was no tape delay, and it wasn’t about food. It was just one of those big variety shows. And I was part of a bigger cast.”

“I was sort of the sidekick to the main host. I learned a lot on that show. And I really enjoy the spontaneous conversation of live television. There’s nothing to beat it.”

Padma Lakshmi loved the cuisine in Italy

In her memoir, Love, Loss, and What We Ate, Lakshmi described the food she most enjoyed in Italy, its textures, flavors, and slight differences in the country’s regions.

“In Milan,” she wrote, “the brioche and other pastry in the mornings, always with cappuccino, suddenly made me a sweet-eater. The pastas and meat dishes you could get at trattorias for a modest sum were simple in their preparation but deliciously complex in the mouth.”

“I learned the regional differences between north and south and savored all the glorious seafood of Liguria.”

Lakshmi said it was in Italy that she became an adult.

“My years in Europe shaped me as a woman,” she wrote in her memoir. “I don’t really think any of us are women right when we turn eighteen, or even twenty-one for that matter. I studied the way Italian women walked, so feminine and playful, to some indecipherable beat that gave them both poise and sex appeal at once. I was fascinated by the culture all around me.”

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