Padma Lakshmi, Rule Breaker, Builds Gingerbread Houses Backwards

The most festive time of the year is upon us, and Padma Lakshmi knows how she’s celebrating.

The 49-year-old Top Chef host chatted with PureWow about her holiday traditions at a recent event for Stacy’s Rise Project, a Stacy’s Pita Chips initiative that supports female-founded businesses in a major way. So what does Lakshmi have planned to keep her season merry and bright? It boils down to two key ingredients: rogue gingerbread houses and Champagne (duh).

Lakshmi told PureWow that she and her daughter Krishna’s traditions are born out of fun. “You’re not going to be able to force them to start a tradition that they don’t want to do,” she reasoned.  

The soon-to-be Taste the Nation host, who cleverly calls herself a Christmas Fundamentalist, said she and her daughter “have mistletoe and holly” and a tree that skims their ceiling. They also bake and decorate cookies. But the main event is definitely their gingerbread house.

“Ours takes days to do. I’ve figured out through trial and error how best to make a gingerbread house,” she explained. For Lakshmi, that means throwing the instruction manual in the trash.

Thankfully, she walked us through a step-by-step guide of how to build a gingerbread house the Lakshmi way. “They tell you to stick all the pieces together and then decorate it, but that’s ridiculous. When you do it that way, all of your decorations slide,” she noted. “So what we do is we draw, with a piece of paper and a pencil, what we’re going for. We decide which is going to be the front and which is going to be the back, and then we do each panel and let those dry on the counter with some cookie sheets.”

From there, Lakshmi starts to get creative. In years past, she’s whittled Jujubes to make leaves, melted chocolate for tree trunks and used little red candies to make apples or Christmas tree decorations.

She notes that “you will definitely need more icing than they give you.” It’s a fun activity for the whole family, but when she’s having adults over for a holiday soiree, Lakshmi relies on Champagne to get the party going.

“I like to change the [holiday] foods that I serve. I’ll often cook Indian food, but I always like to change the food around. Regardless, Champagne always goes best,” she explained.

We’ll be taking some pages out of Lakshmi’s playbook this holiday, thank you very much.

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Cat mom, yogi, brunch enthusiast

Lex is an LA native who's deeply obsessed with picnics, Slim Aarons, rosé, Hollywood history and Joan Didion. She joined PureWow in early 2017.