We all know Padma Lakshmi as the shrewd and sassy host of Top Chef. But she’s actually got a lot more under her belt. Aside from the tiny little fact that she was India’s first supermodel, she co-founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America after suffering from the disease herself, developed her own MAC lipstick line and, oh yeah, became a New York Times best-selling author. In other words: She’s a boss lady.
After the #MeToo movement swept through the food world, it was no coincidence James Beard named her as their guest of honor at this year’s Chefs and Champagne, a buzzy benefit at Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack, New York, featuring tastings from 35 well-known chefs.
“For a long time, professional food did not include people like me,” Lakshmi said. “The James Beard Foundation is creating programs and having real conversations about women in leadership. I’m thankful to be among the ones who they recognize, and believe the timing is on point.”
In an email interview, she dished on her secret to success—and, well, it’s threefold.
First, she learned to be less idealistic and more realistic. “I understood the rules of the game early on,” Lakshmi said. “Whether I liked them or not, I just reminded myself along the way that I’d be able to try and change them once I became armed with more power.”
Second, simply put, she grew thick skin.
And third, she learned how to be an advocate for herself. “It’s hard sometimes,” she said. “But you have to be proactive and ask for what you deserve.” Amen, Padma.
We’re excited to hear what she says to the crowd at Chefs and Champagne. (And if anyone’s looking for her, she’ll be next to the seafood table—it’s sustainable).