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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 8th April 2016 > MASS CONSUMPTION


Padma Lakshmi’s revealing memoir shows that she has both bark and bite


IN THE YEARS before Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidyanathan, the daughter of an immigrant nurse from Chennai, India, became Padma Lakshmi, the glamorous and unflappable Top Chef host who tells cook-contestants to please pack their knives and go, she was an unsuccessful actress trying to make a career in Los Angeles. Her only respite during those days of casting calls, auditions and many rejections were the dinner parties she threw, where fellow industry stragglers would gather in her apartment to snack on coconut chicken and chickpea tapas. Word of the “model who ate and cooked”—and the legendary dinner parties she threw—reached Miramax studio head Harvey Weinstein, and soon Lakshmi’s acting aspirations gave way to an entirely different career, as a TV personality.

Lakshmi is neither a nutritionist nor a trained chef, but over the past 17 years—as the author of cookbooks and the straight-faced but warm host of Bravo’s Top Chef— she’s garnered enough culinary cred that when she tells you the proportion of shrimp to put in your paella, you’re inclined to listen. Her love of food and her savvy hustling helped her create a meaningful career in the crowded celebrity-chef industry.

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