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'Top Chef' host Padma Lakshmi not so hot with season two contestants


By Christopher Rocchio, 01/17/2007 

Could it be one and done for Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi?

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The second season of the culinary competition is scoring well in the ratings -- so well that it's already been renewed for a third season.  However when Bravo announced the show's third season, the cable network announced that Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz and Shauna Minoprio would all return as executive producers but made no mention of Lakshmi's return.

While it remains to be seen if she'll be back for a third season of Top Chef, one thing is for sure: five chef's featured in the show's second season had less than lukewarm things to say about Lakshmi in the January 22 issue of New York Magazine.  When Casa Mano line cook Ilan Hall was asked if "he trusted Lakshmi's culinary taste," he responded by asking someone from Bravo if he was allowed to "say disparaging things" about the host.  He was told "no."

"She's beautiful," Hall told New York Magazine.  "Mostly, she just explained things, and she did a good job at that."

Ouch.

Billed by Bravo as "the first Indian supermodel," Lakshmi is in-deed beautiful, and has previous experience in the culinary world to boot.  Before landing the job on Top Chef, she hosted The Food Network's Padma's Passport and Planet Food programs and also published Easy Exotic, a best selling cookbook.

That's far more experience than what the show's former host, Katie Lee Joel, had.

In November 2005, Bravo cited Joel's "lifelong passion for good food" as one of her chief qualifications for the Top Chef position, and other examples of her "broad and diversified" qualifications cited by Bravo included that she'd taken "a wide range" of culinary classes, spent a semester abroad in Florence, worked in several restaurants, helped open a Hamptons restaurant, and teamed with a friend to start a culinary website."

So when Joel didn't return for Top Chef's second season in order to "pursue other opportunities," Lakshmi probably seemed like a blessing to Bravo.  However some reviews from chefs featured on the series during her first season aren't so tasty.

"Nothing she said really made a difference in my cooking," Cliff Crooks, executive chef at Salute!, told New York Magazine.  "Some of the things she wore, I wouldn't suggest anyone wear around a working kitchen.  Either she'd be a fire hazard or she'd get hurt."

One thing Lakshmi and Joel do have in common are their famous husbands.  Joel is married to musician Billy Joel, while Lakshmi is the wife of author Salman Rushdie.  But apparently, being married to one of the most critically acclaimed authors of the last 50 years is something Lakshmi doesn't enjoy discussing.

"She never wanted to talk about him, Sam Talbot, former executive chef at Punch, told New York Magazine.  "I remember a time she got a phone call and she yelled, 'You can ask me any question you want, but don't bring up my husband!'"



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