10 things you didn’t know about ‘Top Chef’s’ Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi sitting at the head of the table, smiling
Padma Lakshmi is so much more than a TV host. Bravo/Getty Images
  • Padma Lakshmi has hosted “Top Chef” since 2006, but there is still a lot you might not know about her.
  • When she was young, she was in a car accident and was bullied at school.
  • Now, she is a single mother, bestselling author, and can speak five languages fluently.

Padma Lakshmi went by the name Angelique while in high school.
Closeup headshot of Padma Lakshmi
Padma Lakshmi. Rich Fury/Getty Images
The chef’s real name is Padma Parvati Lakshmi Vaidynathan, but when she moved to America from India as a child, she said she thought she needed an American name. So in high school, she went by Angelique. 

“I cringe to think about that,” she told InStyle in 2016.

When she became an American citizen, she officially changed her name to Padma Lakshmi in honor of her mother,  Vijaya Lakshmi.

Lakshmi said she was bullied in school.
Padma Lakshmi attends the 70th Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2018.
Padma Lakshmi. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
“I was this tall when I was 13 in eighth grade. I had a very long neck, I used to get called E.T., Skeletor, giraffe, you name it,” Lakshmi told People in 2016.

She said students also bullied her for being Indian. 

“I didn’t feel any different, I didn’t feel any less American, even though I ate rice and curry or even though my name was Padma or I spoke to my mother in a different language, I felt as American as anybody else in my classroom,” she said. “But they didn’t feel I was as American.”

Lakshmi got her signature scar in a car accident when she was 14 years old.
Padma Lakshmi and her scar on her arm
Padma Lakshmi and her scar. Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images
Lakshmi has a long scar on her upper arm, which she got from a car accident when she was a teenager. In the past, she said she was self-conscious of the scar and always hid it. Now, she has learned to love it.

“My attitude about my body has grown and changed and morphed and evolved, as has my body,” she told Self in 2016. “It’s what sets me apart and makes me me, and even if someone could wave a magic wand I really don’t think I would choose to eliminate my scar.”

Lakshmi was raised by a single mom and now is a single mom herself.
Padma Lakshmi and her daughter back stage
Padma Lakshmi and her daughter. Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Lakshmi’s father left when she was 2 years old, so her mother, Vijaya Lakshmi, raised her on her own. Padma Lakshmi is doing the same with her own daughter, 11-year-old Krishna, although she is co-parenting with her ex, Adam Dell. 

“Krishna’s father is very involved in her life, so he is a co-parent, but it’s different if you’re married and living with the child’s other parent,” Lakshmi told Yahoo News in 2021. “We don’t live together; we’re not together anymore. We are good friends and we have the same first priority, which is her.”

Lakshmi was also married to the novelist Salman Rushdie from 2004 to 2007.

Despite the fact that food is her passion, Lakshmi actually got a degree in theater and literature.
Closeup headshot of padma lakshmi
Padma Lakshmi. Theo Wargo/Getty Images
She went to college at Clark University in Massachusetts and studied American literature and theater arts in hopes of being an actress.

“I am very fortunate to be on TV for a decade now and not be playing an ethnic role,” Lakshmi told Instyle in 2016. “That was a big thing for me.”

Lakshmi revealed she gains 10 to 15 pounds during the filming of each “Top Chef” season.
Padma Lakshmi with the other judges of 'Top Chef,' sitting at the judges' table
Padma Lakshmi with the other judges of ‘Top Chef.’ Bravo/Getty Images
In 2013, she told Fitness magazine she goes up two dress sizes every time she films for “Top Chef.” But after each season, she eats healthier and works out five times a week. 

“I love food way too much to starve myself just to look good,” she told the magazine. “I will put in the work at the gym so I can enjoy what I eat.” 

She was diagnosed with endometriosis and co-founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America.
Padma Lakshmi next to a sign that reads 'ending endometriosis'
Padma Lakshmi. John Lamparski/Getty Images
For years, Lakshmi lived her life thinking she just had severe menstrual symptoms. But in her 30s, she was diagnosed with endometriosis, which is when the tissue cells of the uterus grow outside the uterus.

“I spent 25 percent of my life in bed because of this chronic illness that I had no idea I had. And it was always something that I was told I just had to put up with, that it was my lot as a woman to suffer with cramps because some girls got it and some girls didn’t,” Lakshmi told Self in 2016. “It wasn’t until I was properly diagnosed and got on the other side of my treatment, which included several surgeries, that I realized what normal really is.”

She founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America with her doctor, Tamer Seckin, in 2009 to help raise awareness of the disorder. 

She is a New York Times bestselling author.
Padma Lakshmi holding up her book.
Padma Lakshmi and her book. Aaron Davidson/Getty Images
In 1999, she published a cookbook titled “Easy Exotic,” and followed it up with another called “Tangy, Tart, Hot, and Sweet” in 2007. She then published her memoir, “Love, Loss, and What We Ate,” in 2016 and it became a New York Times bestseller. That same year she also published “The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs.”

Most recently, she released her first children’s book, “Tomatoes for Neela,” in 2021.

“It’s also, more importantly, an intergenerational story about an Asian family who writes down all of the recipes that are important to them,” Lakshmi told Yahoo News in 2021 about “Tomatoes for Neela.” “The book tries to show young children how writing down recipes is literally saving pieces of our family history.”

She speaks five languages.
Padma Lakshmi on the red carpet at the Emmys
Padma Lakshmi. Richard Shotwell/AP
Lakshmi is fluent in English, Tamil, Hindi, Italian, and Spanish.
If she could plan her last meal, Lakshmi said it would be fried masala chicken and a cheese board.
Padma Lakshmi eating a table
Padma Lakshmi. Bravo/Getty Images
Although Lakshmi has tasted some of the finest foods in the world, she told The Guardian that her last meal would be very simple. 

“On the menu, there would be fried masala chicken, marinated in buttermilk, sea salt and sugar, then battered with Indian spices and chilli,” she told the publication in 2016. “There’d be rice, with black beans and spices. And there’d be lots of veg.”

The cheese board would have cheddar, manchego, and chutney.