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Interview With Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi from Top Chef

Talking Top Chef With Padma and Tom

As you probably know, the next season of Top Chef starts this Wednesday, Mar. 12. The contestants look — if I can borrow a word from Project Runway — fierce and the competition should be exciting.

We recently had the opportunity — along with a large group of other folks — to sit down and chat with Padma and Chef Tom. They talked about the talent during this season, their interaction with past contestants, the producers, and their food pet peeves. To find out what they had to say,


On why they come back each year:

Padma: Well I’ve been doing it for three seasons, but I just love food. You know again, we’re surrounded by people talking shop and, you know, I’m the kind of girl that talks about dinner as I’m finishing up lunch.

So it’s the perfect job for me.

Tom: You know, for me the show is — sort of means something in the industry now. And what really keeps me going is I kind of treat the contestants as if they were working for me in my kitchen. And sometimes I’m harsh because I’m harsh on the cooks in my kitchen. And there are other times that I’m very encouraging. . . And so, you know, part of being a chef is teaching. And so I get a lot of gratitude out of, you know, meeting these young chefs who I probably wouldn’t know and seeing what they’re doing.

On keeping in touch with the contestants:

Padma: I run into Ilan and I run into Sam because they’re in New York. So once in awhile I’ll see them and, you know, it’s always nice to see them.

Tom: Well I run into — you know, Sam, I actually brought him down to Florida to do something. It was — we were cooking for the Naples Wine and Food Auction, and I brought him down to be one of the feature chefs down there. Actually, Harold was on that trip, too along with two other chefs that are friends of mine.

On their food pet peeves:

Padma: Tom doesn’t like skins on bell pepper.

Tom: But I’ll eat that. I will not eat okra. I hate it. That and grated mountain yams for the same reason — slimy.

Padma: It’s not slimy when I make okra. I fry okra.

Tom: I don’t care who makes it. You can fry it. You can do whatever you want with it. You can keep it. All the okra lovers out there, there’s just more for them because I don’t want it.

Padma: Yeah. I don’t like raw onions. It’s too pungent for me. I don’t mind, you know, little tiny bit of something but I really am not into raw onions — not on my burger, not on my salads, not on anything.

On the Top Chef producers:

Tom: You know, the one great thing I think about, at least I think for the integrity of the show is — and I know there’s a little disclaimer on the credits, but the producers so far — and I don’t expect they will — have never got involved with who stays or who goes.

They’re there when we’re deliberating because they have to be. They’re shooting it. They also need to know because they have to set cameras and stuff like that when we, you know, announce the winner or loser.

But they, at times, have said are you sure that’s the right person? And we’re like yes, and we’re sure it’s the right person. But they have never influenced our decision.

And most people will not accept that at all. They’ll just say no, this is all predetermined, someone figures it out and that’s it. And it’s not the case.

So there you have it. Be sure to tune in on Wednesday for the season premiere!

Photos courtesy of Bravo.

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