Padma Lakshmi is leaving ‘Top Chef’ after 17 years

Padma Lakshmi. PHOTO: Twitter @PadmaLakshmi

Padma Lakshmi, the longtime host and executive producer of the popular kitchen competition show “Top Chef,” will pack her knives and go, to use the phrase she uttered countless times to contestants who had been eliminated from Bravo’s cutthroat contest.

“I am extremely proud to have been part of building such a successful show and of the impact it has had in the worlds of television and food,” she wrote in a statement that she posted on social media today. Lakshmi said she came to the decision after “much soul searching” and said she plans to spend more time on her Hulu docuseries “Taste the Nation,” her writing and other projects.

Lakshmi joined “Top Chef” for its second season in 2006, and she said this season – its 20th, whose season finale airs next week – would be her last. During her run, Lakshmi garnered four Emmy nominations for outstanding reality show host, and the show racked up an additional 10 Emmy nominations for outstanding competition program during her tenure as executive producer.

Lakshmi, who has written several cookbooks as well as a memoir and a children’s book, was lauded for her on-screen presence and her culinary chops – and her ability to deliver criticism of “cheftestants” with a side helping of compassion. In a 2021 interview with The Washington Post, she spoke about wanting to stretch creatively beyond the show that made her a household name. “Like anybody, I want to keep challenging myself and I want to keep growing as someone who is a writer,” she said. “I’m really a writer first.”

“End of an era and an incredible run,” wrote Bravo host and producer Andy Cohen, who was a producer and erstwhile judge on the show, in a comment on Lakshmi’s Instagram post announcing her news. “You were such an amazing partner and a BRILLIANT host. I have such great memories of our [‘Top Chef’] days.”

NBCUniversal released a statement praising Lakshmi – as well as her gastronomic fortitude – and holding out the possibility that she might make a future guest appearance on the show she helmed. “We are grateful to Padma for being a consummate host, judge, and executive producer, and for bringing her ingenuity and exceptional palate to each episode where she ate every bite of food on the series for over 17 years and 19 seasons,” the statement read. “She will always be part of the ‘Top Chef’ and the NBCUniversal family and has a seat at the judges’ table anytime.”

Off-screen, Lakshmi is known for her activism – she has long advocated for awareness and funding for endometriosis – and for sharing frank takes on political and social issues.

Lakshmi, 52, was named to the Times 100 list this year and also posed for Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue, on whose pages the former model spoke about the possibilities of new life chapters. “I want everybody to see this pictorial and understand that sometimes a whole new phase that’s even more exciting than anything you’ve ever experienced before can happen well over 40,” she told the magazine.



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