-Welcome back to the show.
-Thank you. You always have such
a really nice audience. -They’re so…
-They’re wonderful. -…warm. -We have
a line of South Africans. -(cheering and applause)
-Thank you. I heard. That’s how it–
that’s how it happens. Lots of good Indian food
in South Africa. Yeah, we actually have tons
of Indian food in South Africa. We have the highest population
of Indians outside of India. -A lot of people don’t know that
about us. -Really? -Yeah. Yeah, that’s us. -Well,
Gandhi started in South Africa. -Yes, that’s true. Yeah. So a
lot of people… -So, thank you. Yeah. So, uh…
That’s just, uh– My pleasure. Uh… I made them all. Uh…
(chuckles) -Welcome back to the show.
-Thank you. Congratulations.
Uh, season 16 of Top Chef. And this is going
to be the season finale. I have to ask, when you spend
every single working day eating -some of the best
culinary delights, -Mm-hmm. do you just– do you– like,
is your off time junk food? -Is that what you do?
-I mean, it’s not junk food, but it’s really simple food. -Right.
-Like, I just want toast or I want chicken soup -or mashed potatoes.
-Yes. So not with, like,
the drizzling thing -on the thing.
-No. Yes, exactly.
When you eat that much… And it’s not
that I’m eating a lot– -Right.
-I am eating a lot– but I’m eating a lot
of all these different things. -Yes. -So then your stomach
starts to feel a bit murky at the end of the day,
so when I come out of Top Chef, I just want the plainest,
simplest, cleanest food, -Right. -a lot of salads,
a lot of vinegar, you know? Just something that,
like, takes you away. Because the food
is really amazing, and I… you-you’ve…
become associated with… delicious food
all around the world. -I mean, because of the books
you’ve written, -Yeah. because of the shows
that you’ve done. Do you have a favorite food?
Is, like, is there something where you go like, “That
is what I look forward to”? Or are you
just sick of food now? -I mean… No,
I’m not sick of food. -Okay. I mean, I think that’s why I’m
uniquely qualified to do my job. -Right. -You know,
I have an endless appetite and a curiosity, and, um… I genuinely like simple things,
like fried chicken– that-that would be
a nice treat– -Right. -or I would have,
like, just lentils and rice. It’s very boring,
but it’s my comfort food. Um, I just like sometimes
a toast with peanut butter. I’m in that, like,
weird kick now -Yeah.
-but I have to stop eating it, ’cause pomegranate season
is over. I’ve got a lot of sh…
for that, -so…
-You-you… you’ve, uh, you-you’ve created
quite a stir online, because you’ve started
this trend on your Instagram of, um, just eating food… dare I say,
extremely seductively. -Um…
-(laughter) Oh, no, no, you judge me. Watch the video,
and then you t… Watch. Here’s-here’s one of the videos, -and you tell me what you think.
-Okay. (crunching) PADMA (laughs):
Yes, very seductive. That’s…
and that’s-that’s ASMR. -That’s what that is, right?
-Well, you know, it’s interesting,
because I was online and we stumbled on it,
and I thought, “Is this really true?” And you see these people
opening and closing bags -Yes. Just making sounds.
-or cutting soap -Right.
-or-or eating fried chicken. And like I said, I was… I had been
on this pomegranate toast kick, and, you know,
it’s very crunchy. We started it because I was
too busy to have a proper lunch, and I made a quick sandwich,
and I was sitting at a table, and someone in my office
just filmed me doing it. -And then… -That person’s
creepy, by the way. (laughter) She’s young and very innovative. Um, but anyway,
so, like, we just… we didn’t even put it
on the feed– we put it in stories,
and it just… people were
really entranced by it. I mean, I think
one of the reasons… one of the many reasons
people like Top Chef is because they like
to watch the eating, they like to live vicariously
through me and Tom and Gail and… and Graham. So I think that has a lot
to do with it. I just don’t understand
the rest of it, -but I don’t…
-(laughter) I think it’s funny,
I really do. I mean, I think– also,
people recognize my voice. Like, sometimes,
I’ll be in a restaurant with someone behind me
and they won’t have seen me, but they’ll hear my voice–
especially ordering– -and they’re used to me talking
about food -I can imagine. in a very specific, elaborate,
you know, way, and so… Do you throw people off
in restaurants? Like, do you feel the hustle and bustle change
when you walk in? Because I would be intimidated
if I was a chef or worked inn a restaurant, and
then Padma Lakshmi walks in, and I would just be like,
“It’s a test. It’s a test. It’s a test.” -Do you feel that, or is
everyone just like…? -No. -Th… -No. I mean,
I-I get treated very well, -as you would expect
at restaurants. -Right. And, you know, usually,
they know I’m coming, but I don’t, I don’t–
because I’m not judging them. -You know, I’m in their
restaurant. -Yes. What is hard, and I know it’s
a high-class problem, but is that they send a bunch
of things from the kitchen, -like little gifts,
-That you didn’t order. -that I didn’t order. And…
-Ah, compliments of the chef. -That’s what they say. -Yeah,
which is really nice, except now I feel, you know,
I have to eat it ’cause I don’t want to hurt
anyone’s feelings. And I really did want
to eat light, -especially if I’ve just come
off Top Chef, you know? -Right. -But, as I said…
-You should make it– Instead of feeling bad and
eating it, if you don’t want to eat it, you just pull,
like, a judge-y move. So you should get the food
and then be like, “I like your presentation
but I feel like the display doesn’t match the flavors
and the…” Just do something like that,
and they’ll be like, “We–” -Yes. You see? -The plating
doesn’t warrant a taste. -The plating doesn’t warrant
a taste. -Exactly. And then they’ll be like,
“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” Um, your food has taken you
around the world. -The food that you love comes
from around the world. -Mm-hmm. You’ve always talked
about how food -can connect us
as human beings. -Yeah. And now, you’ve taken on
a-a new role as an ACLU ambassador,
which is really amazing. You’re focusing on immigration -and women’s
reproductive rights. -Yeah. These are really powerful issues
that are close to your heart. And you travel speaking
about that, and now you’re going to be
taking on that role. What is your goal? What do you
hope to achieve in this role? Well, I’ve been working
with the ACLU in this capacity for three years,
but, I mean, now, I’m also starting to work
with the UN. So the goodwill ambassadorship
is a direct outcome, I think, of working
with the ACLU and speaking out
about immigration. It’s a issue that–
It’s an issue that’s very close to my heart, You know, I’m an immigrant. I really came here with my
mother much like these people at the border,
with hardly anything. And what you have to understand,
is that if a parent takes a child on a dangerous journey,
puts them on their back, is willing to walk
across deserts, that’s because
the place they’re leaving is worse and more dangerous. And I just think
we have plenty to share. And if you look
at all the contributions that immigrants have made, you’re basically looking
at what America is today, in whole, full stop. (cheering and applause) The, um… There’s no crisis.
There’s no crisis. The only crisis is that we have
a lunatic with a lot of power. -(laughs) -That is the…
that is the only crisis. (applause) He also eats
his steak well-done, just so you know. -I’m not surprised.
-I mean… not that you needed
another reason -to call him a lunatic, but yes.
-Probably… -probably with ketchup, as well.
-Oh, yes, he does. -Really?!
-No, yes. -(laughs) -No, that…
Oh, you didn’t know that? -I’m trying not to pay attention
to him so much. -No, really. He eats his steak well-done
with ketchup. For real. -Really? -That’s a real, real
thing that the president does. -Yeah. That’s, uh…
-(laughter) Um, before I let you go, let-let’s talk a little bit
about some other causes -that are close to your heart.
-Mm-hmm. One of the genuinely, um… it was provocative,
heartbreaking and brave moments that I witnessed
was, um, when you came out– and it was really tied
to the #MeToo movement in and around
the Brett Kavanaugh, uh… you know,
the confirmation hearings. You-you wrote an op-ed
in The New York Times talking about your #MeToo story, your story
of being ashamed to come out and your having to face, -you know, what many women face
in the world. -Mm-hmm. Why do you think
it’s so important to share those stories now, and what do you think
we could be doing better to enable other women
to tell those stories to try and eradicate the scourge of what the #MeToo movement
is fighting against? I think we really have
to support our victims. Whether, you know,
they wind up being… the perpetrator
winds up being guilty or not, it doesn’t matter.
You know, there’s… I don’t know any person,
any woman who would come forward and-and say, “I…
You know, this happened to me” if it wasn’t true because the trauma
that you go through after you report
is quite substantial. And I had nothing to gain and even more pain,
you know, to experience -if I had spoken up at 16.
-Right. And I think if I had been
in a different climate, I would have felt able
to come out. And I had every sign
from, um, all around me that I shouldn’t speak up. But now I’m in
a different moment in my life. I’m at peace. I’m serene. I’m strong. I’m not a child. And the world is different, and so I have
to act accordingly. I hope that me speaking
about it, even though the outcome of that
hearing was as… as we know, I hope that other young women
will be able to come out. -I hope we’ll be able to take
the shame out of it. -Mm-hmm. And, you know,
I wanted to speak about it because I think there are
millions of women like me who never reported. And it’s not because
it wasn’t so bad. It’s because it was so bad. -That’s why.
-(applause) Thank you again so much
for being on the show. -You’re very welcome.
-Wonderful having you. The season finale of Top Chef airs March 14 at 9:30 p.m.
on Bravo. Padma Lakshmi, everybody.