TV's hottest foodie Padma Lakshmi knows how to have her cake and eat it, too. As host and judge of Bravo's Emmy-winning series "Top Chef," the former model doesn't hold back when it comes to enjoying a good meal and even admits to going up "one to two dress sizes" every season.
The 40-year-old, who just wrapped the latest season of "Top Chef," talked to Parade.com about juggling her busy career, while focusing on her most important role as mom to 1-year-old daughter Krishna.
How she stays in shape while filming 'Top Chef': "It's not easy, and the short answer is that I don't stay in shape during the season. I go up one to two dress sizes. What you don't see on camera is that I do have a rack full of clothes that range in sizes, and as I gain weight, I just wear bigger clothes."
"I've been a model for 15 years, and I've been on 'Top Chef' for eight seasons, and before that I had other cooking shows, so I've learned a thing or two about how to camouflage certain areas and how to draw the eye to a preferable area of the body. I have really hard-working people behind-the-scenes who shop for me and help me do that."
As soon as the season wraps, Padma hits the gym: "After the shows finish, I go back to my workout routine. It was hard to lose the baby weight, it was hard to do that while eating for a living and filming the show. I just do a little bit every day. You don't need expensive classes and all kinds of weird equipment if you really want to be in shape. There are great ways to do it that are very economical, it just takes a time commitment, even if it means waking up a half hour a day before the rest of the household gets up because that's the only time you have, or planning your workouts when the kids are at school or taking a nap. It requires a lot of creativity and commitment and consistent discipline."
How she balances motherhood with her busy career: "It's hard. It's a balancing act and every day is different and you just have to know what your priorities are and that the little one comes first. I'm very lucky that my network is very, very supportive of my family and the fact that I have a child who is young. We have a nursery on set and it's right next door to my dressing room and we just work around it. I'm not unlike any mother. I don't have all the answers, and I just try my best."
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Like mother, like daughter: "I totally have a foodie on my hands. She doesn't like leftovers and she eats homemade food. She's never had store-bought baby food. Right now she's on a Tuscan kale kick!"
Why the most recent season of 'Top Chef: All-Stars' was so successful: "I think we had an emotional resonance to all these chefs because we had already seen them on another season, so we were already rooting for them or they were already our villain. Right away you've got your loyalties. It is a lot like watching sports, anything can happen. These people are tired, they're sleep-deprived, and they're emotional. It's like a big roller coaster ride."
She never plays favorites: "I'm so trained to just look at the food. When we're giving negative criticism, it's always about the work, not the person. It's really about what they did on that day and anyone could have a bad day. As long as it's constructive criticism, it works. If you really love your job and you're passionate about it, whether it's cooking or being a schoolteacher or a florist, you want that feedback so you can improve your craft and that's really what the show is about. It's about the art and passion of food."
Where she'd like to shoot the next season of 'Top Chef': "I'd like to go international, but I travel with a big entourage, so there's a lot of plane tickets and a lot of hotel rooms that have to be secured for us to move. It's like a big circus coming to town."