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Q & A with Top Chef Host and Mom Padma Lakshmi

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Model, chef, actress, designer, author, reality show host—Padma Lakshmi is one busy woman. After years of transporting readers to faraway places with her the rich, exotic recipes, the Top Chef hostess is on to her greatest adventure yet: raising daughter Krishna, now 18 months. The gorgeous host recently took a few minutes to chat about introducing spicy flavors to babies, eating out with a toddler, and her decision to open up about her infertility.

What kinds of food did you crave during your pregnancy?

I expected to have all kinds of weird cravings but I really didn’t. I kind of craved cinnamon and mustard. Late at night, I wanted cinnamon oatmeal raisin cookies or cinnamon donuts, but I would have one and then it would pass and that would be it. I ate really well when I was pregnant.

How has your approach to cooking changed now that you’ve become a mom?

It hasn’t. In fact, my daughter always had home-cooked food. She eats exactly what I eat, except that she doesn’t eat any red meat or land animals. She has a lot of beans and lentils and stuff, but if it flies or it walks, my daughter doesn’t eat it yet.

Do you think you’ll start her on that later?

I would like to phase it in. I want her to be able to have a little of everything. But I don’t think a little digestive system like hers can handle processed things and heavy meat yet. By the time she’s 4 or 5 I’d like her to be able to eat everything. She probably eats more spicy food than many American adults do because she’s Indian. So I make the same food for everybody in our household. I just don’t put hot chilies in hers but she has cumin and black pepper. One of her favorite foods is bell peppers. She loves them raw as a snack, and in her lentils and rice. She also loves kale.

She’s not a picky eater, then.

No, she’s not a picky eater. She either eats what she gets or she just doesn’t eat as much that meal.

What are some of her other favorite foods right now?

She loves couscous and she loves all kinds of beans. She loves black-eyed peas and edamame especially. She loves shrimp and noodles, like Singapore curry noodles with shrimp and veggies.

How go you get her to behave well in restaurants?

I always take her to restaurants. I didn’t take her to really fancy restaurants, but I take her to appropriate restaurants at an appropriate time for her to eat, like early evening when it’s not as crowded. She’s been there and she can see everybody else behaving a certain way. I think the best way to teach children is by example, and I would tell her, “You don’t throw things on the floor. Look, is anyone else throwing things on the floor? Everybody is going to look at you and say, ‘Who’s that rude girl?’” She loves going out to eat. She loves the breadbasket. She’s like her mother; we have to ask the waiter to put it away so that’s not all she eats.

You recently opened up about your endometriosis. Why did you make that decision, and why do you think women generally don’t talk about infertility?

I think that the reason I opened up about my endometriosis is because I was undiagnosed and misdiagnosed until my late thirties. And most women, like me, wait much later than we used to have children because they’re busy with their careers or whatever reason. And if you’ve never explored your fertility until it’s almost too late, it can be too late. I didn’t want other young women to go through what I’d gone through. If I’d been diagnosed in my early 20s, the quality of my life would’ve been much different. I was lucky with my fertility, but sometimes other women aren’t so lucky. And I think just talking to other women and just sharing what we’ve all been through is helpful and in a way, makes some good use out of the suffering I went through.