Padma Lakshmi braved the early autumn chill this morning to unveil Nespresso’s sleek new U models at the caffeine company’s outdoor Pop-Up Cafe on Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. The Top Chef host, model, author and mother (of Krishna, 2) explained how the efficient single-serve machines come to the rescue when she’s jonesing for joe.
Then Lakshmi sat down with Haute Living to discuss Top Chef‘s Emmys losing streak–it beat The Amazing Race once in 2010, the only reality series to do so since 2003–and the show’s upcoming 10th season in Seattle.
Haute Living: How did your partnership with Nespresso begin and what drew you to the company?
Padma Lakshmi: I used to love espresso, and I spent most of my 20s living in Italy and France. Then I moved back to this country when I was 29 and I stopped drinking coffee. It was pretty much big cups of hot, brown water. I didn’t drink it for almost a decade. Then when I got pregnant I found I really needed coffee to get going in the morning with my nursing schedule and everything. But I would just drink quick espresso.
Then my girlfriend, coincidentally, cuts someone at Nespresso’s hair. And she asked her to send me a coffee machine. And they did. So Nespresso just gifted me one of their machines. I’m not good with technology, and it’s easy to use and doesn’t take up a ton of room. Even in my kitchen, I’m not a gadget freak, so I love it. So that’s how the partnership started, very organically.
Haute Living: You recently partnered with Sterling Vineyards on its Ultimate Host competition. If you’re stuck on the proverbial desert island and can only bring wine or coffee, which do you choose?
Padma Lakshmi: Neither! Food. [Laughs] That’s evil. I can’t answer.
Haute Living: You were recently at the Emmys, where Top Chef lost Outstanding Reality – Competition Program to The Amazing Race for the sixth time. If The Amazing Race‘s cast and crew came over your house, would you serve them good coffee or the dregs so you could stop their momentum?
Padma Lakshmi: I would barter each beverage for one gold statue. They weren’t even excited when they won. It’s like they were marching to their deaths. “Oh man, we’ve got to build another shelf in our office. No more room for all these Emmys.”
Haute Living: It’s like Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. They’re sick of winning.
Padma Lakshmi: At least The Daily Show’s funny!
Haute Living: Have you read or do you plan to read [ex-husband Salman Rushdie’s new memoir] Joseph Anton?
Padma Lakshmi: I have not read it. But, you know, I did stand next to him for eight years.
Haute Living: Top Chef: Seattle premieres November 7 on Bravo. Has the winner been determined?
Padma Lakshmi: We don’t know the winner yet. Most of filming is done, but not the finale, which will be later in the year. We try to do the finale really close to when it airs for a couple reasons: one, the secret doesn’t have to be kept for that long. Two, because it’s nice to give the chefs a rest and a chance to regroup.
Haute Living: It’s fun to see them come back after a few months away.
Padma Lakshmi: Yeah, they’ve got different hair and better moods.
Haute Living: Weight gains, weight losses.
Padma Lakshmi: Right, just like you see with me. [Laughs]
Haute Living: Did anything about this season stand out to you compared to the previous nine?
Padma Lakshmi: I’d never spent any time in Seattle and didn’t know how it would be. I wondered if there’d be enough there, and there certainly was. I was surprised by how much of a food town Seattle really is. I think Portland is also that way. I mean, I ate so well. I think I gained more weight on this season of Top Chef than any other season. Thanks to the cheeses, the fish. I was prepared for the seafood, but not the cheese!
Haute Living: Top Chef’s in Seattle. And two of the most buzzed-about new restaurants in New York are Pok Pok Ny, from Portland, and Mission Chinese Food, from San Francisco. What do you make of the East Coast-West Coast food rivalry?
Padma Lakshmi: I don’t think it’s a rivalry. I think the coasts are just worlds apart. Seattle felt to me like it was a bunch of New York hippies in the ‘70s that went there, settled and had kids. Even the neighborhoods were so sweet and laidback. People in Seattle are laidback looking, but are incredibly intense inside—that must be where the coffee comes in. I just found them incredibly serious about their food, and really cool.
I love Melrose Market and Pike Place market—that’s probably the best food market I’ve been to in this country, really.
Haute Living: Is it authentic despite being a major tourist attraction?
Padma Lakshmi: It’s totally authentic. You can’t open a stall there unless Pike Place is the only, or first place, it’s open. So you get a really eccentric mixed bag of stuff. My daughter was with me and we went there every day. That’s where I got fat.
Haute Living: Of all the restaurants opened by Top Chef alumni in New York, which is your favorite?
Padma Lakshmi: I really like Talde in Brooklyn. I don’t get to Brooklyn that much, but will make the trip for Talde. I had a birthday brunch there recently.
Haute Living: Did you have to wait long or did they make an exception to the no-reservations policy?
Padma Lakshmi: Oh, I go at odd times.
Haute Living: And can we expect another cookbook from you in the future?
Padma Lakshmi: Yes, I’m working on it now. It just has to get written. [Laughs]