Padma Lakshmi On Recipes And Entertaining Tips That Are Perfect For The Holidays - Exclusive Interview

Padma Lakshmi is recently back from filming "Top Chef" in London and is now in the middle of writing the voiceover for the third season of "Taste the Nation." Mark your calendars for "next spring," Lakshmi told Tasting Table. Being at home in New York City isn't always a given for Lakshmi. In her memoir, "Love, Loss, and What We Ate," she reflected that the "Top Chef" set — which travels from city to city for each new season — "feels like a big circus." 

One of the things about always being on the road is that it makes time spent not traveling that much more precious. This week is particularly meaningful for Lakshmi, who is celebrating Diwali back to back with Halloween. That, in turn, means friends, family, and holiday hosting, something that Lakshmi does with pizzazz — and a culinary offering — like no other. 

Take notes: No guest list is complete without a charcuterie board to accompany it. As Boursin tapped Padma Lakshmi to be Maison Boursin's 2022 Host in Residence, most of her boards include that. Yes, Lakshmi actually eats Boursin. It was, she writes in "Love, Loss, and What We Ate," a kind of precursor to her discovery of goat cheese while living in Paris. Boursin continues to be a vital part of her snack-making arsenal today — but we'll let Lakshmi tell you about that herself, along with unmissable chutney charcuterie suggestions, her Halloween candy favorites, and a sneak peek at upcoming "Taste the Nation" episodes.

Padma Lakshmi's Halloween plans

Halloween is around the corner. You tell a wonderful story in your memoir about coming to the United States and seeing your mom hand out Halloween candy for the first time. Since then, it's become a big tradition for you and your daughter. What Halloween activities do you have planned, and what traditions do you have?

We try to carve pumpkins every year the week before. This year, the week before Halloween is actually Diwali, which is also a very big holiday in my house. I already got my new pumpkin carving tool. I'm not very good, so I need all the help I can get.

Then we put our final touches on the costumes. Now, we've been planning our costumes for a while, as we always do. We love to dress up, and this year, it's a pretty easy costume. My daughter, Krishna, wants to be a pirate, so we're already amassing all the things that we need, and it's a pretty chill holiday. That's also why I like Halloween, because you just have to dress up and eat candy. There's not a lot of pressure.

What are your candy favorites?

I like dark chocolate. I'm not a huge candy person, but I do like peanut butter and chocolate together, or dark chocolate or toffee and chocolate or minty things. It's one or the other — either that [or] hard candy or Jolly Ranchers and stuff like that. I always go through the candy with my daughter to make sure it's safe and stuff and look through it. I take a couple of pieces out of it and give the rest to her.

The dinner guest who makes Padma Lakshmi laugh

Also in your memoir, you talk about "The Talk" and "The Talk Books" launch party being one of the best parties that you ever went to. It taught you a lot about the art of a spectacular guest list. Who's the last dinner party guest that made a mark on you?

We have a lot of interesting people come to dinner at our house, and one of the tips I give for entertaining is to think about your guest list and think about who's coming and whether they know each other or not. Michael Cunningham, who's a dear friend of mine, is a great writer and such a great raconteur; he's a great storyteller. You want one or two of those people at your table at all times. He wrote "The Hours" and all kinds of books. He's always good for a laugh.

You want an interesting mix of people. Writers tend to hang out together, and I tend to have a lot of friends who are writers, but you want to mix it up with other people because a good dinner party is balanced if possible. Sometimes you want to hang out with your friends and they all happen to be actors or they all happen to be accountants, whatever it is, so it's okay.

To me, a good party consists of a good guest list and a good menu with many dishes that you can make ahead and heat up so you're not stressed. Also, have some things that the guests can help you make — like a salad, or put out a charcuterie board, or if you were toasting bread, smear some Boursin on that, dress it up with some herbs or some pomegranate seeds or whatever.

Padma Lakshmi gives us two delicious chutney suggestions

With charcuterie boards, you're big on mixing tangy, tart, hot, and sweet flavors together. You do a lot of chutneys. What chutney, particularly, would you would pair with Boursin?

The one great thing about Boursin is that it's so flexible. You can use it as a crumble on a salad or to make toast points, and it's chilled, it's cold. You can also melt it because it's really crumbly and creamy, so it makes a good base when it's also room temperature or baked. A great chutney that I would pair with Boursin is if you like spicy food, I make a chutney with dried Angelino plums, which are red. They're not prunes. I mix that with a couple of chipotle peppers in adobo and grind it, and you put a little olive oil to make it mix. That's hot and sweet. If you add a little lemon juice to it, it's also tart. Those are my favorite things to have together. That's one easy chutney, and it's in "Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet."

Another one is an onion and balsamic and black pepper chutney that you cook down and down and down until it's almost pasty. You chop onions or shallots also and use a little butter [or] olive oil to sauté that very slowly, add black pepper, add a pinch of salt to taste. To that, you're going to add some balsamic, and you're going to reduce that all together. It's super concentrated. That pairs beautifully with the creamy, mild lusciousness of Boursin. It also works if you want to spread that first and then put a slice of bresaola or other charcuterie, and on top of that, put the Boursin.

You are a chutney connoisseur.

I love chutney.

Padma Lakshmi shares a meaningful Taste the Nation Season 3 memory

Back in June, you hinted that you were visiting Puerto Rico, Houston, and Appalachia as part of the next season of "Taste the Nation." Could you give us any hints about your favorite experiences for upcoming seasons?

We went to all those three places. In fact, I just got back from "Top Chef," and I'm actually in the middle of editing those and writing the voiceover and everything. The Nigerians in Houston are a great community, and it's one that was a lot of fun to do. Another one that I love is the Cambodian episode. We go to Lowell, Massachusetts. One in four people of Lowell are Cambodian, and they completely revitalize that community. Another one is the Afghan people in D.C., and that's a beautiful episode, too. We have 10 episodes on deck for next spring.

When you spend so much time traveling, you spend a lot of time in other people's homes, and they bring you in and welcome you into intimate settings without ever having known you personally. Can you think of an instance of hospitality that made a mark on you while filming?

Obviously, we are casting for the show and make sure that people are open and want to talk about their lives and stuff. But you never know until you get there how it's going to be, because how a person talks to a producer on the phone or even in person is different than me coming in with my cameras. Even if they're small cameras and there's only two or three, it's a lot. A lot of people we interview are not camera ready, but what they all are is very hospitable and they all want to show you their culture.

We were in D.C., and I can think of one particular gentleman named Homayun who had us in his home. His wife's a lawyer and he's a great cook, and he was showing me how to make this wonderful Afghan dish called aushak. He had already made this beautiful green chutney — speaking of chutney — and he had put it in a bottle and said, "I made this for you." That is so thoughtful because it had nothing to do with the recipe we were cooking or anything. It was such a generous thing to do, and I was very moved by that.

The snack Padma Lakshmi makes for her daughter

You recently got back from London where you were filming "Top Chef." You lived there previously, so it must have brought back a lot of memories. You went snack tasting at grocery stores in London. Which snack ended up winning for you?

There were these potato chips that had an Indian flavor to them, and those were the ones I liked the best. I was expecting to like something much different, but that's the one that delivered.

One thing that I've always done — it's a little weird, but I like it, and it's a snack that I use. It's not just because we're doing this interview. I take the Boursin out and let it get to room temperature so it's super soft. I mix a little bit of yogurt into it in a bowl, so it's even more creamy. Then I put hot sauce — Tapatío hot sauce or any hot sauce. I swirl that and use that as a dip for my potato chips. That's a snack that I love. You can do French chilies that are chopped in it, but usually, it's something I do super quick late at night when we're watching movies on the weekend. It's a great snack and I love it.

I'll take bresaola and I'll put a little bit of Boursin in there and I'll roll it already. If you want to make it healthier, for my daughter, I'll put batons of cucumber in there too. You get three textures.

Your daughter does all these great segments with you on Instagram, and she's grown up on "Top Chef" but throws you a lot of shade. Is she into social chefs?

She's not. She used to be on TikTok, but I took her off social media, so she doesn't have any social media. She gets to come on mine once in a while. Like any parent, I'm very proud of her, and she's the hugest part of my life there is. But I felt it was healthier for her as a tween girl not to be on social media.

Visit for Padma's exclusive holiday entertaining guide, where you'll find gifting inspiration, hosting tips, and delicious recipes to make the art of entertaining easy, elevated, and, above all, enjoyable for every occasion.

This interview was edited for clarity.