As a judge on Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi has eaten a lot of food—and not all of it good. The 45-year-old certainly doesn't hold her opinion back on the show, and nor did she during a conversation with André Leon Talley at the Women in the World Summit Thursday in New York City.
The mother, model, and author of the recently released memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate ($17; amazon.com), spoke at length about the role food has played in her life. “My love of food actually came from the women in my family,” she said. “My mother, my grandmothers, all the aunts in my family taught me how to cook, and through their teaching I think they taught me a lot more about what it means to be feminine and a feminist.”
But Talley wasted little time getting to the good stuff. Below, a excerpt of their cheerful chat—which will cause more than a few readers to squirm in their seats.
André Leon Talley: You’ve written that foods are like men: some are good, some are bad, and some are okay, but most should be tried at least once. What are the worst ones that you tried?
Padma Lakshmi: Once on Top Chef they made me try duck testicles.
Duck testicles? Was it savory or sweet?
It was savory! I didn’t know ducks had testicles. And before that I was doing a documentary called Planet Food, which goes into a country and you learn about the food people eat. We were in Spain, and I was forced to go to this bull fight. Afterwards, we went to eat the local delicacy, which is bull testicles, so I’ve had those, too.
I bet those taste like chicken.
No! They taste like brain, which gives credence to the fact that … [gestures suggestively]. But you know—I write in the book about this—I also consumed my own placenta.
It’s not as gross as it sounds. I had it dehydrated and capsulated and I just took two placenta pills in the morning with my coffee. [Laughs.] It’s supposed to shore up your reserves. When you are pregnant, all of your body is focused here [points to belly] and then when you give birth, all of that is gone and you can feel very depleted. There’s not a lot of scientific research on it, so I don’t want to blab up here on the stage about it, but I did it because I wanted to stave off post-partum depression. Because of what was going on in my life, a lot of which is in this memoir, I was very worried about that. The network shut down Top Chef, because I had a very difficult pregnancy and I was bedridden for the last trimester and so I couldn’t shoot. They could have very easily gotten someone else, but thankfully for me, they shut the show down, so I felt a great responsibility to go back to work. There were 150 people who had laid down their tools and weren’t working until I got back up. I went back to work five-and-a-half weeks after giving birth. I had an emergency c-section, and so I would have done anything [to go back to work]. I had a naturopath who suggested this, and that’s what I did. But no, I did not sauté it with onions and have it with a glass of Chianti.