HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


Top Chef presenter, enlighten me

I know the sticky says not to bash TV hosts but this is a sincere question.
I don't live in USA but we do get Top Chef in my country and I love it. You're so lucky to get the food TV you do. Anyway. what I don't get is why the programme's presenter is there? She's really wooden and from what she says it doesn't seem like she has any particular expertise in food. Not that she says much anyway. Then I read her wikipedia entry and it seems like she's written some cookbooks. Ok. But as someone who has no idea about American TV, celebrities, food scene, etc. it's totally baffling that she's there. Is there something I'm missing, something I don't know about her, is she really popular in America, has she done other TV shows?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I also don't live in the US, got some of the TC shows, and also wish that we got more US food type shows.

    You're asking about Padma? Americans find her attractive. She hosted some previous food oriented shows. I thought that she was terrible.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      it's true, i've read people from places like Ulaanbaatar, Split , Addis Ababa and Medillin find her looks repulsive.
      those wacky americans.

      el linus

      1. re: linus

        really? repulsive? why is that - I thought she was an international model.

      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

        <Americans find her attractive.>

        Yes, like that famous American, Salman Rushdie, who married her. And that other famous American, Emanuel Ungaro, for whom she modeled. And oh, yeah, famous American Helmut Newton who photographed her extensively. Those crazy Americans and their bizarre notions of attractiveness!

        But I confess to a) being American and b) thinking she's very pretty.

        1. re: small h

          You might note that I did not say that ONLY Americans find her attractive.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Fair enough. But there were so very many things you did not say (the sun is hot, 30 Rock wasn't so good last week, etc.) that I figured I'd better stick to the thing you DID say, in order to save time and energy.

          2. re: small h

            As a heterosexual woman I know my opinion probably isn't worth much, but I think Gail, with her voluptuous sensuality, is infinitely more sexy than Padma.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I'm also a heterosexual woman, and I don't even watch Top Chef, so your opinion is worth more than mine. But I google-imaged Gail Simmons, and you're right! she's hawt! But she's kinda got the crazy eyes, at least in this picture.


              1. re: small h

                I think the perfect example why I think Gail is sexy was in the last show of Top Chef Masters, when Gail said she loved the sauce so much she wanted to bathe in it. Jay Raynor, sitting next to her, looked like he was about to offer to lick it off her afterwards!

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  As a heterosexual male, Gail irritates the bejeezus out of me and I don't find her appealing in any way.

              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                From a heterosexual man, I could not agree more.

          3. If you search the posts here you will find that many people don't like Padma. I don't agree with all of the criticism. I think she knows something about food. But the answer to your question is, she's on the show because she's a model. She is beautiful _ at least many people think so. She was married to Salman Rushdie, which gives her extra celebrity cred. In America, TV shows need a beautiful, famous model to be the face of the show.

            1. many of us in the US are just as baffled as you are. I don't know how she came to be on the show, she seems very stiff to me. If you review past comments on TC, others feel the same.

              1. Padma has been part of the formula that has made this show very popular. And that from a relatively obscure cable channel. So love her or hate her, the producers don't want to change a working mixture of beauty (I wouldn't turn down a date with her), adequate eloquence (I can understand what she says) and celebrity (with her famous scar and prior marriage to a decent author who had a fatwa on his head for many years). America loves this quirky mix of judges and hostess and bottom line, the food and the chefs are getting the exposure like never before.

                1. If you think Padma is wooden, you obviously have not seen Season 1 where the hostess was Katie Lee Joel. Padma is a huge improvement. I wouldn't describe Padma as wooden, but more like she's stoned. In real life I don't think I would get along very well with her, but I think she does her job well. She's beautiful (almost a prerequisite to host a show on a non-public network), can deliver her lines, and knows something about food (though I will say not a high level when you compare her to Colicchio). She has appeared on a few food related TV shows on the Food Network and was on Globetrekker (which airs on public TV).

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    What you said, Miss N. :-) A 2x4 would have been better than Katie Lee Joel. Having said that, Padma this season just seems "off" to me. I liked her a few seasons back - there was a bit more animation and liveliness to her voice. This season, she seems like she's walking through, pauses to say something on camera, and then keeps going.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      I do agree with you about Padma being a bit "off" this season. Perhaps the friction between her and the rest of the cast and crew is starting to show on camera.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        one other thought about Padma - perhaps it was early in her pregnancy when they filmed these episodes? if she was particularly tired or battling morning sickness in her first trimester, it would explain why she seems so "drowsy" all the time. i keep waiting for her to nod off in a plate of food!

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          I thought about that as well but I don't think the timing works as they started filming in April -- unless Padma is a lot more pregnant than I think she is. There could have been some overlap towards the end of the season, though, with her pregnancy.

                          I'm also wondering how she will handle judging the finale and next season of Top Chef. She stated in an interview that she will eat everything. But there's been an awful lot of ceviche this season. Will contestants will score brownie points with her if they prepare "pregnancy friendly" items

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            I *think* these were taped in early summer? And she was only 4 months pregnant at the Emmys, I think....so I'm not sure if she would have even known if she was pregnant when taping of this season began.

                      2. re: Miss Needle

                        'I wouldn't describe Padma as wooden, but more like she's stoned" LMAO.

                        And I don't know why, but I don't think I would get along with her either. I notice that she irritates some of the cheftestants. Didn't Ash say he would invite the other judges to his restaurant, but not Padma?

                        1. re: Gigi007

                          Yeah, I think Ash said that because Padma never liked anything he made.

                          There was something I posted a few days ago about an interview with an ex-crew member of TC Season 5. I believe the word he/she described Padma was diva.

                          Diva or not, I'm still fine with her hosting the show. Probably wouldn't want to hang out with her -- but she probably wouldn't want to hang out with me either!

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            I guess she's OK. Anyway, she's a TV personality. No telling what she's like in real life. I honestly would not be interested in her opinions about food, but wouldn't mind hearing about her years w/ Salman Rushdie.

                      3. If you think of Top Chef as a restaurant, it's quite common for restaurants to have cute women as hostess or greeters. They may not know the full menu or the specials of the day, but they are usually the first person the customer will see upon entering the restaurant and can set the mood for the rest of the meal.

                        Also, television in the USA is based upon a basic formula. Pretty people in front of the camera while everyone else works behind the camera or on the radio. Many radio host like to joke about "having a face for radio".

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: dave_c

                          Plus, consider that on the show, Padma's job is not to know about the food but rather to run the show. Think of her as being like an emcee or a moderator of a panel discussion whose job is to coordinate all the questions & comments. She doesn't really do that, of course, except in a symbolic sort of way.

                          To a certain extent, you don't want the emcee to upstage the show. (Or am I wrong here?)

                          And to be honest: I'd rather have Padma tell me to pack my knives & go rather than Tom or (worse yet) Toby.

                          1. re: alanstotle

                            Her function is slightly more than symbolic. This is a competition. It has rules. There are legal and contractual obligations to both participants and sponsors who have paid to have their products plugged. Therefore, in a show like this, someone -- in this case, Padma -- has to fulfill obligations to plug the sponsors' products *as contracted* and to formally present the rules for the challenges. She can't just be up there casually shooting the breeze. One of the reasons she sounds so wooden is that she often has to deliver scripted lines, which in a format where everyone else is unscripted really stands out.

                          2. re: dave_c

                            "Also, television in the USA is based upon a basic formula."

                            Remove "in the USA" and your statement would still be accurate.

                            1. re: dave_c

                              Good observation, dave. And whether or not she has the professional (cooking) chops one might prefer, she's not here as an expert, just as a host, and she appears to have a very good palate. She adds more than just a beautiful face.

                              Just be glad she's not Cissy Biggers.

                            2. You might ask: what does she have to do with Hardee's, too?. This should explain everything:


                              5 Replies
                              1. re: jbw

                                Holy shit, I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or piss in my pants, but that is actually disgusting, repulsive, a turn off, ...

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    Hilarious, disturbing, vaguely disgusting, over-sexed. That's great marketing. You asked me a while back why I think Americans are funny....

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      I'm glad I wasn't subjected to this in the NYC market.

                                  2. "You're so lucky to get the food TV you do."-If you've ever watched The Food Network you would not say that.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Withnail42

                                      Those of us who live outside of the US usually have to put up with really, really dreadful TV. I enjoy the FN when I work in DC. You don't know how lucky you are to say what you just did.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        After spending three weeks in South America I have come to the conclusion that there is nowhere on the globe where you can escape reruns of some incarnation of Law & Order.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          I've watched lots of FN! It's way better than what we get here. TV here has to be seen to be believed. And no, you can't escape reruns of Law & Order here either, nor Friends, nor CSI.
                                          Also the Top Chef we get is the same series over and over (the one with Marcel and his crazy hair).

                                          1. re: loukoumades

                                            We're finally getting 10 year old re-runs of a season of Iron Chef from Japan. Great!!! But the re-runs of TC finished a season and we're now getting "Top Designer"! Bahh!

                                    2. She's in with Harvey Weinstein so that's how she got that gig. A mutual acquaintance, according to an article in a New York mag (forget the details), encouraged him to give her a shot. The first cycle had Katie Somebody (was married to Billy Joel), who'd also written a cookbook, but wasn't much better. I don't know how she got her chance. Those things are always about who the person knows. Padma's last book was rife with mistakes apparently and clearly lifted the titled from a well-known book by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford. The most animated she gets is when she shrieks "hands up" . . . always makes me roll my eyes.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: cinnamon girl

                                        "The first cycle had Katie Somebody (was married to Billy Joel), who'd also written a cookbook, but wasn't much better."

                                        Katie Lee Joel was about a hundred times worse, IMO. Like a wax figure with a monotone, mechanical voice.

                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          Yeah, definitely robotic . . . lol. But she was given better wardrobe than Padma - not so skanky.

                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                            Katie Lee was so terrible that Padma seemed like a big upgrade.

                                        2. I find her voice so annoying. I love the show but really wish they would get rid of her.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: rebategirl

                                            Really? I find her voice to be her sexiest feature. Or maybe the second sexiest... or third...

                                          2. I don't really have a problem with Padma. She falls in the middle on my scale of reality hosts. Top level - Cat Deeley, Phil Keoghan. Middle are okay, but bug me a little, like Padma, Jeff Probst. And the bottom are vapid idiots like Ryan Seacreast and Tyra Banks.

                                            1. Oh Padma. She's not the best., but she tries. I can take or leave her.
                                              I think I am the only person who actually liked Kelly Choi (Spelling?) from the TC Masters series.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: stellamystar

                                                I'm with you on the Kelly bandwagon! There were some things I liked better about TCM, one of which was that the hostess didn't express any opinions about the food.

                                              2. Spouse and I actually remember her from her old cooking show on Food Network ('Padma's Passport') and he's always had something of a crush for her. Him- "She's beautiful, smart enough to speak five languages and wants to cook wonderful food for me. What more could a guy ask for?" She's actually the reason why we started watching Top Chef- he wanted to see what his old tv crush was doing now.