During her 17-year run on the cooking series, the former fashion model and cookbook author offered her own blend of warmth and steely expertise for contestants and judges, earning her more than a dozen Primetime Emmy nominations for hosting and executive producing.
“After much soul searching, I have made the difficult decision to leave ‘Top Chef,’” Lakshmi wrote in a note posted Friday to her Instagram account. “Having completed a glorious 20th season as host and executive producer, I am extremely proud to have been part of building such a successful show and of the impact it has had in the worlds of television and food.”
After calling the show’s cast and crew “like family to me,” Lakshmi said she “will miss working alongside them,” but shared that she felt “it’s time to move on and need to make space for ‘Taste the Nation,’ my books and other creative pursuits.”
Famously known as the only person who eats everything made on ‘Top Chef’ (a contractual obligation), Lakshmi took over hosting duties for the show’s second season in 2006. She’d later serve as a judge and executive producer.
“Think of all the food that I have eaten,” Lakshmi said in jest during a March interview on “Live With Kelly and Ryan” to promote the 20th season. “It’s a high-class problem to have, but it is a problem.” She’d later estimate on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” her caloric count at about eight to nine thousand calories a day during filming of the show.
The finale of her final season, “Top Chef: World All-Stars,” which features winners and other contestants from previous international seasons, will air June 8.
After she made the announcement that she would finally pack her knives and go, fellow “Top Chef” alums celebrated Lakshmi’s time on the show by showering her with well wishes online.
“End of an era and an incredible run,” commented Andy Cohen beneath Lakshmi’s post. “You were such an amazing partner and a BRILLIANT host. I have such great memories of our TC days.” The “Watch What Happens Live” host also was an executive producer on “Top Chef.”
Australian chef and Season 19 winner Buddha Lo wrote, “I feel honored to be a part of your magical journey.”
“Love you Padma!” actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who was a guest judge on the show, said. “I’m so glad that your show brought us together as friends.”
“Thanks for making everything so special,” gushed Bay Area chef Monique Feybesse, who was a contestant on Season 19. “Making us nervous whenever you came in the room and also proud to know we were cooking for you.”
In recent years, Lakshmi divided her time between “Top Chef” and filming her Hulu series “Taste the Nation,” in which she travels throughout the United States, visiting immigrant communities to highlight their food and cultures. Her show, which won a James Beard award for long-form visual media in 2022, released its second season for streaming last month. Earlier this year, Lakshmi was named to Time’s 100 most influential people.
The La Puente native told The Times in 2021 that while filming “Taste the Nation,” she embraced the freedoms from the cutthroat, competitive environment of “Top Chef,” which has allowed her to more freely express her personality.
“When I got to Hulu, I said, ‘I’m tired of seeing women [being] careful about what they say, dressing a certain way, being coquettish. Men get to let it all hang out,’” she said. “I didn’t want my appearance to be an issue. I wanted that to disappear. I wanted the opportunity to be my full self. I have a potty mouth. I eat till I explode. I have little filter. Like it or not, that’s how it is when you hang out with me.”