Current Events Trivia: The Jewish connection to Padma Lakshmi


Mark Zimmerman, Special To The Jewish Light

Padma ‍Lakshmi ‍announced ‍last ‍week ‍that ‍she ‍is ‍leaving ‍the ‍‍Top ‍Chef ‍program ‍after ‍serving ‍as ‍host ‍and ‍judge ‍for ‍20 ‍seasons ‍of ‍the ‍cooking ‍competition ‍show. ‍Lakshmi, born ‍in ‍Madras ‍(now ‍Chennai), ‍India, ‍has ‍a ‍varied ‍professional ‍background, ‍first ‍as ‍a ‍model ‍and ‍later ‍as ‍an ‍actor. ‍

She ‍has ‍created, ‍hosted, ‍produced ‍and/or ‍performed ‍in ‍numerous ‍television ‍shows ‍and ‍movies, ‍including ‍‍Taste ‍the ‍Nation ‍with ‍Padma ‍Lakshmi, ‍‍Padma’s ‍Passport, ‍‍Glitter, ‍‍Whose ‍Line ‍Is ‍It ‍Anyway?, ‍and ‍‍30 ‍Rock. ‍She ‍has ‍written ‍many ‍food-related ‍books, ‍including ‍‍The ‍Encyclopedia ‍of ‍Spices ‍and ‍Herbs: ‍An ‍Essential ‍Guide ‍to ‍the ‍Flavors ‍of ‍the ‍World ‍and ‍‍Love, ‍Loss, ‍and ‍What ‍We ‍Ate: ‍A ‍Memoir. ‍

But, what ‍is ‍a ‍Jewish ‍connection ‍in ‍Padma ‍Lakshmi’s ‍life? (Clue: 2 answers are correct)

  1. Lakshmi’s daughter Krishna (whom Lakshmi calls Little Hands) celebrated her bat mitzvah last year. Krishna’s father, Adam Dell (venture capitalist and brother of Dell Computer founder Michael Dell) is Jewish. Said Lakshmi about her daughter, “She’s a big girl, she just turned 12. She also got her nose pierced recently and looks fantastic.”
  2. Among the cookbooks that Lakshmi published is Calcutta Kosher: The Cuisine of India’s Jewish Community, which she co-wrote with Mavis Hyman (best known for her cookbook Indian-Jewish Cooking).
  3. Lakshmi and author Salman Rushdie were in a relationship for about 8 years (including a three year marriage). Lakshmi introduced him to Philip Roth, author of Portnoy’s Complaint and Goodbye, Columbus, as she had gotten to know him when she performed in a stage version of Goodbye, Columbus in London. The two authors developed a deep friendship, and Rushdie credits Roth for helping him create Jewish characters in a number of his novels. Among those were Mimi Mamoulian, the Jewish friend and foil of Saladin, the main character in The Satanic Verses and Max Ophuls, the Jewish war hero who is at the center of Rushdie’s novel Shalimar the Clown.
  4. In a 2006 ABC miniseries, The Ten Commandments, Lakshmi played Bithia, daughter of the Pharaoh. Bithia took in baby Moses and raised him as her son after Moses’s mother Jochebed placed him in a basket in the Nile River to save him from the Pharaoh’s edict that all Jewish newborn males must be killed.
  5. Ilan Hall, a Jewish chef from Great Neck, New York, was the winner of the second season of Top Chef. His parents were both Jewish, with his father from Scotland and his mother from Israel. Among the season’s highlights were the many times Lakshmi asked Hall to help her as she struggled to pronounce such food names as arbroath smokies, kreplach, cullen skink, cholent, haggis, gribenes, cranachan, and kasha varnishkes.

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