Padma Lakshmi took the witness stand for the first time in the federal trial of four members of the Boston Teamsters accused of extorting Top Chef‘s production company during a location shoot in 2014 for hiring non-union workers. Lakshmi said in court on Monday, August 8, that she felt “threatened” during an encounter with a group of Teamsters when she was on her way to Steel & Rye restaurant in Milton, Massachusetts, and was being driven by her assistant Jason Duffy.
According to The Associated Press, the Top Chef host claimed that Duffy slowed the vehicle to avoid hitting a group of men who were blocking the road when a Teamster union member approached her side of the vehicle. And he allegedly threatened: “’Oh, looky here, what a pretty face. What a shame about that pretty face.’”
“I felt he was bullying me. I thought he might hit me. I felt threatened,” Lakshmi continued, according to Deadline. “I felt really bad for Jason. He looked terrified. I thought it was less likely that they would hit a girl. I’m glad they didn’t go to Jason’s side. He’s the unsung hero of our show. He looked terrified. His knuckles were white on the wheel.”
The TV personality added, according to the Variety, that there was a policeman directing traffic, but that law enforcement seemed to allow the Teamsters’ behaving.
The TV host’s assistant also testified about the encounter saying, “I didn’t hear 100 percent on the other side, but Padma was clearly uneasy and scared – there was panic on her face.”
The Boston Herald reported that the Top Chef host claimed that the Teamsters insulted the cast and crew and subjected them to “serious schoolyard bullying.”
Top Chef judge Gail Simmons also took the stand on Monday to testify claiming that when she arrived she also saw the men blocking Lakshmi’s car at the restaurant and that she was “incredibly afraid.” Simmons said, “One of the men put his head into the van and started yelling at us.”
Lawyers for the Teamsters are claiming that the members were exercising their right to picket, the AP reported. The four Teamsters pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to extort.
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