Padma Lakshmi is doing everything she can to change how American food is defined. She’d like to also see some changes in the culinary world — and she can’t do it alone.
“The professional food industry is one of the most male-dominated sectors of our society. Probably the only place that’s more male-dominated is the military and so I would like to see that change,” the chef, 49, says exclusively in the latest issue of Us Weekly. “Most of the food in this world is actually made by women and yet the professional food world is taken over by men, so I would like to see that disparity decrease considerably.”
Although the Top Chef host knows how the food industry needs to change, she’s hoping that others in her industry — men specifically — will take matters into their own hands.
“It will only happen with paid maternity leave, better hours, better accountability for sexual harassment, equal pay between men and women and between ethnicities,” the Emmy winner says. “I would like to see big, white male chefs in our industry make a concerted effort to mentor and speak out for women and minorities — to mentor them and give them the same richness of experience and privilege that white males have had. I think that would go a long way. We don’t even teach African American food in culinary school in this country and we should. That is a rich part of our history here, and I think we need to expand and broaden what we consider important in modern gastronomy.”
Lakshmi is currently promoting her new Hulu series, Taste the Nation, in which she redefines the real meaning of American food, highlighting the work of immigrants around the world.
“I’ve been really lucky at this point in my career to be able to use my professional life and further my advocacy work in a way that’s entertaining, so I think that that’s all we all can ask to do with our work — something meaningful that we believe in, that we will be doing anyway even if it wasn’t a job for us,” the award-winning cookbook author notes. “So the show was really just an extension of my advocacy work and I hope it’s a way to advocate for these communities, while being informative and teaching people something, but also just being entertaining. … America is made of immigrants. America has been built by immigrants from different generations and different parts of the world. It is the reason for America’s greatness.”
For more from Lakshmi, pick up the latest issue of Us Weekly, on newsstands now.
Taste the Nation is streaming now on Hulu.
With reporting by Carly Sloane