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Interview: Padma Lakshmi

The television host and mom dishes about Top Chef's new season, her daughter's developing palate and meal planning for busy parents. 

Padma Lakshmi was already an internationally successful model and cookbook author before she burst onto the small screen as host of the top-rated television series Top Chef. Since then, she's been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award as Outstanding Host on a Reality Competition, penned another cookbook and learned to balance a busy career with her life as a mother to one-year-old daughter Krishna. We caught up with the mom and host at the Huggies Little Movers Slip-On Event to talk diapers, Top Chef's November 2 premiere and meal planning for busy parents.

Are you a fan of the new Huggies Slip Ons?
Usually you have a traditional diaper, which is really absorbent, or you have an older children's diaper, which is like a pull-up. This is the best of both worlds. The new diaper slips on like underwear, but it has Velcro strips so you can check inside. If you've ever been in any public bathroom in a New York restaurant or store, you know there is never a changing table. I like to slip the diaper on her legs and then stand her up to pull it on, which this new diaper is perfect for.

What are your favorite places in New York to take your daughter?
There's so much to do in Central Park. I know it seems obvious, but there are little pockets of Central Park that are still there to discover. I really take my baby everywhere. I took her to the San Gennaro Festival, and I got her corn to nibble on. I even took her to the Rauschenberg exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Oh, a budding artist! Did she like it?
She kind of fell asleep after a while—that was when she was still in the Baby Bjorn. The at the American Museum of Natural History, especially now that it's getting cold, is also great. You just have to remember to dress in layers because it's hot! It's like downtown Nairobi in there.

Is your daughter already a foodie?
I nursed through three seasons of Top Chef, so she has a very nice palate. I try and make sure that everyone in our household eats the same food—the only thing we may do differently is add more chilis or meat to our food. But she likes spices. She's an Indian baby, after all!

Many parents feel every meal is like a Top Chef Quickfire Challenge. Do you have any advice for parents who are pressed for time in preparing meals?
I always say do what the big restaurants do: Do your mise en place on the weekend. You know you're going to need your onions, tomatoes, peppers, celery and carrots, so chop them up and put it in little storage containers in your fridge. That way when you come home you can make fresh, homemade, wholesome food. Most of cooking is chopping, and that will already be done.

The next season of Top Chef starts on Wednesday, November 2. What can we look forward to in Texas?
Top Chef All-Stars finished, and I was worried and wondering, How are we going to top this? But the show's much bigger than it's ever been before. We take it on the road all over Texas. I think we moved four times in six weeks. The contestants never knew which day they were moving or where they were going to go, which added a layer of tension and suspense.

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