Padma Lakshmi's Easy Tip to Get Out of a Cooking Rut

The Top Chef host, 49, dishes about what she learned creating her new show and offers up advice on expanding your palate.

I have gotten very involved with the ACLU and immigration issues. As someone who’s an immigrant, I started thinking, “What is American food?” The ethnic-food scene in the United States is very exciting. We are a nation of immigrants. That’s how the idea for [my new show] Taste the Nation got started. You can’t get mad about food—it connects people. So my hope is that people will be willing to talk to each other.

It’s been a very different experience to create something out of my own head and be responsible for it—it’s been a growing experience. One thing I learned while creating the show is that you really set the tone—everyone you work with takes cues from you. If you approach everything with a measure of enthusiasm and humility, then people will come with you.

If you are curious about different types of cuisines but aren’t sure where to start, I like to tell people to pick a spice that is very indicative of a certain region and start experimenting with it in dishes you are used to. For example, add a little curry powder to your scalloped potatoes or add a little chipotle to the mayonnaise in your potato salad. When you take a spice from another culture and add it to something you’re used to, it becomes more accessible.

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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