Celebrated chefs from across the country and our East End treated guests to diverse dishes at the prestigious James Beard Foundation’s Chefs and Champagne at Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack Saturday night. The evening’s honoree was Top Chef host and author Padma Lakshmi, who attended the event benefiting the foundation’s programs including scholarship and women’s leadership, with her 8-year-old daughter Krishna.
“She’s a good little cook, I have to say, and I think the earlier you can get children involved in the food that they eat, the better the chance of giving them good eating habits for the rest of their life,” Lakshmi said.
Speaking of food habits, Lakshmi keeps it low key when in the Hamptons: “I don’t go out a lot, I pretty much make it to the butcher and to the farm stand and that’s it! I tend to cook a lot here so I really do associate the Hamptons with good food, but food that comes from my stove and my kitchen!”
“I think the seafood is incredible, the fish, the crabbing, the clams," she continued, "but also I think the produce here is divine. That hinge moment between summer and fall, you can’t beat New England and you can’t beat the Hamptons, the tomatoes, the corn, all the other vegetables, there’s something in the air here! The Hamptons is a great place to get away. I finished writing my memoir here so a lot of artists make their home in the Hamptons for that reason. The light is beautiful, it’s also a nice place to be creative and be quiet and really get a lot accomplished.”
Lakshmi, 47, made a Hamptons stop fresh off a flight from Hong Kong; she leaves for Italy Monday. She just finished filming the 16th season of "Top Chef" in Kentucky and the finale in Macao. To say she’s on the road a lot is an understatement.
“It is physically draining, but I wouldn’t have it any other way," the TV show host said. "I think it also allows me to show my daughter other people and other ways of eating … she’s always with me on set and she’s a good little traveler.”
“Most people dream of that kind of run in television," Lakshmi said. "I’m very lucky and there are so many people you don’t see on Top Chef that work really hard. We just got another Emmy nomination, so we are excited about that!”
Her best tip for traveling with a child: “I usually have her pack a backpack with me that’s light enough for her to carry but has little tiny containers with different play dough colors, has teeny tiny watercolor sets, a little pad with other activities for her that don’t involve the iPad. It’s easy to stick a kid in front of a movie, which I do too on the plane. But I think if you have them decide what goes in that bag then they’ll be excited to play with those toys or activities when they’re on the plane, and gives you a little free time to work on your computer, read or sleep.”
For everyone envious of Padma’s elegant eating on Instagram and TV, Padma counters: “I don’t know if I’m that elegant! I grew up as a child in India eating with my hands so I’m innately primed not to spill. There’s a way to eat with your hands to not get food dribbling all over down your wrists, and I think I’m just so terrified I’m going to spill something on my dress. You know, we are the number one food show in the world, but we are still a cable cooking show so we don’t have the budget to have three of everything, so I think I’m just terrified we are going to have to stop filming for half an hour to clean the stain off my dress, so I’m just super careful. There’s no art to it, it’s fear!”
A 'HOUSEWIVES' REUNION. A cast of characters reunited at former "Real Housewives of New York City" star Jill Zarin’s annual luxury luncheon. This year’s event at Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton produced by Ticket2Events was in honor of Jill’s husband Bobby Zarin, who died earlier this year at age 71. Jill’s girlfriends including Dina Lohan, Heather McDonald, "Ladies of London" star Juliet Angus, former "Real Housewives of New Jersey" cast member Kathy Wakile, "Real Housewives of Dallas" star LeeAnne Locken and "Millionaire Matchmaker" Patti Stanger all showed their support.
Zarin said she wanted to host this year’s event to benefit Thyriod Cancer Research because, “Bobby’s like, ‘One more, that’s it!’ I had to do it for him. I didn’t want to stop because it’s really for him, I always did it for him and he loved it and he’s here and he kept the rain away and he probably wants me to promote my rugs -- Jill Zarin Rugs!”
Although Zarin had a smile on her face, she admitted the past few months haven’t been easy.
“Listen, there are days I can’t get out of bed," she said, "but they get less and less and things have gotten better. And I’ve started to date and life goes on and that’s what Bobby wanted. And it’s kind of like seasons, the winter season was clearly the mourning, the spring is when you kind of come out and the summer is when you start to live again. And that’s what I would recommend to anyone going through what I’m going through, that it doesn’t have to take a year, you have to do what’s comfortable for you and don’t let anyone tell you differently.”
Zarin, 54, said she’s still connected to all of her fellow "RHONY" cast-mates. As far as coming back to the show, “I don’t know more than anybody they haven’t asked me back . . . I would go back as a friend, I would like to think I would if the offer is right because my life is good.”
The event featured products from several new female-run companies.