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Padma Lakshmi Opens Up About Why She "Laid Into" Fatima Ali on Top Chef

Bravo's Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi revealed the motivation behind her treatment of Fatima Ali, who passed away earlier this year after a cancer battle.

Celebrating the Life of Bravo's Top Chef Alum Fatima Ali

Bravo's Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi took several days to collect her thoughts before paying public tribute to Fatima Ali for her posthumous James Beard Award win. Shortly after the ceremony on April 27, Padma wrote simply that she "couldn't be more proud" of Fatima. But on May 2, Padma took to her Instagram to write a lengthy and emotional tribute to the Season 15 Fan Favorite winner, who passed away after a battle with cancer on January 25 at age 29.

As part of her tribute, which Padma shared alongside photos of the pair together, she explained why she didn't go easy on Chef Fati during her time on the show. "Fatima was a quick learner and ambitious as hell," Padma wrote. "On the show, I laid into her about not choosing between cooking delicious Pakistani street food or doing Western haute cuisine — that the two could exist together and in fact that would be the most exciting food that she could do."

Indeed, Padma wanted to challenge Fati to rise to the highest level, of which she knew the talented chef was capable. "She took that critique, absorbed it, and immediately in the next challenge did a version of that," Padma wrote.

Padma's latest tribute dovetails with earlier comments she made nearer to the time of Fati's passing. In an essay for People, Padma then wrote, "I first got to know Fatima through her food. I was hard on her — not with my judging but with the tenor of my feedback," Padma explained. "Not only did I think she could take it, but I knew she wanted me to give it to her straight. I could feel how focused she was."

Padma and Fati became fast friends through Top Chef; Padma brought home-cooked meals to comfort Chef Fati during her illness, and paid a moving tribute to her "lil' sis" following her passing.

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