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The Daily Dish Top Chef

Padma Lakshmi Describes the Mood on the Top Chef Set After Anthony Bourdain's Death

The host of Bravo's Top Chef remembers an atmosphere of shock and sadness in Kentucky.

By Alesandra Dubin

Hours after the news broke that one of the food world's biggest and boldest personalities had died, a group of chefs who knew and admired him had to head to work under deeply sad circumstances.

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Filming for Season 16 of Bravo's Top Chef  is underway in Kentucky, and host Padma Lakshmi provided a glimpse into what it was like to work on the set on the tragic day colleague Anthony Bourdain died in France.

Naturally, Padma described it as a "really hard day" in an interview with People. “I’ve known Tony for such a long time. I was just really shocked and saddened because he had been doing really well. Obviously his career is better than it’s ever been, he seemed to really be in love with his girlfriend, and he had a beautiful young daughter."

Bourdain had been a frequent guest judge on Top Chef — and he was also a self-described fan.

“It’s obviously hard on all of us,” Padma told People. “He was great on Top Chef. He brought a breath of fresh air and a new energy and made it his own. He was very much himself. He made me laugh the whole time. He was like a swashbuckling pirate that just out of nowhere landed onto our judges table.”

Padma explained that the chefs on set might have rather been elsewhere to process their feelings.

“I think if we had our choice, we would probably have the day off and spend it in bed or reminiscing about Tony together, but we don’t have that luxury,” she continued. “We’re just trying to muddle through. Everyone that I’ve spoken to, whether they even met him or knew him well or just in passing, has been deeply affected by this. The world has lost a real original voice.”

Padma also fondly remembered bonding with Bourdain over their daughters during their time together. 

“Tony saw the humanity in every person,” she said. “I really got close to him after the birth of my daughter. I may have even been a bit intimidated by him before that. I think he could see what I was dealing with and juggling. And he had a lot of empathy for that.”

She recalled: “As you know, Tony could be rough and rash… [But] I remember Tony could be really tender and sweet as well. There were times when he would just take Krishna and bounce her on his knee. And he would always say, ‘Give me that baby! I need a hit of that new baby smell!’ It made me laugh. He would just nuzzle his face into Krishna’s neck and would say how much he missed his daughter."

She also described Bourdain as "a guys’ guy, but also a champion of women. He stepped up for the underdog. And often the underdogs in the kitchen are women.”

Padma added, "He was somebody I really admired... He said it like it was but he also admitted when he was wrong. And not many big chefs have an ego that allows them to do that but he did.”

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