“Top Chef” Host and author Padma Lakshmi tells DJ Garth Trinidad about the music that inspires the creation of her culinary masterpieces. The self-described “kid of New York City” reminisces about the soundtrack to summers in Central Park, chooses a timeless classic that is all about letting go of your inhibitions, and some bluesy, groovy Southern rock that captures her college years. Padma’s latest book is called Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet.For More: padmalakshmi.com
Check out Padma Lakshmi’s interview on Good Food
2. The Isley Brothers "Summer Breeze", 3+3 (Epic/Legacy)
3. Marvin Gaye "Let's Get It On", Let's Get It On (Motown)
4. Little Feat feat. Robert Palmer "Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley", Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley (Island Records)
5. Led Zeppelin "Ramble On", Mothership (Atlantic Records)
Garth Trinidad: Hey, this is Garth Trinidad from KCRW and I am here with “Top Chef” host and award-winning author Padma Lakshmi.
Padma Lakshmi: Thank you.
Garth Trinidad: We’re just going to sort of shoot the breeze a little bit, talk about music and the music that has specifically inspired her over the years and her cooking career, and I don’t know, supermodel — a couple stories possibly, maybe, maybe not?
Padma Lakshmi: [Laughs]
Garth Trinidad: So, what did you bring in your musical goodie bag to share with us?
Padma Lakshmi: This was such a hard assignment because I didn’t know how to narrow it down, but narrow it down I did. I picked an Indian classical violinist,. It’s a carnatic musician, her name is Dr. Rajam. And, you know, you can just pick any song from any of these recordings that you want. These compositions are really great if you’re working in the morning, especially if you’re a writer and you’re getting to your desk. They are designed- they’re compositions that were written to uplift and expand the mind and the soul. And, you know, often times music — especially if it’s not instrumental — can be distracting while you’re trying to concentrate. These compositions, again, which were written mostly in the 1800s, are designed to actually aid in concentration, and they’re specifically designed to play in the morning.
Garth Trinidad: “Summer Breeze,” tell me a story, where did you first hear this, and, how did you get stuck on it?
Padma Lakshmi: “Summer Breeze” makes me think of the first few weeks of spring when it gets warm enough to go lie on the green in Central Park. I am a kid of New York City, and I remember going to Central Park and getting my face painted. It was on Saturdays when my mom was off work, and she would buy me a punching balloon. I always heard musicians in Central Park and I would keep rhythm with my little punching balloon, with beads in it or beans in it. And I would get my face painted and we would lie on the grass, and, you know, there was all this marijuana smoke around me [laughs]. And, again, this was the ‘70’s when you had all those concerts in the park. It was just, the whole atmosphere, it was the whole kind of bohemian flavor thing going. It was sort of an Indian-bohemian-hippie thing, and all of that kind of made its way into my head and my heart and really formed me as a person.
Garth Trinidad: Isley Brothers “Summer Breeze.”
Break into song: “Summer Breeze” by The Isley Brothers
Garth Trinidad: It’s Garth Trinidad. We’re here on KCRW.com speaking about music with the infamous Padma Lakshmi, “Top Chef” host and award-winning author. Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get It On” — now, you know this is an iconic song. What made you choose this one?
Padma Lakshmi: This song is as important to me as “Sexual Healing,” as important to me as Etta James, “At last ...,” (Padma sings). So, it’s just those songs that are kind of timeless and kind of … they represent musically and acoustically the kind of moment when your inhibitions uncurl, unfurl, sort of open up like a flower; and it’s when the body and the spirit is actually able to relax, and just uncurl your fingers and toes and all your tentacles metaphorically and spiritually and physically; and I think that’s what these kinds of songs do, they lubricate that process.
Song: “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye …
Garth Trinidad: You gotta tell me a story about “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley” with Little Feet.
Padma Lakshmi: Yeah, it’s a great album. Every song-- they have that very beautiful, bluesy, groovy, Southern rock vibe to them. And they — you know, like Leonard Skynard or all these other bands — Little Feet is a band with great soul. And this is from 1972, and it’s got Robert Palmer singing, and he adds some kind of sexiness, that combination of Robert Palmer and Little Feet is so irresistibly sexy. For me, it resonates with that kind of sexual freedom of college. And it’s kind of got, you know, it’s that thing where you first go to college and you’re kind of scared and you sneak around and you do things you’re not sure you’re allowed to ’cause it’s the first time you have freedom. It has all that kind of ridiculousness of college, but the music stands up much better than any, any of these, you know, stories from that time, I’m have to say[laughs].
Song: “Sneaking Through the Alley With Sally” by Little Feet
Garth Trinidad: Led Zeppelin, “Ramble On,” do you cook to this song? Have you been inspired to like come up with-
Padma Lakshmi: Yeah.
Garth Trinidad: -a crazy recipe to this song?
Padma Lakshmi: I love this song because it never ceases to make me happy, happy as a dog’s tail. You know, in the kitchen, barefoot, with the music up, with a big, wide wok in front me and all my spices. I think of my spice box as a painter’s palate, and I often I just go to the market and buy vegetables or some protein. I usually have tomatoes or coconut milk or something like that, and then I just do what I refer to in the book as “MacGyvering” in the kitchen. And what I mean by that is just taking what you have and really creating something spontaneously. And I love the kind of tooling, rambling on, you know, attitude of this song. It just makes me want to keep humming, keep on my path, and really inspires me to kind of just keep creating -- whatever form that creativity takes shape in is fine.
Song: “Ramble On” by Led Zepplin
Garth Trinidad: Padma Lakshmi, ladies and gentleman, “Top Chef’ host and author. Thank you so much for going through the crates, digging in the crates and coming up with five amazing selections. So, thank you for being our guest DJ today and spending some time with us here at KCRW dot COM.
Padma Lakshmi: Thank you for having me.
Fade out of song.