Padma Lakshmi is constantly cooking up new projects, so it’s no surprise that she’s spent the past week racking up prestigious honors.
The food expert is now the proud owner of three Critics Choice Real TV Awards—one of which recognized her hosting duties on Top Chef and Hulu’s Taste the Nation—along with a James Beard Foundation Award.
Padma was on hand to accept her Critics Choice trophies, and as she told E! News in an exclusive interview on June 15, she was actually surprised by her reaction. “I went up on stage and I burst out crying,” she recalled. “I just burst out into tears on stage because it was surreal and it was just overwhelming. And, obviously, I really wanted to win but I didn’t know if I would.”
That, and she was exhausted. “I was coming from filming in the middle of the ocean down in the Gulf of Mexico,” Padma said. “And so I took a plane, came home, changed my bags, got new clothes and left the next morning for Chicago and it was all a blur.”
A good blur, though. Padma explained that her tears could also be attributed to “a lifetime of emotion and wanting to be accepted in the food community.”
To be recognized for hosting Top Chef for a whopping 19 seasons was particularly exciting, she said. “It feels great. I mean, it’s like a long marriage that we have with our fans.”
The latest season of Top Chef just wrapped earlier this month, and Padma revealed that she was especially thrilled to see Buddha Lo win. “His food was always of such a high caliber, not only in taste, but in presentation and creativity and appearance,” she said. “I think even more than other seasons, he really deserved to win because he was always flawless.”
Padma couldn’t reveal much about the Bravo series’ upcoming 20th season, but she did give a little taste of what’s to come: “We’re going international!”
“You always want to keep it fresh and I think our producers do a really good job of that,” Padma told E! News. “We try to make it creative, we try to use the local food culture in all of our challenges. And I think one of the things that helps us is that we move locations every season.”