Padma Lakshmi to Be Honored at James Beard Foundation’s Chefs & Champagne Event (Exclusive)

Padma Lakshmi - Getty - H 2018
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Previous honorees of the annual Hamptons event include Daniel Boulud, Julia Child, Martha Stewart, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Thomas Keller and Bobby Flay.

Following the likes of Julia Child, Daniel Boulud and Martha Stewart, Padma Lakshmi has been named the James Beard Foundation's Guest of Honor at the organization's annual Chefs & Champagne event. Lakshmi will be honored at the July 28 fundraiser and tasting party at the Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, N.Y., where food and drink from over 40 purveyors will be on offer.

Lakshmi, best known as a host of Bravo's Top Chef, which is currently filming its 16th season in Kentucky, joins former honorees Boulud, Child, Stewart, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, Thomas Keller and Bobby Flay.

"For a long time, professional food did not include people that were like me, they were a bunch of French old guys and American guys but you didn't see a lot of diversity. The good news is that that's really changing, and James Beard is a big part of that change," Lakshmi told The Hollywood Reporter. "Now they are recognizing that people of different backgrounds have interesting points of view and it's more expansive and actually a richer food culture that includes those voices, so I've very thankful to be among the ones that they recognize."

In addition to her work on Top Chef, Lakshmi has penned the cookbooks Easy Exotic (1999) and Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet (2007). In 2016, she published her food memoir Love, Loss and What We Ate and that same year, The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs: An Essential Guide to the Flavors of the World. Lakshmi also has been outspoken in social justice causes, working as an ambassador for the ACLU, co-founding the Endometriosis Foundation of America and speaking at the UN's 2018 Women's Empowerment Principles Forum. She also operates The Padma Collection, a home decor line, and Padma's Easy Exotic, a collection of frozen foods.

“Padma’s passion for food, family and feminism as well as her business savvy makes her an ideal guest of honor at this year’s Chefs & Champagne,” JBF CEO Clare Reichenbach said in a statement. “She is such an inspiring role model for future generations of chefs, writers and entrepreneurs. We look forward to celebrating her accomplishments this summer in the Hamptons.”

Though she has never attended the Chefs & Champagne event, Lakshmi says she has been aware of the JBF since she was in college. "When I didn't have money, I had to make a choice between several cookbooks because I couldn't buy all the ones that I wanted. If there was one that was a James Beard Award winner, if it had that little seal, that was one that I would fork out for because I knew that James Beard was such a prestigious thing," she says.

Lakshmi adds that being this year's guest of honor puts her in an "impressive" company of chefs. "I really can't believe I'm in the same league with them, I don't think I am, but I'm happy nonetheless," she says.

Set to attend the soiree July 28 are national culinary figures including Yves' Alex Baker, Aquavit's Emma Bengtsson, The Stone House at Clove Lakes' Peter Botros, Root & Bone's Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis, L'Artusi's Jessica Craig and Sarabeth's Sarabeth Levine, among others.

Money raised during the event — tickets go for $225 for JBF members and $300 for non-members (purchase here) and the event itself features a silent auction — will support JBF's programming, including women's leadership initiatives and the foundation's Impact Programs.