Padma Lakshmi is No Party Pariah

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Sep. 16 2011, Published 12:00 p.m. ET

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Padma Lakshmi is the hostess with the mostess, so it’s only natural she’d be miffed when reports surfaced that questioned her entertaining skills.

According to a published report, a source says the Top Chef host was “grating” and “rambling” when she talked about wanting to try a hot dog and begged guests to donate $20 each when she hosted The Moth’s storytelling event this week.  The report says a guest offered to give the nonprofit $1,000 if she’d just leave – and she agreed.

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When I speak with her Thursday during the Sterling Ultimate Host event in NYC, the single mom, 41, wants to set the record straight, and offer up her party dos and don’ts.

“I didn’t end the program,” she says. “It got reported inaccurately, and I’d like to clarify that. Basically, any audience member that donated money, I said I would match it. I was going around to sections of the audience saying ‘please raise your hand.’ It’s a New York tradition, and it’s a beautiful organization. They just won a Peabody Award. I thought it was a great way to raise a lot of money because I had literally 1,000 ears listening. So when the gentleman said ‘I’ll give you $1,000 if you’ll just sit down,’ I said ‘great, I’ll take it.’”

She continues, “And then we had the next storyteller. It was nice. It was a nice thing to do, but it got blown out of hand and reported incorrectly that he paid me to sit down. I mean, he did say ‘I’ll give you $1,000 if you sit down’ because he wanted to hear the stories about food. That’s why we were all there.”

She insists it was all done in the spirit of raising funds for charity.

“That’s where the Moth raises a lot of money. The whole event was to raise money for the storytelling program. They go to schools and teach children how to have smaller storytelling plans. This is their season premiere, and they’ve been doing it for 14 years. No one has ever gotten up and offered to match a donation.”

Padma Lakshmi
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The mission of the group is to tell unscripted stories with no notes – it’s about the spontaneity and thrill of live storytelling. Every Moth show is different, exciting and unpredictable.

“Padma curated and hosted a wonderful evening that the audience overwhelmingly loved,” Catherine Burns, artistic director of The Moth, tells me. “The night was made even more special when Padma offered to match donations made by the audience. No one has ever done anything like this in our 14-year history, and we were extremely moved by her generosity.”

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Now that that’s cleared up, Padma has a few party tips when it comes to hosting her own gatherings. The single mom has teamed up with Sterling wines for their Ultimate Host Contest.

What would she recommend when it comes to throwing a great bash?

“Think about how many people are coming and what foods they like to eat, and what their dietary preferences are,” she says. “Cater your menu towards that, and make sure you can make most of the menu ahead of time, with just finishing off or putting some garnish or final touches on the food, and take just one thing out of the menu that you have to make before you serve it, because you want to be able to enjoy the company of your guests. You want to be relaxed. You want to be free to introduce one person to the next and get the party started.”

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She adds, “It’s fine to be in the kitchen doing little things. That’s actually a good way to get two people who don’t know each other acquainted, by asking them to collaborate on helping you with the salad, or just cutting the roast, or something like that, but you really want to be free to enjoy your own party.”

And, she has her own party pet peeves.

“One of my pet peeves is when the music is too loud, and you can’t hear the person talk, who’s right in front of you, or it’s too crowded,” she tells me. “I want to get to know people, and I want to talk. I also want to spend time with my host. Those are the only things. When I go to parties, it’s to be with the people. It’s not to sample the food or be impressed by bells and whistles.”

Win prizes by joining Padma for Sterling Ultimate Host Contest.


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