How I Got to Work on Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi.
Many have asked...now I'm free to answer!
During the height of the pandemic, I devoured countless hours of television like many folks, but became kinda obsessed with one in particular: Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi. Sitting in my home watching Padma travel around from state to state telling the important food stories of immigrants sparked an instant desire to want to work on the show. Scratch that. Not desire, but a need to work on it.
There are many shows with hosts that travel from place to place discussing food, but not many with hosts of color especially women of color. Rarely do I see my reflection in food media. Only recently have we seen a push for diversity in culinary storytelling.
After binge-watching the show I knew I had to figure out a way to work on the next season in some capacity. I asked my husband, who works in TV + film if it would be weird to cold email the production company. He said it wasn't a typical way to get a job in TV, but it wouldn't hurt either. I found a very vague email address after some internet sleuthing and was ready to shoot my shot. I reiterated that I was open to learning and ready to do any job. Honestly, I was ready to be the woman that went on coffee runs and errands. I attached my culinary resume and sent out that email to the universe.
Just as quickly as I sent it out, I had forgotten all about it until months later I got a reply back from the president and founder of the production company. He apologized for the delay in response and wanted to chat with me about my culinary experience and what exactly I wanted to do. I was flabbergasted that I even got an email back, even more so from the founder himself. I quickly replied that I was available to chat whenever he was. Days later I found myself having a chill conversation about the show and about my career and how I just wanted to be a fly on the wall learning how the show was put together.
The president said they were in pre-production for the next season and actually were in need of an assistant for Padma - the former assistant wouldn't be able to do this season because they were booked on another show. They needed someone to be her right-hand person, but I'd have to have a call with her to see if she thought I'd work well in the position.
W H A T?! I'd be on a Zoom call with the Padma Lakshmi?! I thought I'd get a job as a production assistant moving furniture around and supporting the crew. Never did I think I'd be working directly with her. I immediately said yes and found myself a few days later staring at Padma through my computer screen, answering her questions and trying to keep my composure talking about myself without stuttering. She liked me and decided to give me a shot; the rest is history. I got hired to work on the Holiday mini season which was awarded a James Beard award (how awesome is that!?) and I was asked to return for the second season which required even heavier traveling.
Last year I spent months on the road filming the show. According to Google, I traveled over 6,000 miles during those months and drove over 2,000 miles. Many of those miles were spent driving in cities and neighborhoods I've never been to. The days were long, but it was worth it. I ate a ton of food, met a lot of great people, and made friendships that I think will last a lifetime. Folks ask me how was it working with Padma since I spent so much time with her. How is she as a person? I always reply that she’s exactly that, a person. She’s exceptionally busy, works hard, and cares a lot about the work she does and you can see it through the show. When she’s genuinely connecting with a guest that’s all her.
Some of the places we visit this season are Puerto Rico, Michigan, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. All of the places are filled with stories of history, culture, and the human experience seen through the lens of food. As I've said before food is a universal right and sharing these unique stories is a privilege that I’m glad I was able to be a part of. The new season premieres today (May 5th) on Hulu and all ten episodes are dropped at the same time. I’m not getting paid to promote the show but wanted to share what I worked on for nearly half of 2022.
If there’s anything you take away from today’s newsletter, it’s that I hope you decide to take a crazy chance on your dreams. Take a chance on yourself, believe in bigger things than you can imagine, always deeply believe in your intentions, and be active in pursuing them relentlessly with action. Who knows you might get to do things that you never thought were possible.
Cook. Eat. Repeat.
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wow this is inspiring!
How exciting for you!! What an opportunity. Just goes to show you what asking will do for you. You can’t hear yes, unless you ask.