Padma Lakshmi: My New York City

Padma Lakshmi is roller skating down 81st street. Just an 8-year-old kid on her way to meet her mom for lunch in New York City, circa 1979. Padma’s been in NYC ever since. Now she’s raising her own daughter Krishna here. “I do feel like a child of New York. I’ve grown up in different parts of the city, whether I was 4 or 24,” she says. “I remember going swimming in John Jay Park, playing hide and seek in the bushes behind Gracie Mansion in Carl Schurz Park … Now I play with my child in the East Village in Tompkins Square Park.”

Today you probably know Padma as host of ‘Top Chef’, and a bestselling author and foodie who holds her own next to critics like Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons. What you may not know is that she’s equally passionate about interior design, antiques, and art. (She rattles off artist names that would have most of us googling in a panic.) And she’s obsessed with finding it all locally. “Most people know me for food, but I am a hunter and gatherer for things from everywhere. I will troll any market, thrift shop or antique store high and low, from Bergdorf-Goodman all the way to the little guy with the table outside on the street. I have no ego about it – I just look everywhere.” After talking with Padma, we pretty much want to follow her wherever she goes.

Olde Good Things

Padma: “I love Olde Good Things. We go to the one on Bowery and there’s a woman named Jacqui there who knows me. I’ve gotten quite a few things there. She made my kitchen table! I found these iron legs on a table I really liked, but the dimensions of the table were wrong, so we kind of went back and forth, and then finally she just capitulated and took off that table top and put on one that worked in my space! I’ve also bought chandeliers from her … they have all kinds of stuff there. They have a few locations across the city, but they’re all in Manhattan so they’re still a cool local company that’s been around forever.”

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Argosy Book Store

Padma: “Other than Tudor Rose it’s probably where I’ve gotten most of the important gifts from in my life, at least as an adult when I had any money to buy serious gifts for others. It is a rare high-end vintage bookstore and they are about as serious as a heart attack about their literature. I have their number on speed dial. There are two sisters who have run it since their family opened the store in 1925, and until recently I had never even been up past the first floor. You go in and it looks like an old English library. It’s just beautiful and gothic.”

“I have bought everything from a leather-bound book from the 1700s of all of Machiavelli’s collected writings — the first time they were ever translated and published into English — to ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ while it was still published in a literary magazine as a serial by James Joyce. The week after Marquez died last year I went and bought a first edition signed copy of ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’. They also have a map and print shop on the second floor where you can buy botanical drawings from the 16- and 1700s — or they have things you can buy for less for $50. You can spend as much or as little money as you want there.”

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New York Academy of Art

Padma: “The New York Academy of Art in Tribeca is the only college for figurative art in the city. It was started by Andy Warhol but one of my best friends, Eileen Guggenheim, is actually one of the women who runs it now, and I love to support them. I’ve gone to their benefits, and a lot of the art in my home actually comes from students or graduates of the school. They have an annual art auction at Sotheby’s. It’s a fantastic way for me to support the school, but in the process I’ve amassed some rather amazing art. One time I was actually been offered double what I paid for within the same week because somebody didn’t get to it fast enough!”

“The Tribeca Ball is [also] important. It is held at the school and they open up all the artist studios and have a huge silent auction. They honor an artist every year and you can walk up three or four floors and see all the studios and purchase some of the students’ art. It’s cool also because it has a charitable component. It’s a not-for-profit school and a true New York institution, and for many artists in the city it is the only place where they can learn and get refuge. For that reason it has the support of a lot of great artists, from Will Cotton, to George Condo, to Jenny Saville.”

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ABC Carpet & Home

Padma: “ABC Carpet is where many of the things that are in my home come from. Whether it’s my living room couch or my bedroom armoire. It’s a very visual place.”

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SOS Chefs

Padma: “There’s this store in the East Village called SOS on Avenue B. It’s a Moroccan lady who has it, and when you go in there it kind of looks like Morocco with pots and tagines hanging everywhere … and she usually sells mostly to chefs. She’s used to seeing me in there, and she’s got all kinds of crazy fun things, from homemade rose water, to a walk-in freezer in the back where she has this huge lobster mushroom … all that kind of stuff. A unique and interesting place to visit.”

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Galleria on Third

Padma: “I have been using this frame shop for over a decade. Shadin — He’s framed everything from a little tiny picture for my daughter, to a major piece of art for me.”

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