Padma says she holds the Top Chef competitors to an even higher standard. "We're judging it as a professional chef's competition," she says. "[Their restaurant] has to be a place that I'm willing to get dressed up for, find a babysitter for, go out and pay $50 for an entrée. … That's why we're often much more hard on the chefs than people think we should be."
Try original recipes from Padma's cookbook, Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet .
Since Season 4 of Top Chef was filmed in Chicago, Padma says she's discovered great culinary experiences in Oprah's backyard. "Chicago's a wonderful culinary town," she says. "You have the Polish immigrant influence. You have great restaurants like Blackbird and Alinea. One of my favorite Indian restaurants is here, Vermillion. There is so much to eat in Chicago."