“I think it’s important to remember and remind everyone who we are in all of our diversity because that is what makes us stronger as a nation," says Padma Lakshmi—Top Chef host, cookbook author and activist. "And I don’t think it’s something that we should be afraid of, whether it’s in our schools or in our restaurants or in our home kitchens. I think it is this thing that makes America so much more interesting than any other country in the world.”
Lakshmi's long been an advocate of incorporating international influences into her cooking—but others are finally catching up. "I think everybody right now is in love with things like miso paste, dashi, za’atar,” she says. “So my prediction [for the next culinary trend] is about using international ingredients in your cooking—which is the Bible I’ve been banging on for most of my 20-year career from my first cookbook to my Encyclopedia of Spices to Taste the Nation show. I think that trend will continue. I think you’ll see micro-spices and items from each culture become more and more prevalent in America’s kitchens.”
As for what's in her own kitchen, her pantry houses a sundry assortment of spices, sauces and spreads. “Lots of different kinds of vinegar. Lots of different kinds of oils. Lots of different kinds of chiles from all over the world," she says. “Definitely coconut and coconut milk. Definitely. And never without curry, miso, ginger or makrut lime leaves.”
Her must-haves? “Always, always have some dried tomatoes, anchovies and anchovy paste—and olive paste and various olives. I love French and Italian cheeses,” she continues. “I always have some of those in my cheese drawer. And then I have tons of condiments and chutneys and sauces. Like, if you opened up my fridge, it would be very embarrassing,” she says. “It is like 80% bottles of different potions and sauces."