Interview With Padma Lakshmi – Sterling Ultimate Host Search!

Last week Elizabeth and I had the opportunity to sit down with Padma Lakshmi to learn more about her search for the “Ultimate Host”.  The contest, sponsored by Sterling Vineyards, kicked off Sept 6th and will end with a finale and crowning of the winner this December.  We will be attending the finale and can’t wait to see who wins this year!

Calling all hosts – it’s your chance to be nationally celebrated and WIN $25,000.  To learn more or enter visit Sterling Vineyards Challenge>

Dishing with Padma was like discovering a kindred spirit.  She, like us, truly believes the most important quality in a host is the mood they set, not the food on their table.  Although, the food and wine enhance a party, it’s the host that give it life and energy.   We had Padma’s undivided attention, during our private 30 minute interview, and by the end, we were simply three hosts who love entertaining in their homes swapping tips and recipes. Padma’s going to try our secret trick for preparing Risotto ahead of time from “Plan to Party”, Elizabeth is going to make her Carrots & Cilantro Salad and I’m going to try her special Fall Sangria.

Here’s some of our interview 

PB: What is your favorite type of party to host – brunch, cocktail party, holiday dinner, intimate dinner party, spontaneous gathering?

Padma: “A buffet dinner party culminating in late night dancing”

PB: What’s your most popular, most requested dish you make for your guests?

Padma: Coconut-based curry – most of my guests are American so they love coming to my house for this dish.

PB: What’s your personal favorite dish you make?

Padma: One time I made a seafood and chicken paella for 70 on the beach.

PB: Can’t wait to try your carrot & cilantro salad – what is zatar powder and where can you buy it.

Padma: Zatar powder is a combination of toasted sesame seeds, thyme, and dried sumac, you can buy it online at Penzeys.

 PB: What is your favorite wine pairing?

Padma: Not the  traditional pairings. (Padma explained she enjoys a red wine paired with spicy seasoned seafood or a cold chardonnay with a Mexican dish)


3 TOP Hosting Tips from Padma:

  • Serve Sangria in the summer with fruits like kiwi, and Padma added “I love making it this time of year too, with all the fresh stone fruit that is available.”
  • Padma’s favorite dessert to serve is fresh peaches soaked in wine.  We talked about how easy and elegant this dessert is and how to prepare it ahead of time, by plating it in glass bowls.  Padma stores them on a baking tray in the refrigerator until ready to serve. When Padma shared this little tidbit, we knew she was a the ‘REAL DEAL”, a host in the trenches with the rest of us, developing strategies that allow her to prepare food for her guests ahead of time, so she can be present at her party.
  •  Padma recommends that a considerate host will call guests ahead of time to double check for any dietary restrictions and/or food aversions. Likewise, she shares the same with hosts when she is the guest.

About the ‘Sterling Ultimate Host’ Search

For the second year, iconic Napa Valley winery Sterling Vineyards will be partnering with Padma Lakshmi in search of the Ultimate Host. After an exciting first year for the program, Padma will continue her partnership with the brand to crown the ‘Sterling Ultimate Host’ – the host or hostess who can tackle any occasion with ease while maintaining a flair for creativity.

Padma, model, reality TV star, cookbook author and frequent entertainer, will again serve as host and head judge for the contest, and will issue a series of four wine-themed challenges to hosts and wine lovers across the country. The first year of the search for the Ultimate Host pulled in hundreds of submissions and thousands of fans and beginning today, aspiring hosts of legal drinking age can visit the Sterling Vineyards Facebook page to enter this year’s contest.

A finalist for each challenge will be selected by the expert judges and invited to New York City in December for the finale event. There, their skills will be put to the test in a head-to-head competition for the title and grand prize. The grand prize includes a trip for two to Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley, and invitation to be a guest at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival, and a $25,000 cash prize.

“The challenges this year will tap into our fans’ creative spirit and test our hosts in different ways than ever before,” said Padma Lakshmi. “Last year I was so impressed with the caliber of artistry the hosts showed during each and every challenge that I’m anticipating another year of impressive work.”

The four challenges for year two include: “Girls’ or Guys’ Night In,” “Dessert Pairings,” “Music Match,” and “Host’s Choice.” The challenges will be issued every two weeks, and fans will be asked to display in detail via video, picture and words in submissions to the Sterling Vineyards “Ultimate Host” tab on the Facebook page.

“Having the opportunity to serve as the first-ever Sterling Ultimate Host was an experience I’ll never forget,” said Julie Hession, year one winner of the Sterling Ultimate Host. “Sterling Vineyards’ fans are an extremely talented and creative group, so I’m quite sure that Padma and the other judges will have their work cut out for them in selecting the next Ultimate Host!”

Not only will fans see Padma on the Sterling Vineyards Facebook page, they will also see her nationally in print advertisements, billboards, in-store materials, digital banner ads and more.

A good host always knows to plan ahead to ensure that everyone has a pleasurable evening and also gets home safely. When enjoying Sterling wines, please remember to do so responsibly.

For more information and to get involved please visit

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