Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi testified in court on Monday about the incident with a group of Teamsters in 2014. A group of four union members are being tried for extortion.


The Teamsters union members were angry that the Top Chef crew didn’t hire them and decided to protest. Their protest, though, became heated and threatening, especially to Lakshmi. “One guy came up to the car, he rested his arm on the door when the window was down,” she reported. “He said, ‘What a shame about that pretty face.’ I felt he was saying, ‘I might hit you.”

One of the Top Chef producers caught some of the incident on tape. The producer, who wears a headscarf, is heard saying, “Your momma would be so proud,” to which the Teamster replied, “Yeah, at least she knows I’m not a scab like you, you f–king towelhead.”

“What did you say?” the producer asked.

“You heard me, c–t,” the union member said on the recording.

The Teamsters have pleaded not guilty to the extortion charge, and said they were acting lawfully in their picketing. Lakshmi said she was “petrified” during the experience. The show’s supervising producer Ellie Carbajal says the men “swarmed [Lakshmi’s] vehicle and surrounded it,” trying to get her to give them a job.

Lakshmi testified that she had expected a police officer would step in to help her. “I expected a police officer to say, ‘Hey, get away from her car,’ or ‘don’t put your hand in her car,’ or ‘move away,'” the host said. “There was a lot of yelling, felt like really serious school yard bullying… it drastically affected the whole production, not just that day.”

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