Food & Drink

The one place 'Top Chef' host Padma ate while she was here (besides Rupp Arena)

One Lexington chef got a big surprise after "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi taped the episode at Rupp Arena on Tuesday. Chef Samantha Fore ended up cooking for Lakshmi, who stopped by her house.
One Lexington chef got a big surprise after "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi taped the episode at Rupp Arena on Tuesday. Chef Samantha Fore ended up cooking for Lakshmi, who stopped by her house.

Fans of the popular cooking show "Top Chef" were thrilled to see an episode taped in Lexington at Rupp Arena on Tuesday. Especially with men's basketball Coach John Calipari at the judge's table.

But one Lexington chef was about to get a more personal visit from "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi.

Even while Lakshmi was tasting the chefs' offerings in the competition, she was coping with a serious craving for something a little different. And it just so happened that there is a local chef who could help her out.

Samantha Fore, who owns Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites, was at home in Lexington when she got a call from someone on the "Top Chef" lighting team who knew Sean Taylor, owner of Arcadium, where Fore's pop-up often serves food.

Padma and fore.jpg
After the taping of "Top Chef" at Rupp Arena on Tuesday, host Padma Lakshmi stopped by chef Samantha Fore's house for a Sri Lankan feast, just because. Fore's Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites whipped up several dishes for Lakshmi, who later called it the best meal she's had in Kentucky. Photo provided

"Padma was craving Sri Lankan food, which I was more than happy to accommodate," Fore said. She was ready to bring food to Rupp when Lakshmi's people said they'd come to Fore's house.

"We looked around and said, uh .... OK," Fore said. She called fellow chef Wyatt Sarbacker, who was just sitting down to eat at Middle Fork Kitchen Bar. He wrapped it up and made a market run, then dashed to Fore's house to help cook.

They prepared a full-on Sri Lankan banquet for Lakshmi and her crew.

"We made her a bunch of different dinners. A whole spread ... I had portable Sterno burners on my counters," Fore said. "She was absolutely lovely and so gracious ... I’m so appreciative to her for even thinking about us. And she even called my mom in North Carolina. They talked food."

On Wednesday, after Fore tweeted "thanks for coming for dinner!" Lakshmi responded, calling it "the best meal I've had in Kentucky!!"

But as Lakshmi would say, "no tea, no shade," the food at Rupp from the contestants was pretty tasty, too.

The Rupp event, which was by invitation only, was originally going to have about 2,000 people, with only about 700 getting to taste what the "cheftestants" prepared.

But Rupp Arena officials told Bravo, which produces the show, that ultimately about 4,200 uber-eager fans showed up. They cheered for teams of contestants and a few may get a cameo in the episode, too.

The fans have been following the taping of the season in Kentucky on social media and many were eager for any info about what happened.

Calipari and "Top Chef" judge Graham Elliot posted photos on Twitter, and some fans even spotted themselves in the crowd and posted the photos to a Facebook fan page, Top Chef Kentucky.

The episode taped on Tuesday is scheduled to air early next year during season 16.

Elliot, head judge Tom Colicchio and guest judge chef Ed Lee also grabbed dinner in Lexington before heading back to Louisville. They were seen eating at Honeywood, chef Ouita Michel's restaurant at The Summit at Fritz Farm.

"Top Chef" will be filming in Lexington and Louisville through the end of the week. Some fans were staking out local Whole Foods Market locations, where contestants go to get ingredients for the next challenges.

Episodes also were filmed at Lake Cumberland and other iconic Kentucky locations.

Next year, tourism officials expect to roll out an ultimate "Top Chef" Kentucky tour in conjunction with Food & Wine Magazine, which is a partner.

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