Padma Lakshmi Testifies That She Was 'Threatened' By Teamsters In Top Chef Trial: I Thought 'He Was Going to Hit Me'
Padma Lakshmi testified in Boston federal court on Monday, confirming a Top Chef producer’s earlier declaration that members of the Teamsters Union Local 25 threatened the host in 2014 while protesting the reality show.
The 46-year-old said that one of the four Teamsters picketing outside Milton, Massachusetts, restaurant Steel & Rye – where the Bravo series was filming at the time – leaned his arm into her vehicle while it was blocked, and said, ” ‘Oh, lookie here. What a shame about that pretty face,’ ” according to Boston Herald reporter Laurel Sweet.
“I felt like he was bullying me, like he was telling me he was going to hit me. I could feel my heart beat in my chest,” Lakshmi said, adding, “I felt threatened.”
Lakshmi’s testimony is part of the trial against Robert Cafarelli, John Fidler, Daniel Remond and Michael Ross, who are charged with attempting to extort the series’ nonunion production company for driving jobs, according to ABC News. All four men have pleaded not guilty.
She added of the situation, “I don’t like confrontation and this was certainly a very heated confrontation.”
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Last week, supervising producer Ellie Carbajal told the Boston jury that she was the subject of racist taunts and Lakshmi was physically threatened while the men were picketing.
Carbajal testified that the men “swarmed vehicle and surrounded it,” according to Deadline. Then, one of the men – whose face was just inches from the host’s car window – allegedly said to the others, “That’s the pretty one. We want to smash her face in.”
The court watched a video recorded by Carbajal in which the protesters called her a “f—— towel head” and a “c—.”
Top Chef judge Gail Simmons, 41, was also among those that testified on Monday – the trial’s fifth day – stating that she was left feeling like she “could be harmed” after interacting with the Teamsters outside of the restaurant, according to the Boston Herald.
She told the jury that a she remembered a man “calling me a scab, specifically because I didn’t know what that word meant.”
Simmons added, “There aren’t many times in my life I can recall feeling that afraid.”
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Multiple others involved in the 2014 Top Chef episode’s production have also testified in the case, including line producer Jennifer Busch, who said that the Teamsters’ protests made her “uncomfortable, very nervous, fearful,” according to the Boston Globe.