Padma Lakshmi leaving Top Chef after 17 years as host and producer | Reality TV

The longtime host and producer Padma Lakshmi has announced that she will be exiting the Top Chef kitchen ahead of the hit cooking show’s 21st season.

Lakshmi announced the news on Twitter and Instagram on Friday, saying that she had made the decision “after much soul searching”.

“Having completed a glorious 20th season as host and executive producer, I am extremely proud to have been part of building such a successful show and of the impact it has had in the worlds of television and food,” the TV star, model and author wrote.

“After 17 years, many of the cast and crew are like family to me and I will miss working alongside them dearly. I feel it’s time to move on and need to make space for Taste the Nation, my books and other creative pursuits,” Lakshmi added, referring to her new Hulu show in which she embarks on culinary journeys across the United States.

“I am deeply thankful to all of you for so many years of love and support,” said Lakshmi, who joined Top Chef in 2006. It became popular in the US and other countries, where sister competitions have been held.

“Padma Lakshmi leaves behind an incredible legacy on Bravo’s Top Chef,” an NBCUniversal spokesperson told Deadline, referring to the channel that hosts the show.

“Her impact on the Emmy, James Beard and Critics’ Choice Award-winning series is undeniable. We are grateful to Padma for being a consummate host, judge and executive producer, and for bringing her ingenuity and exceptional palate to each episode where she ate every bite of food on the series for over 17 years and 19 seasons. She will always be part of the Top Chef and the NBCUniversal family and has a seat at the judges’ table anytime,” the spokesperson added.

Lakshmi’s announcement was met with an outpouring of messages from fans, with some writing, “How could you do this to me, question mark?” and others saying, “Please don’t pack your knives and go,” echoing the famous phrase from the show when chefs are eliminated from the competition.

“Happy for you but heartbroken for the rest of us. Top Chef will not be the same without you,” another wrote on Instagram.

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