What People Get Wrong About Dining Out, According To Padma Lakshmi

Admittedly, it can be a bit triggering to hear the rich and famous telling us common folk that we are doing dining out wrong. But stick with us here; this is not Brad Pitt, admonishing the peasants for not exfoliating often enough. This is Padma Lakshmi, host of "Top Chef," and the engine behind "Taste of the Nation," an Emmy-nominated food series on Hulu (via Variety). After 20-plus years in the biz (culinary and show, that is), she's learned a thing or two about where people are putting their priorities — and their pocket money.

"Going out to restaurants should be a special thing," Lakshmi told The Cut recently. "You should pay more for it so that your server, your cook, and the guy bussing your table can make a living wage." Lakshmi highlights the gap between what Americans expect out of a dining experience and what they are willing to pay for, pointing out that restaurants are a tough business to make money in. "There is something in the average American consumer's mind: They always want bigger portions. They always want value, yet people don't understand that there should be a $15 minimum wage for everyone, everywhere."

Lakshmi has never been lak-shy in speaking her mind, and she often uses her social media microphone to contribute to conversations about everything from racism and misogyny to minimum wage and immigration.

Lakshmi wants diners to bring their wallets and their conscience back to restaurants

In addition to her identity as an Indian American woman, Lakshmi is a former lingerie model-turned Food Network star, who went on to host and executive-produce the Emmy award-winning "Top Chef" beginning in 2006 (via The Cut). Lakshmi has always been dedicated to making the spaces she works in more equitable and inclusive, and now that the world is re-opening and people are going back to work in the food industry, she is determined to do the same for restaurants.

These days, Lakshmi is starring in the "Your Table Is Ready" advertising campaign from Stella Artois beer, in which the Belgian brand offers to buy your first chalice of Stella when you book a table at your participating local restaurant (via Variety). Not only does the campaign encourage dining out, but Stella Artois is contributing sales of their special aluminum bottles to the James Beard Foundation's Open for Good program, which provides financial relief to restaurants. As Lakshmi told The Cut: "This past year has been a collective sobering up and not taking things for granted and understanding that our actions often lack empathy." Besides more conscientious diners, what else would Lakshmi like to see in the restaurant space? "I hope to see new people get the chance to helm restaurants and decide menus," she said. And to get paid fairly for it, no doubt.