The Pentagon Enlists Padma Lakshmi for ‘Top Chef’ Spinoff About Revamping Military Meals

Reactions from the Pentagon have been divided, though officials hope the show will help “humanize the military”

If successful, the show could potentially go overseas as well. 

The Pentagon, headquarters for the United States Department of Defense, is looking to prominent celebrity chef Padma Lakshmi for some culinary guidance, reports The Wall Street Journal. Lakshmi will reportedly work with the Pentagon on a spinoff of Top Chef, in which meals for the U.S. military will undergo a much-needed redesign.

“Food is a great metaphor for the military,” Ms. Lakshmi told Pentagon staff members last week. “You have to work together in the kitchen. Nobody does it alone in the kitchen — and if anybody tells you otherwise, they’re not a real chef.”

Known as MREs, or “meals ready to eat,” the individual field rations given to service members are hardly known for their flavor or beauty — though Brad Turner, former host of the Pentagon Channel’s weekly cooking show Grill Sergeant, told the WSJ, “I would take a good MRE any day. I have 100 stories of how to make them better.”

Reactions have been mixed, though officials are hopeful that the show will help “humanize the military.”


Lakshmi will work with Nigel Lythgoe, the producer of hit television shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, to produce a program that is both interesting and respectful. “We don’t want it looking like a propaganda program, but we want to do it subtly,” Lythgoe told members of the Pentagon.