Padma Lakshmi reveals title of new Hulu show, which will 'show what the country really looks like and how we eat' (Exclusive)

Padma Lakshmi has a new era on the horizon.

The longtime "Top Chef" host is gearing up for the release of her upcoming new Hulu show, which she revealed in a new interview with AOL's Gibson Johns is called "Taste the Nation."

"It was my idea, I created the show, I’m executive producing it, I’m writing it," Lashmi said of the program. "[But] this show isn’t about me: It’s about using other people’s stories to prove my point about American culture and American food. It’s using food as a vehicle to talk about larger topics that are difficult to talk about in our society, but I think are worthwhile."

While she is heading in a new direction with "Taste the Nation," she isn't leaving behind the show that made her a household name, explaining to AOL that she continually reminds herself that finding a show with such longterm success is a rarity, and she shouldn't abandon such an opportunity.

"The first thing that keeps me there is to understand how lucky I am to have a long-running show, and that to step away from that would be difficult for me, because it’s not just me Tom [Colicchio] and Gail [Simmons], but 150 people behind the scenes that really work very hard," she said. "It’s something that I take great proprietorship in."

Check out our full interview with Padma Lakshmi below, where we chat about her recent collaboration on the Stacy's Rise Project to fund female entrepreneurs in the food space, the mission statement of her upcoming Hulu show, "Taste the Nation," and why she thinks "Top Chef" has produced the most successful network of alums in reality television history.

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Padma Lakshmi through her career
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Padma Lakshmi through her career
276138 12: Model Padma Lakshmi stands at the premiere of 'Trainspotting' July 15, 1996 in New York City. This British film received a 1997 Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Liaison)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 01: Padma Lakshmi (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Model Padma Lakshmi attends The Hours New York City Premiere on December 15, 2002 at Paris Theater in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Padma Lakshmi and Vikram Chatwal during the cookbook launch for Lakshmi's 'Easy Exotic' book at Chez es Saada, New York, New York, 1999. (Photo by Rose Hartman/Getty Images)
Indian model Padma Lakshmi and Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie. (Photo by Dave Allocca/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Indian model Padma Lakshmi. (Photo by Dave Allocca/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
398637 09: Model Padma Lakshmi Vaidyanathan arrives at the premiere of the film 'Lord of the Rings' at the Ziegfeld Theater December 13, 2001 in New York. The film opens nationwide on December 19, 2001. (Photo by Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images)
Model Padma Lakshmi backstage at the Luca Luca Spring 2003 fashion show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Bryant Park in New York City. September 18, 2002. Photo by Evan Agostini/ImageDirect
Padma Lakshmi (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Padma Lakshmi (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage)
Padma Lakshmi (Photo by Djamilla Rosa Cochran/WireImage)
Actress and model Padma Lakshmi at the premiere of 'No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.' (Photo by Steve Azzara/Corbis via Getty Images)
Padma Lakshmi during The 2006 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Annual Gala - Red Carpet at Cipriani in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 1, 2007: Padma Lakshmi and Amjad Ali Khan during the launch of 'Lend Your Voice For Aids' Campaign to Combat HIV/AIDS in New Delhi on Saturday.(Photo by Sunil Saxena/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 24: Padma Lakshmi attends the New York premiere 'Australia' at the Ziegfeld theater on November 24, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - DECEMBER 6: Padma Lakshmi attends THE CINEMA SOCIETY & BING host a screening of 'A SINGLE MAN' at MoMA on December 6, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by DAVID X PRUTTING/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Episode 10037 -- Pictured: (l-r) Padma Lakshmi -- (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: TV personality Padma Lakshmi attends the Keep A Child Alive's Black Ball Redux 2012 at The Apollo Theater on December 6, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 14: TV personality Padma Lakshmi attends the PowerWomen 2013 awards on November 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: Padma Lakshmi attends the Valentino Sala Bianca 945 Event on December 10, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 01: Chef Padma Lakshmi attend the 11th Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball at Cipriani Wall Street on December 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05: Event host Padma Lakshmi attends the 2016 United Nations Development Programme Global Goals Gala at Phillips on December 5, 2016 in New York (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: Padma Lakshmi and The Judges of Bravo's 'Top Chef' In conversation at 92nd Street Y on November 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Padma Lakshmi attends the 70th Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Padma Lakshmi attends the 70th Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Padma Lakshmi attends Variety and Women In Film's 2018 Pre-Emmy celebration held at Cecconi's on September 15, 2018 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 09: Padma Lakshmi attends the 2018 Creative Arts Emmys Day 2 at Microsoft Theater on September 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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Today you helped announce the winner of Stacy's Rise Project, which awarded a total of $200,000 to five female entrepreneurs in the food space. It's so important for big companies like Stacy's to help empower women and minorities in this way.

I thought it was exactly the kind of support in the food space needed, whether they were male or female. Stacy’s is such a good example of what a successful story in the food space looks like for women. For me, as someone in the food world, it always upset me that most professional chefs or people professionally in the food space are men and yet most of the actual cooking done in the world is done by women. There seems like a real disconnect, so I loved that Stacy’s wanted to do this and pay it forward, use everything that they had learned with the Stacy’s brand and help mentor these young women. Yes, it’s great to get the grant, because when you start a small business you have to make these really hard decisions, and they all affect your bottom line. But as valuable, if not more valuable than a grant, is helping you figure out how to spend that money wisely. A lot of these women came up with a great idea, but what they needed was a really thorough hand-holding the ability to learn a methodology about how to figure out what to do [with that money] and apply that business acumen to future decisions. 

All five of the winners have some sort of socially-conscious aspect of their business, which feels like almost a prerequisite for starting a business these days, especially in the food world. Talk to me about the importance of that.

Listen, it is one way of standing out, honestly. Let’s face it, there are a lot of milk brands and granola brands and tea companies, but it’s more about what these women want to do with their product. It’s not only just about giving back, but also about making enough money to be able to give back a large sum. It’s creating job, it’s empowering other females, it’s helping to build a network within each other to have someone to call for advice. Most entrepreneurs are so siloed because they’re working from day to night. Something like this is really powerful. We get a lot of offers to represent brands, but this really touched me and it was something that I would kill for if I were in their shoes.

Part of this is also Stacy's simply taking a chance on a women to help her break into the space. Someone’s taking a chance on you, too, as you're getting your own show with Hulu. Because I'm sure it wasn't a walk in the park getting the show greenlit, what was the feeling like when you finally got the go-ahead?

I had really given up and thought no one was going to do this, but I knew it was a program I would want to watch and when Hulu said yes I was over the moon. They’ve been super supportive. They’ve pretty much left me alone creatively, but also when they have made their opinions known they’ve been very useful. The feedback they’ve given is really helpful. It feels great to finally do your own material. “Top Chef” is such a big, collaborative circus and it’s a very formatted show. Right now it has a big viewership and it’s a well-oiled machine, but this is starting from scratch. It was my idea, I created the show, I’m executive producing it, I’m writing it. We had field producers who worked really hard to do the casting, because this show isn’t about me: It’s about using other people’s stories to prove my point about American culture and American food. It’s using food as a vehicle to talk about larger topics that are difficult to talk about in our society, but I think are worthwhile.

What would you say is the show's mission statement?

The mission statement is to show what the country really looks like and how we eat. It’s called “Taste the Nation,” so that tells you everything you need to know. We like to say things like, “It’s as American as apple pie.” Not one ingredient in apple pie is indigenous to North America, including the apples. Everything is brought here. That’s what makes our country unique, is that we’re able to take the best of all of these immigrant influences that have come and contributed to our society and distill them into one American culture, which is really a microcosm for the best and the worst of the world.

It also allows me to get on my soapbox in a less overt way, as I do with the ACLU, but people are used to me speaking the language of food, so it’s a good way for me to show what I think about larger ideas.

As you embark on other projects and shows, what keeps you going on "Top Chef" after all these years?

The first thing that keeps me there is to understand how lucky I am to have a long-running show, and that to step away from that would be difficult for me because it’s not just me Tom [Colicchio] and Gail [Simmons], but 150 people behind the scenes that really work very hard. It’s something that I take great proprietorship in, and I have a great sense of pride in "Top Chef" and all that we’ve been able to achieve. What helps keep it fresh is that we change locations every season and every season the contestants are new. The show is really about them. We’re constant, of course, and you look to us to interpret how they’re eating. If you look at the history of alums that have done well, no other reality show -- not even "American Idol" -- has produced more stars, more legitimate people who now have empires.

Learn more about the Stacy's Rise Project here.

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