Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is teaming up with the Pentagon on a new cooking competition show. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon has given Lakshmi "its blessing" for her to develop a Top Chef spinoff show that focuses on the military. It's apparently an attempt to rebrand military meals — which do not have a reputation for being delicious — "into something you would want to serve your favorite dinner guests." To sell the show, Lakshmi dropped some cheesy quotes on Pentagon officials: "An army marches on its stomach, as Napoleon said, and it's really true... For many of these service officers, as you know, especially in the field, the last meal may really be their last meal, so we take this very seriously."
"For many of these service officers... the last meal may really be their last meal, so we take this very seriously."
This isn't the first time military chefs have been featured on a cooking show: The Pentagon Channel used to run a weekly show called The Grill Sergeants. However, the show did not pit chefs against one another in a competition format. Lakshmi — who is teaming up with American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe for the project — wants to take "the show out to sea aboard an aircraft carrier and into the field with soldiers." They also want some of the cooking competitions to take place at West Point. Eventually, they'd like to take the show overseas — but the Pentagon is hesitant about the idea of sending Lakshmi and a show into a war zone like Iraq. Not all Pentagon officials are into the idea: Some find the show to be a "waste of time." However, others think that "it is a great way to humanize the military."
The Pentagon is no stranger to food world celebrities: Food Network host Robert Irvine announced last year that he was opening a restaurant within the military building. Called Robert Irvine Fresh Kitchen, it's part fast-casual restaurant and part grab-and-go cafe.