“Top Chef” judge and Emmy-nominated host Padma Lakshmi knows a thing or two about food — and fashion. “Having modeled all those years ago, I know how to dress for my body,” says Lakshmi, who’s attended the Emmys for the best reality-competition program nominee the past 10 years. And while the show’s summer filming schedule leaves her 10-15 pounds heavier with little time to slim down, she calls it a “high-class problem.” “Let’s face it — it’s eating on TV that got me to the Emmys in the first place!”

“This is an Emmy dress I will always love because ‘Top Chef’ took home the Emmy that year,” says Lakshmi of the Carolina Herrera frock she paired with tribal jewelry from her line, the Padma Collection. “I was also still nursing, so I was very lucky to find a dress that fit me so well.” Victory came at a price, though: “I tore my dress running with Gail [Simmons] up to the stage. We were in the nosebleed section — because clearly no one thought we would win.”

When this Armani Prive dress arrived, Lakshmi ditched her previous plans. “I don’t usually wear camel or medium browns, but in that dress, I felt a bit like a gold statue myself,” she says. The occasion was bittersweet, though. “I was so thin, as I was nursing my dying lover at the time, and I didn’t even want to go to the Emmys. But shortly after, I received the most beautiful letter from Mr. Armani himself, saying how he and his niece thought I looked spectacular. I still have the note somewhere.”

“I had serious reservations about this traffic cone of a dress,” says Lakshmi, who felt deterred by the volume. “This dress was basically a corset with 1,000 yards of orange tulle wrapped around my body. It was even more uncomfortable than it looks.” She was glad she wore the Monique Lhuillier design, but couldn’t wait to get out of it.

This “cool and comfortable” KaufmanFranco number ranks as one of Lakshmi’s all-time favorites. “It’s completely backless, and it wasn’t even that tight, so I literally felt like I was wearing a nightgown,” she says. “The look was inspired by iconic [Richard] Avedon portraits of Veruschka in the desert.”

Lakshmi tries to wear color on red carpets whenever possible and loved the unusual chartreuse hue of this Romona Keveza dress. “My hormones were going crazy at this time, and as you can see, I’m a little bloated,” she says. “The top also barely contains my cleavage, but I felt so glamorous in this dress.”

“This dress made me feel so confident, like I was dipped in silver,” says Lakshmi, who added a simple ponytail, pink lipstick, and diamond studs. “[Naeem Khan] and his wife, Ranjana, are close family friends — she’s my daughter’s godmother. I was proud to represent an Indian designer at the Emmys.”