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Padma Lakshmi says “Top Chef” season 17 winner Melissa King won not only because of her elevated culinary skills, but also because of the innovative way King weaved her Chinese American heritage into her dishes, most notably with Italian cuisine for the season’s finale, filmed in Tuscany.

“She managed to marry these two very distinct cuisines while paying respect to both of them at a very high caliber level. Her food was flawless. There wasn’t one leaf of parsley too many. It’s hard to compete with that kind of precision and creativity and execution,” Lakshmi recalls on “Variety Live!”

Watch the full interview above where Lakshmi talks about the uncertain post-pandemic future of “Top Chef,” her Hulu series “Taste the Nation” and why the late director Joel Schumacher was her “favorite dinner guest.”