Two culinary artists speak at Miami Book Fair

Model, actress and internationally acclaimed “foodie,” Padma Lakshmi, and self-made celebrity chef, Govind Armstrong, spoke last week at the 24 annual Miami Book Fair.

Lakshmi, host of the hit reality TV series “Top Chef,” read a passage from her book “Tangy, Tart, Hot, and Sweet” about her “first love,” American bacon. The piece, Lakshmi said, addresses the “emotionality” of food.

“Eating together, breaking bread together is woven into the fabric of our lives,” she said.

In her recipes, Lakshmi adds a personal touch to American classics. She said that even for students, there is always room to improvise.

“Some of my best recipes were made in a hot pot in my college dorm,” Lakshmi said.

Miami Dade College student Barbi Marti was attracted to Lakshmi’s talk because of her popularity on TV and on Top Chef.

“She seems very real, someone who enjoys cooking, but is not a chef,” Marti said.

Armstrong’s cookbook “Small Bites, Big Nights” was also a personal compilation of recipes. Armstrong said he worked with a photographer and prop-styled all the food in the book without the aid of a professional stylist. The cookbook offers professional-quality “small plates” for any type of entertaining occasion.

Armstrong’s talents were discovered in his mother’s kitchen at age 12 by acclaimed chef Wolfgang Puck. He began his apprenticeship with Puck soon after and eventually launched his own culinary career

Armstrong is executive chef of Table 8, a restaurant and lounge on South Beach. The Los Angeles branch has been opened for more than five years, and the Miami restaurant opened a year ago.

“Miami was all about the timing and the climate,” Armstrong said. “I’ve always loved coming here.”

Karen Rodriguez, 25, said she went to the Book Fair because she is a fan of Armstrong’s unique menus and ability to “put things together that no one else would think of.”

“He is inspiring. He started so young and keeps going,” Rodriguez said. “He was all about the food, and still is.”