When Padma Lakshmi initially began writing her new memoir Love, Loss And What We Ate – which is excerpted in the upcoming issue of PEOPLE – she says, “I just started writing a book on health and healthy eating. And the book was supposed to use my own life as an example.”
And so in the course of writing about food, she ended up writing a lot about love and heartbreak, from meeting and falling in love with Salman Rushdie to the painful collapse of their marriage, to falling in love again with billionaire Teddy Forstmann, who died in 2011, and to whom she dedicates the memoir.
While her love life often made tabloid headlines, it’s the first time she reveals the truth about the moment she found out she was pregnant with her daughter, Krishna, and didn’t know if the father was Forstmann or Adam Dell, whom she was also dating at the time.
“Nobody is responsible for my actions except me,” Lakshmi tells PEOPLE of her memoir’s candor.”There were a lot of difficult things I went through in a very short intense period under very public circumstances. It was something that affected my family who are very private and it affected people I love, who probably didn’t deserve it. And so I needed to be honest and forthright about that.”
She’s also honest about her romance with Rushdie. While their early years were full of passion (and a lot of great meals) he bristled as her career blossomed. “I just wanted my own identity,” she says. “I was making the transition out of one stage of my life and into another. But in order to do that, it required that I wasn’t everywhere that he needed me to be.”
Meanwhile, her severe endometriosis, which was still undiagnosed at that point, often left her in so much chronic pain that she was unable to have sex, leaving Rushdie feeling “rejected.”
“It’s not that I didn’t want to be there for him, but something was very deeply wrong,” she says. “And I didn’t understand it. And that caused a whole lot of misunderstanding.”
Their fights grew so intense that at one point he called her “a bad investment.”
Their divorce in 2007 left her heartbroken.
Slowly, she found healing in cooking her family’s home recipes and fulfillment in her work at Top Chef.
When she met IMG CEO Teddy Forstmann later that year, she says, “It was like meeting Superman and the Tazmanian devil in a package that’s more akin to Tony Bennett.”
Though smitten, she was still healing after her split and didn’t want to be “tied down.” And so when she met Adam Dell, brother of Dell Computer founder Michael Dell, she began dating both men simultaneously.
“It was no secret to either of these men that the other one existed,” she says. “And I was very clear that I didn’t want a commitment.”
When she discovered she was pregnant in 2009, she didn’t know who the father was.
For more on Lakshmi, pick up the upcoming issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
“It was tears mixed with worry, mixed with embarrassment, mixed with triumph because I did have a child,” she recalls.
She asked Forstmann to take a paternity test, which revealed he wasn’t the father.
Although she was terrified he might leave her, Forstmann stood by her side and was there in the hospital room when Krishna was born. “He was resolute in making sure I wasn’t alone,” she says. “This wasn’t his child and he held my hand – and he held it very publicly.”