Padma Lakshmi opens up about dating after her boyfriend's death

By Liz McNeil
Updated March 09, 2016 02:00 PM

He wasn’t the kind of man Padma Lakshmi ever thought she’d date.

In fact, Teddy Forstmann, the billionaire CEO of IMG, was quite the opposite.

“Teddy was this conservative, Republican, Catholic church-going, golf-playing [guy] and you know, I am this bleeding heart liberal,” says Lakshmi, who sat down with PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly editorial director Jess Cagle to talk about her new book Love, Loss, And What We Ate. “I don’t know which end of the golf club is up.”

“Here is the very epitome of establishment but he was kind of an outlier,” she tells Cagle. “He had a different way of doing things. He did not take himself too seriously, which is refreshing in someone who is that accomplished. He was really humble. He had self confidence. He had swagger. He was a man with a huge ego but he wore his uniqueness lightly.”

She was devastated when he died of brain cancer in 2011.

Looking back, she credits him with teaching her about unconditional love. “The example that Teddy gave me by forgiving me was quite humbling,” she says. “I miss him every day.”

Lakshmi says it took her a while to even think about dating again. “I couldn’t imagine it and I just didn’t want to,” she says. “I didn’t care. I didn’t feel single. I felt like I was with someone but my lover just happened to be dead. And my grief was something that I didn’t push away. I just became at home in that grief because in that place, I could still be with Teddy.”

She had a brief romance with Richard Gere. “Richard is a really nice, sweet man and he was the first person I dated [after Teddy] and he as very nice to [my daughter] Krishna. But I think we were both grieving in our own way. We were only together for six months. But he met my mother on the first date. She happened to be staying with me when I went on my first date with him. She comes to visit a lot because of Krishna. I think I said in passing that my mother was here and he insisted!”

So what did Mom say? “Oh, she encouraged me to on go on the date,” she says with a laugh. “She said. ‘You’re still a young woman and there’ll be time to meet Teddy again but you still have forty or fifty years to live.’ “