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Padma Lakshmi announces her departure from ‘Top Chef’

By Megan Thomas, CNN

(CNN) — Utensils down. After 17 years and 20 seasons, Padma Lakshmi has announced she will step aside as host and judge of the cooking competition series, “Top Chef.”

“After much soul searching, I have made the difficult decision to leave Top Chef,” Lakshmi wrote in an Instagram post on Friday. “Having completed a glorious 20th season as host and executive producer, I am extremely proud to have been part of building such a successful show.”

“I feel it’s time to move on and make space for Taste the Nation, my books and other creative pursuits,” she added, referencing her Hulu series and New York Times bestselling books.

Lakshmi received 13 Emmy nominations for her work on the show. She has starred on the long-running series since its second season.

“We are grateful to Padma for being a consummate host, judge and executive producer, and for bringing her ingenuity and exceptional palate to each episode where she ate every bite of food on the series for over 17 years and 19 seasons,” an NBC Universal spokesperson said in a statement. “She will always be part of the Top Chef and the NBCUniversal family and has a seat at the judges’ table anytime.”

No replacement for Lakshmi has been named.

She described the “Top Chef” cast and crew as family and said she would “miss working alongside them dearly.” Lakshmi concluded her post with a message of gratitude to the show’s viewers.

“I am deeply thankful to all of you for so many years of love and support.”

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