Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi discusses love, loss and spice at Miami Book Fair Saturday

Lakshmi has two books out, one emotional, one a "deep dive" into food research (Inez Vinoodh)

Padma Lakshmi’s having a busy year.

The “Top Chef” host isn’t just presenting one book Saturday afternoon at the Miami Book Fair but two. Her latest is a straightforward reference book, “The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs.” It’s what she called a “deep dive” into the spice world to create a vital reference book for home cooks and chefs alike.

The other, which crossed over from the food sections into the People magazine pages, was her intimate and honest memoir, “Love, Loss and What We Ate,” a book that delves into her marriage to (and ultimate divorce from) author Salmad Rushdie.

The books served disparate purposes. One, the memoir, was “a relief,” she says, a venting of emotions that allowed her to flex her writing muscle. The other, the spice catalog, a massive research project that forced her to think about writing in a “scholarly way,” she said.

“One was hard in an emotional way. The other … was a deep dive. It was a cool way to learn,” Lakshmi said in a telephone interview. “With the memoir, it was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do.”

They should make for ample and interesting fodder in her conversation with author Ben Greenman, whose discussion with musician Questlove was among the best events at the 2014 book fair.

Carlos Frías: 305-376-4624, @Carlos_Frias