'I Was Just Petrified': ‘Top Chef' Host Testifies in Teamsters Extortion Case

"Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi testified Monday against four Boston Teamsters accused of intimidating the staff and crew of the popular reality TV show, saying she felt "bullied" and was scared that she might be assaulted.

Prosecutors allege the Local 25 union members threatened to picket if the show's producers did not hire union drivers. They also say union members threatened and harassed the crew of the show's non-union production company in 2014.

Lakshmi testified specifically about her experience during a shoot at a Milton restaurant in June of 2014. She said when she arrived at the restaurant, she met a number of teamsters who appeared to be striking. She said they approached her van and prevented it from entering the parking lot.

She said they were taunting her and her driver, and at one point a man leaned in, put his arm on the car and said, "What a shame about that pretty face."

"I felt he was bullying me," Lakshmi said. "I felt he was saying 'I might hit you.' ...I was just petrified. I just wanted it to be over."

Her fellow judge on the show, Gail Simmons, also testified Monday. She told a similar story of teamsters blocking her rental van from entering the set's parking lot.

A production assistant who was driving a van that morning testified that 11 tires of rented production vehicles were slashed. The jury was shown photos of the confrontation as well as the slashed tires.

Four Local 25 union members - John Fidler, Daniel Redmond, Robert Cafarelli and Michael Ross - are accused of using strong-arm tactics to threaten workers on various "Top Chef" sets around Boston.

Prosecutors argue that the union members were angry that the production company wouldn't hire union workers.

The defense argues that they were simply exercising their right to picket.

The men have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to extort and aiding and abetting.

The prosecution said it will try to wrap up Tuesday. Defense attorneys will then begin presenting their case.

Contact Us