NEW YORK — "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi is steeped in a custody fight, and the ingredients are plenty complex.
Venture capitalist Adam Dell sued Wednesday for custody of Lakshmi's 11-month-old daughter. He says a paternity test has shown he's the infant's father, but Lakshmi is sidelining him and trying to cast her current flame, financier Ted Forstmann, in that role.
Dell wants custody of the baby, and he's pointing sharply to Lakshmi's career and globe-trotting lifestyle as a reason, saying she's "either unable or unwilling to moderate either her social or business travel" for the child's sake.
A lawyer for Lakshmi, Jay D. Silverstein, called Dell's claims "inaccurate and misleading," and her camp blasted the public airing of her and her daughter's personal life.
"Ms. Lakshmi's sole interest lies in preserving the privacy and welfare of her daughter and in working out a fair and amicable agreement out of the media's glare," spokeswoman Christina Papadopoulos said.
Forstmann declined to comment through his office.
The dispute, which has simmered for months in gossip pages, involves a perhaps unlikely trio of prominent people.
Best known for her "Top Chef" role, Lakshmi, 40, is also a former model and an ex-wife of novelist Salman Rushdie.
Dell, 41, is an investor who's been involved in technology firms, and he's the brother of computer giant Dell Inc. founder Michael Dell. Forstmann, 70, is the chief executive of sports and entertainment marketing firm IMG and was a 1980s pioneer in the use of leveraged buyouts, or deals financed at least partly with debt.
Lakshmi and Dell began dating in November 2007 and remained romantically involved until she dumped him in September 2009, telling him he was "unambitious" and had an "uninteresting" career, his lawsuit said.
She then told him she was pregnant, and a DNA test showed Dell was the father, according to the lawsuit.
Krishna Thea Lakshmi was born Feb. 20. Dell was eager to share parenting duties, but Lakshmi has worked "to minimize, if not eliminate, (Dell's) role in Krishna's life," allowing him only limited involvement with the baby through a temporary agreement that expires next month, the lawsuit says.
Meanwhile, Lakshmi has encouraged her daughter to call Forstmann "Papa" and gave the infant a middle name that seems to be a nod to Forstmann's full name, Theodore, Dell's lawsuit complains.
He wants her name changed to Krishna Lakshmi Dell, and he wants custody of her, though he says he would include Lakshmi in her life.
"(Dell) is the parent who can be relied upon to put Krishna's needs before his own," the lawsuit says, while Lakshmi's "career as a television personality and her commitment to celebrity status involve a hectic, irregular schedule and requires frequent and distant travel."
Dell hopes the lawsuit will lead to "a reasonably negotiated co-parenting agreement," said one of his lawyers, William D. Zabel.