As I promised earlier this weekend, I’m going to share a little bit from my conversation with Food Network’s newest star, Melissa d’Arabian. I, along with a few other bloggers, had the opportunity to chat with her over the phone on Friday afternoon.
I didn’t transcribe the phone call, so this is just from my notes. I was able to ask her three of my own questions, and listened to everyone else’s as well. Ultimately, what I got out of the conversation was that Melissa’s a lot like me. She wants to feel empowered when she saves money at the grocery store, while still making delicious food that nourishes not only the body, but the soul.
Melissa has four young daughters. (4, 3, and almost-2-year old twins!) I asked her what her girls think about her win. She said that TV’s a big treat for them, so seeing their mom on TV is no different than seeing any of their other favorite characters. (i.e. Elmo’s on TV!) They have no sense of the extensiveness of the show, the fact that it’s broadcast across America. She told me a funny story about the finale of The Next Food Network Star. The announcement of who the winner was going to be was just minutes away, and her daughter Charlotte told her she had to go potty. She asked her if she could hold it for just a little while. The announcement was made. Melissa won. The studio went crazy. But Charlotte still had to go potty and told her mom, “It’s starting!” so Melissa asked the cameramen if they could take a break before her first interview… now that I write it out, the way Melissa told the story was much funnier!
Someone asked Melissa about creative ways to include kids in the kitchen.
- She takes a look at her recipes beforehand, and tries to find the elements that they can help with.
- She also involves her kids when grocery shopping. Each child is allowed to pick one item from the produce department. With so many shapes, colors, sizes, and textures to choose from, it’s almost as fun as picking out a new toy! Her kids will pick out the craziest one, and she’ll go home and create a recipe around it.
- Filling a muffin tin is always fun for kids… a good way to make individual mini-tortes!
- She tries to put veggies into her kids’ breakfast so that she can be more flexible later on in the day. She loves adding spinach puree to things like vanilla yogurt. I’m not sure if that would fly at our house.
- Make oatmeal even healthier and fiber-rich with add-ins – fruit, nuts, etc.
- “No Thank You Bite” – Melissa created this rule because she wants her kids to try new things, yet still express their opinions. She said that they’re welcome to say that they don’t care for something as long as they’ve had one bite of it. At that point, they can say “No thank you” and move on.
Melissa was asked if the 6-week duration of the show was a vacation for her. Her response – “it’s the most sleep I’ve had in the last 4 years!!” It was nice for her to be able to focus 100% on something that had nothing to do with being a mom. She was able to utilize her creativity and find herself again. Being completely “immersed in momdom”, she had lost touch with who the adult was, and needed to add herself back into the equation.
Melissa doesn’t expect to be a perfect working mom – but she thinks it’s great for her daughters to see her doing something that she loves, and I completely agree. For those that are wondering… no, she won’t be picking up the family and moving to New York anytime soon. She flies to NYC to shoot the show, and flies right back home afterwards.
Advice on auditioning for next season’s The Next Food Network Star
Melissa submitted a video of herself sharing her recipe for homemade yogurt. She’s not sure what Food Network saw in her, as no one ever told her why she was picked. What she does know is that her video was accessible. It gave people information. Taught them something. She said that it’s important to be true to who you are, to bring what you have to the table… beginning with “Melissa is the best at THAT” and going from there.
“If you’re competing with something that you’re not the best at, you’re competing in the wrong game…” The mistake she made on the show at first was putting herself in the same game as those that went to culinary school. Once she was able to embrace the fact that she’s cooked for the last 35 years and is an expert at saving money, then she was playing a game that she could win.
Her favorite dish is the potato-bacon torte, which just happens to be the centerpiece of the first episode of her show, Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian. It premiered earlier this afternoon, but I just finished watching it. The beauty of having a DVR!
“Perfectly-Priced Parisian” was the theme of Melissa’s first show. Food Network’s description:
Melissa puts together an upscale yet affordable meal, worthy of any pricy Parisian café. She starts off with a creamy Potato-Bacon Torte and accompanies it with a fresh Paris Café Green Salad. For a light and sweet ending to this luscious meal, Melissa makes a one-of-a-kind Applesauce Granita with Maple Yogurt. Bon appétit!
So what did I think of the show? I liked it. And I’m not saying that just because Melissa and I are practically BFFs. 😉 The show kept my attention from beginning to end. The pace is perfect. Melissa’s kitchen is bright and full of light, just like her personality. She looks great, and keeps good eye contact with the camera.
Melissa’s brimming with good tips, like how to get a rolled out crust from the counter to the pie plate. And the advice about keeping bacon in the freezer – it’ll last longer, and because of the fat content, it never freezes 100%, so it’s always easy to cut. GENIUS!
I found the recipes to be very accessible. No hard-to-find ingredients. No dishes with a million steps. Teaching comes naturally to Melissa. I’ve always used store-bought crusts, but she made making it from scratch look so easy!
Now the claim that this dinner cost $10 could be a problem. Obviously if I went to the store and bought butter, bacon, thyme, heavy cream, flour, potatoes, salt, pepper, Gruyere cheese, eggs, garlic, mixed greens, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, applesauce, lemon juice, yogurt, and maple syrup, I would spend MUCH more than $10. This show is assuming viewers have many of these items in their pantry or their fridge already, and calculates the cost of the meal by the actual amount of food used. And this assumption may be right. I’m a 20-something stay-at-home mom, and have almost all that in my pantry at this moment. Everything except the heavy cream, Gruyere, and fresh thyme. If I substituted half-and-half, dried thyme and Havarti cheese, then I could realistically make the potato-bacon torte right now. If it weren’t just past midnight!
What do I think she should work on?
- I know it’s just nerves, but she repeated certain words a little too much – umm, alrighty, I’m gonna…
- She went back and forth betweening calling the meal dinner and lunch. It could easily be both, but it was distracting. The show isn’t called Ten Dollar Lunches!
- The mini-interviews after every commercial. Not a fan. I’d rather go right back to the cooking. I don’t feel like they add anything to the show.
I’ll definitely be looking forward to the upcoming episodes of Ten Dollar Dinners. I’ve already snuck a peek at some of the recipes and it all looks delicious!